Chinese-German woman contributes to cultural heritage

( CNTV ) Updated: 2015-08-05 15:12:37

Chinese-German woman contributes to cultural heritage

Shan Lina, a Chinese-German woman, designs animal-shaped or Chinese knot buttons which are now listed as part of Shanghai's intangible cultural heritage. [Photo/CNTV]

The qipao is a quintessentially Chinese garment, embodying elegance and sophistication. But even the buttons can make a distinct contribution to culture. So-called 'frog buttons' are now listed as part of Shanghai's intangible cultural heritage, partly because of the efforts of a Chinese-German woman who spent 16 years developing them into an art form.

Animals and Chinese knots are among the patterns Shan Lina uses in designing her buttons. Each of the buttons is made of silk of different colors. Shan says she became fascinated by the buttons when she returned to China from Germany and started a garment business in 1998. The original idea was to create unique clothes.

"In 1998, there were many Chinese clothes tailors in Shanghai. To stand out, we must be different. So we added more patterns and integrated more traditional Chinese patterns in the buttons. We then received more attention, so we felt we had more responsibility in the area, which stimulated us to design more," Shan said.

Over the past 16 years, Shan and her team have made nearly 10,000 such buttons, with themes ranging from characters, and plants to daily necessities. She said her main inspiration comes from Chinese culture and people's daily lives.

"I want to string all the things that represent good luck in China's history. So we select one symbolic thing from every dynasty to make buttons, such as bronze-ware from the Shang and Zhou dynasties, tiles in the fist half of the 20th century, and vehicles that people use in modern times," Shan said.

"I remember when I first entered the studio, I was deeply attracted by the beautiful buttons made by experienced teachers. I felt it was quite interesting and I didn't know how they were made. But as I learned more, I found it very hard and boring to do it. There were three of us learning this skill, only I stayed till now," said Song Tao, Chinese button artist.

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