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Holding a paper piece over your head on rainy days

Updated:2017-08-07 11:52:11   english.yunnan.cn

In west Yunnan’s Longling, paper brushed with oil is used to make umbrellas. And this skill has been passed down for more than 300 years.

In regions south of the Yangtze River in China, oil-paper umbrellas used to be a daily necessity. Imagine a pretty girl walking in a misty flagstone alley while holding an oil-paper umbrella. What a picturesque scene it is!

But oil-paper umbrellas are not exclusive to the regions south of the Yangtze River. In Longling County in west China’s Yunnan province, local oil-paper umbrellas are eminent as local girls, especially in Xiangda Township. 

Xiangda, the hometown of overseas Chinese, used to be an important post on the Southwest Silk Road. At that time, it was bustling with night markets, tea houses, food bars, and horse cafes. Caravans from afar stayed in Xiangda for a tea break or enjoying the hot springs. 

The craftsmanship of making oil-paper umbrellas has a history of more than 300 years. Wang Biliang is an inheritor of Xiangda oil-paper umbrellas. He inherited from his ancestors the skills which now have become a necessary part of his daily life. 

According to Wang, local men and women are involved in making oil-paper umbrellas, with men responsible for making scaffolds and sticks and installing umbrellas, and women for painting patterns and decorations.

The making of Xiangda umbrellas requires 72 procedures. Tung oil is used for brushing the umbrellas paper and it makes the umbrellas water proof, dry, shiny, alkali-resisting and antiseptic. Legend has it that tung oil can drive of evil spirits and keep people safe, and oil-paper umbrellas were thus given as dowry in marriage and as gifts to students who were going to take exams in the past. 

Every year, Wang’s family produces 700 to 800 umbrellas per year with a pure income of 50,000 yuan. To draw more attention to this hundreds-year-old skill, Taobao are using online markets to create more business opportunities and income for local traditional craftsmen.  

Editor: Eric Wang

Keywords:   paper head rain