Master of arts and guardian of crafts

By Peng Yining ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-03-12 10:11:32

Master of arts and guardian of crafts

A woman from Shandong province weaves. [Photo provided to China Daily]

It may just look like a button to you and to me, but the wonderful little knot that is the apple of Huang Yuangsung's eye represents no less than centuries of history.

In fact so enthralled is Huang with these intricately made curios that they have helped to keep him tied up for more than half his life, from a day in 1972 when his eyes first fell on one, attached to the clothing of a farmer, when he beheld it more as art than as a mere fastener.

The previous year Huang, now 72, had begun publishing Han Sheng, or Echo, a magazine in Taiwan devoted to folk craft, and his mission to document China's folk culture continues to this day.

Huang learned from the farmer that the button knot he saw was called jie and that women in rural areas make them to attach not only to clothing but use them as decorations in varying sizes on curtains and other fabric items as well.

Thus began a search stretching over nine years, one in which Huang managed to track down the last surviving masters of jie making, and he painstakingly made records of a dozen knot-tying skills, illustrated step by step, and revealed them to the public in an issue of Han Sheng that came out under the banner "Chinese knot".

By putting in the hands of readers the ability to duplicate all 14 kinds of knots, the oldest one dating back nearly 18 centuries, Huang played a major role in ensuring that this ancient art would not be lost to the world.

In fact it was Huang who coined the term Chinese knot, a craft that would eventually experience a renaissance in China and be picked up by other craftspeople in many other countries as well.

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