Ethnic Bai handicraft in vogue with innovation


In 2009, Buza was listed as an intangible cultural heritage of Southwest China's Yunnan province.[Photo/Xinhua]

"Buza," a traditional handicraft of China's Bai ethnic group and often associated with mystic beliefs, has gained a new prominence among locals due to its modern attributes.

The ethnic craftwork, made with fabric and thread, and stuffed with herbs and spices, usually represents images of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, folklore of the Bai people, historical figures and other auspicious symbols.

In 2009, Buza was listed as an intangible cultural heritage of Southwest China's Yunnan province.

The unique cultural feature of Buza is that "each one implies some meaning and every meaning bears an auspicious significance," said 34-year-old Zhang Sidai, who runs a Buza store in Jianchuan County of Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan.

Feeling committed to passing on this traditional heritage, Zhang also offers Buza-making experience programs in her store.

During the Dragon Boat Festival, children in Jianchuan would wear a string of Buza on the chest as talismans.

Traditionally, a string of Buza consists of three to eight trinkets, including a monkey, an embroidery ball and the Eight Diagrams, Zhang said.

However, as the Buza strings are expensive to make and only a few are willing to buy them, the Buza strings could only go into the market once a year during the Dragon Boat Festival, said Yang Wantao, curator of a Jianchuan-based cultural center.

Zhang, however, saw obstacles as opportunities. She was running a manicure parlor since 2006, and later in 2012, she started learning Buza-making techniques from elderly artisans.

Zhang believed that the commodities should meet consumers' demands if she wants to promote this traditional handicraft. She initially designed a variety of daily necessities, such as cardholders, key chains and brooches, which gained much popularity among youths.

Besides, some small decorative items suitable for cars and bedrooms managed to garner a lot of orders.

In 2018, Zhang invested more than 100,000 yuan (about $ 14,300) to open the Buza experience store.

"We have expanded both the time of wearing Buza and the space of using this traditional handicraft, thus opening a broader market for the craftwork," Zhang said.

In Xinren village of Jianchuan, Yang Yinmei is among many other village women who make Buza after completing their farm work. Just a few days back, they completed a large order of crafting 1,000 Buza trinkets.

"The price of one piece ranges from less than 100 yuan to over 1,000 yuan, and more than 10 people are engaged with me in crafting Buza," Yang said. The handicraft has allowed many to earn extra cash.

In recent years, the government and other organizations have been arranging Buza-making classes for many villagers like Yang so they could shake off poverty and lead a better life.

After receiving feedback that many of her ornaments seemed quite juvenile to adults, Yang promptly made innovations, segregating the ornaments into kid-style and couple-style. She even made some Buza bracelets to cater to the market demands.

"Though tradition should be preserved, at the same time evolution is also necessary to keep the handicraft alive," Yang said.

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