24 May Journal 06. Inspirational portraits #1 : Yang Er Bao Lang & Wang Fangzhou, The Call of the Indigo Blue
Our YUANFEN fashion collection has gradually taken shape as a result of our encounters all around China. Those are made possible by our extraordinary yuanfen. The Chinese concept of yuanfen means destiny. It is close to the Buddhist concept of karma. Yuanfen however is less individualistic. It takes into account our interactions with individuals. Yuanfen could be translated as “natural affiliations”. Chinese beliefs assert that the energies that guide our yuanfen are intimately linked to our previous lives. When we were in China, we had the feeling that we were meeting people we had always known. Our conversations were so fluid and passionate. These women and men brought us a new perspective on China and we want to share their stories with you.
Today, we take you to the mountains of Guizhou to meet two very inspiring artisans who are determined to preserve the Miao traditional craft. Their names are Yang Er Bao Lang and Wang Fangzhou. We met them last January in their workshop in Danzhai, where they welcomed us very warmly. Collaborating with them was an evidence for us.
Paimuo Village, Guizhou
Yang Er Bao Lang is a very touching woman. She has built herself a strength of character by overcoming many obstacles in her life path. She was born in a remote village in the rice fields of Guizhou, Danzhai County. As a child, she looked with great curiosity at her mother who made beautiful patterns on fabrics with the batik technique. As her parents could not afford to give her the tools to practice this art, she practiced drawing the patterns in the sand. Yang Er Bao Lang also learned to weave with her grandmother. It was very important for her to become a good seamstress at that time. Indeed, she had to sew her own wedding outfit with great care in order to gain the respect of her family and her future husband.
Like many women of her generation, Yang Er Bao Lang was married very young, to a man she didn’t know. After the marriage, they both left their native village and moved to the big city of Guangzhou to earn money. Yang Er Bao Lang, who did not speak Mandarin, found it very difficult to adapt to this new environment which makes her unhappy.
Yang Er Bao Lang
In 2013, she made the decision to return to Danzhai County to start her own batik workshop. Unfortunately, being illiterate, she encountered many business difficulties and was forced to close her workshop. However, she never gave up hope, so in 2016, she collaborated with Wang Fangzhou to establish a school and batik workshop. This time the success she had hoped for was achieved.
Wang Fang Zhou was also born in a small village in Danzhai County. He has always been fascinated by indigo dyeing. He tells us that he remembers with emotion the day when his mother explained to him that this superb color came from simple leaves offered by Nature. He also had to reluctantly leave his native village to work in big cities. Nostalgia grew stronger every day and he finally decided to go back to Guizhou in search of meaning. He found in Yang Er Bao Lang a kindred spirit who shares his deep desire to preserve the Miao cultural heritage. By setting up their workshop together, they enabled about forty women from the poor villages surrounding Danzhai to earn a living wage. We had the chance to meet these women in the workshop where a jovial and friendly atmosphere reigns. They are all very grateful to the two founders who gave them the opportunity to live from their passion.
The inspiring stories of entrepreneurs Yang Er Bao Lang and Wang Fangzhou gave us hope and strength to move forward. Yang Er Bao Lang was recently named to the prestigious list of Women Ambassadors for the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Beyond her talents as a batik craftswoman, she is also a celebrity in Guizhou for her singing skills. During the workshop’s end-of-year party where we were invited, we had the pleasure of listening to traditional Miao songs sung by Yang Er Bao Lang. The Miao people transmit the history of their community through singing. Each song testifies to a rich cultural heritage that never ceases to fascinate us.
In the upcoming series of portraits on our blog, we will have the opportunity to introduce to you other people with an extraordinary destiny that offer us a new regard on China. Stay tuned!
Miao artisans celebrating & singing traditional songs