Western Hunan Province’s Zhangjiajie City remains a hub of the Tujia people, allowing visitors to make close contact with strong Tujia ethnic culture both in Chieftain City in its urban district and Guanshuiping Village in the suburbs.
Folk Art in Chieftain City
A man-made cultural attraction sated with Tujia culture, Chieftain City was born as a park built on the site of one of the bestpreserved Tujia villages in western Hunan Province. Like many other ethnic cultural theme parks, employees wear traditional Tujia costumes, but they still don’t adequately portray authentic Tujia people. For such employees, performing Tujia folk art to entertain tourists is just a job rather than a lifestyle. Still, some genuine folk artists remain, who manage to move visitors with their persistent adherence to tradition. Early one morning as we roamed around Chieftain City, a souvenir shop adorned with a row of Xilankapu, handmade Tujia brocade, caught our eyes. Its proprietor, Zhou Liqun, is a Tujia brocader.
“Xilankapu is a unique craft of the Tujia people,” she sighed, “but today only 20-something expert weavers of the brocade still operate in western Hunan.”
In years past, Tujia girls began to learn brocading as teenagers. However, due to the expertise required to navigate the complexity of the craft, fewer and fewer girls are willing to sacrifice the hours it takes to learn. They may at least manage to embroider a pair of shoes for their wedding, a tradition meant to ensure a happy marriage.
Although Zhou has been fond of brocading since her youth, after graduating from college, she became an accountant.
Still, her affection for Xilankapu only grew with each passing day. Eventually, she quit her job and devoted her life to brocading.
Resting atop the loom in her shop was a pile of finished Xilankapu brocade, which took her several months of painstaking effort. According to her, embroidering a single pattern might take days, months, and even years because embroiderers must devote attention to each and every thread.