Crafting specific proposals

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Guizhou's deputies to the NPC have enjoyed success in promoting the region's intangible cultural heritage.

In 2019, just one year after Song Shuixian was elected as a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress and submitted a motion to establish a horsetail embroidery museum, a demonstration center for the national-level intangible cultural heritage was inaugurated in her hometown, where the craft originated, in Sandu county, Southwest China's Guizhou province.

"Since then, my 'babies' have had a stable home," says Song, a national-level inheritor of the craft, referring to the tens of thousands of horsetail embroidery works she has collected and made, all of which are now showcased at the center.

As both a craftswoman and NPC deputy, Song has worked hard over the past four years to spread knowledge of her craft, which has played an important role in the rural revitalization of Sandu.

She is just one example of the Guizhou NPC deputies who have made contributions to their hometowns by promoting local cultural heritage.

Shi Liping, a deputy to the NPC from Songtao county, is a provincial-level inheritor of the Miao ethnic group's embroidery, an intangible cultural heritage. Her work is about passing down to future generations not just the craft, but also the culture behind it. "I continue to dig into the cultural connotations contained within our craft, trying to tell people stories about it and the people who are engaged with it," says Shi, who, in 2020, wore an outfit featuring Miao embroidery to the Great Hall of the People as a representative of her fellow craftswomen.

Her company selling embroidery products has offered jobs to more than 4,000 women in Songtao, enabling them to work at home and to be paid according to the number of products they produce.

NPC deputy Wei Zuying has made a similar contribution. After working at a textile mill in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, for 10 years, the woman, who learned Miao embroidery during her childhood, returned to her hometown in Congjiang county, Guizhou, to open her own embroidery workshop. In 2018, the business generated an output value of more than 800,000 yuan ($126,000).

In 2020, her embroidery company was established with the help of the local government. She then established a poverty alleviation workshop in a community of people who used to live in the mountains, and has employed 300 locals.

"We work and live in the same apartment, and can earn at least 3,000 yuan each month. It is Wei who offers us employment and makes us realize our value," says Zhu Lanfeng, one of Wei's employees.

Moreover, Wei, like Shi, pays attention to the inheritance of Miao embroidery, and organizes activities in schools to help more children learn about it.

For Shi, as well as trying to impart the knowledge and skills of her craft to others, she also organizes training courses in local communities and villages.

Her idea is echoed by Song, who, since last year, has cooperated with the Disabled Persons' Federation of Tongzhou district in Beijing, and organized lessons, teaching the horsetail embroidery craft to local disabled people.

"It provides them with the opportunity to gain a skill and help them find jobs. At the same time, I can spread horsetail embroidery culture to others," says Song.

NPC deputy Yang Changqin based in Chishui, a county-level city in Zunyi, Guizhou, is a provincial-level inheritor of Chishui bamboo-weaving. She has brought the intangible cultural heritage to campus. Her bamboo-weaving production and research base in Chishui has become an extracurricular practice center for many students in Zunyi since 2021.

"The craft is part of local culture. I hope students can learn about it and inherit it, especially the craftsmanship spirit of the older generations," says Yang.

Many of them try to combine their respective crafts with other industries. For example, Shi is exploring a combination of Miao embroidery and local medicine. She has rented an 18-hectare plot of land to cultivate medicinal plants, and plans to make Miao-style perfume sachets or pillows containing medicinal herbs. Song, meanwhile, is exploring avenues in fashion, developing cultural and creative products based on the embroidery style.

Development of cultural industries also helps to boost tourism, says Song, who notes that some young people visit Sandu county to enjoy the landscape and local Sui ethnic group culture.

Some of their motions to the NPC have been carried out. Yang says she proposed to specify that more developed cities provide partner assistance to Chishui, and in recent years, specific policies in industrial cooperation and talent cultivation have been carried out, making the assistance more effective.

This year, she proposed to build a high-speed railway between Luzhou city, Sichuan province, and Zunyi, so that local products can be transported to other places more easily.

"I have learned so many things since becoming a deputy to the NPC, and it has enhanced my sense of responsibility. I like to bring the voices of the grassroots to the two sessions (the annual sitting of China's national legislature and top political advisory body) and help people solve their problems," says Yang.

Song, on the other hand, feels "extremely happy" when recalling what she has done over the past four years. The horsetail embroidery, a tradition of the Sui ethnic group, once only survived within the boundaries of Sandu, where Sui people live, and it was extremely hard to introduce it to the outside world. But after being elected as a deputy to the NPC, she has helped to bring much more publicity to the craft, and local people who are engaged with the industry can earn much more money than before.

"Now our horsetail embroidery has built its own brand. I feel very pleased to see my efforts help spread the craft of our hometown, and increase the income of local people," says Song.

Her enthusiasm for traditional culture urged her to propose the speeding up of the world heritage application of shuishu, the written language of the Sui ethnic group, during this year's two sessions.

"As a pictographic language similar to Dongba writing (the writing used by the Naxi ethnic group), shuishu has a history of several thousand years. It is a calling card of the Sui ethnic group, and China," says Song.

On Jan 26, the State Council, China's Cabinet, issued a document to support Guizhou in forging a new path in its development, and, as such, Shi sees more opportunities in the future.

"Over the past four years, I have seen my efforts to promote Miao embroidery being supported by the country and society, which motivates me to continue, and gives me a lot of confidence.

"The issuing of the document makes me believe Guizhou is welcoming a new golden decade. I will focus on how to seize the opportunity," Shi says. "And I hope more people will be attracted to invest here."

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