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Embroidery helps a Yugur woman out of poverty by Zhao Binyu,August 31, 2020 Adjust font size:

Pan Xiaohong embroiders a badge while wearing the traditional costume of the Yugur ethnic group. (Xinhua/He Wen)

Pan Xiaohong, 42, lives in Sunan Yugur autonomous county of Zhangye city in Gansu province. The Yugur people have been nomadic for generations, and most of their clothing, food and traditional belongings are handmade. Their traditional skills such as weaving cloth, rolling felt, leather carving, and embroidery have been passed down from generation to generation. When she was young, Pan was keen on embroidery.

When she was a child, Pan lost the use of the four fingers of her left hand in an accident. However, she didn’t give up her embroidery. At the age of 18, she opened a handcraft shop making decorations for cars.

In the beginning, it often took her two or three days to make a single decoration because her left and right hands couldn't work together well. But she spent all her time practicing, other than when she had to go out to buy materials. Gradually, Pan became more and more skilled, and went on to win renown as the "one-handed female embroiderer."

When she looked for opportunities to expand her business, she found that handmade Yugur costumes and other Yugur-style items were particularly popular.

However, it is not easy to make traditional Yugur clothing. There are many different stiches in Yugur embroidery, and auxiliary skills such as trimming velvet and crocheting are needed. In addition to high-quality materials, rich colors, and special patterns, Yugur garments use coral, agate, silver ornamentation and other materials to create their patterns. As a result, it can take two or three months to embroider a traditional Yugur costume.

Workers busy embroidering in a workshop. (Xinhua / He Wen)

Pan Xiaohong gradually developed Yugur costume making and embroidery as her main business, and the products she made became popular with the public.

A company in Zhejiang province began to take a keen interest in Yugur embroidery, asking local embroiderers to produce Yugur cultural designs on silk fabrics. The resulting products are now sold overseas.

 With the help of local government incentives and other funds for start-up, Pan Xiaohong has now expanded her workshop and set up a company, offering more jobs for the poor and disabled. At the same time, she is also providing online and offline manual skills training for people in need, and helping disabled and poor families to raise themselves from poverty.

The embroidery company now employs 58 people. Twenty-two of them are disabled and 7 from impoverished families. A total of 60 disabled people have been trained.

In 2008, Yugur costume was included in the list of the second batch of national intangible cultural heritage. Like the Yugur costume, new vitality has been injected into a group of unique crafts in Gansu province.

Gansu has now established 106 intangible cultural heritage poverty alleviation employment workshops and developed more than 60,000 intangible cultural heritage cultural products. By the end of 2019 these efforts had provided jobs to almost 5,000 people, of whom more than 2,200 were registered poor.





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