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Embroidery, a traditional Chinese handicraft for thousands of years, is intertwined with the nation's history. During the Han dynasty, it was a cornerstone of the feudal economy and a renowned export along the ancient Silk Road. Embroidery's intricate designs and techniques have not only enriched textile technology but also contributed to the world's material culture. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, hand embroidery encapsulates the profound history, exceptional craftsmanship, and the diversity of Chinese culture. It holds immense value historically, culturally, artistically, and as a collectible.

The safeguarding and transmission of these invaluable cultural practices are crucial for sustaining diversity and fostering innovation in the cultural sector. Recognizing its significance, China added embroidery to the National Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2008.

The plight of rural women artisans

Traditionally, embroidery has been a craft practiced by women from minority groups in rural China. These artisans infuse their creations with personal narratives and cultural traditions, producing works that are not only unique but also vital to the preservation of their heritage. Despite their skill and dedication, these women often receive income that pales in comparison to that of men and artisans in urban areas. This disparity is rooted in a tangle of socio-economic challenges: educational inequality, limited market access and the general undervaluation of their craft.

Ping An's initiative: Mother’s Needlework Project

In response to this inequity, Ping An introduced the Mother's Needlework Project in 2020. This public welfare initiative breathes new life into traditional embroidery by marrying it with modern business practices. The project is comprehensive, offering financial assistance, skill development and a gateway to e-commerce platforms. By empowering these artisans with the means to engage with a wider audience, Ping An is bridging the gap between traditional handicrafts and today’s markets. Such endeavours not only boost the local women's potential income but also promote the importance of cultural preservation.


Ping An and Guangdong Intangible Culture Heritage Group: Bringing tradition to the West

Ping An partnered with the Guangdong Intangible Culture Heritage Group to bring the splendor of Chinese embroidery to the West. Last month, they embarked on an art exchange and exhibition in Italy, showcasing the mastery of Yao embroidery. Originating from Ruyuan Yao Autonomous County in Guangdong province, this distinctive style features back embroidery, a technique unique to the Yao people. Artisans work on dark cotton cloth with vibrant silk threads, deftly crafting patterns without the need for preliminary sketches. Remarkably, they embroider from the reverse side, allowing intricate patterns to emerge on the front with no visual reference. This skill culminates in captivating decorative patterns, each telling its own story and contributing to the rich tapestry of Yao heritage.

Crafting a sustainable future

Through the Mother's Needlework Project, new avenues have opened up for rural women to sell their wares, from local markets to online platforms, where a wider audience can appreciate and purchase their work. This initiative is crucial in redefining the worth of their handicrafts, providing them with higher income that reflects their talent and hard work.

Moreover, the project goes beyond economic empowerment. By ensuring that these embroidery techniques are passed on and valued, Ping An is helping to sustain this cultural heritage for future generations. As these women become successful entrepreneurs, they also become ambassadors of their culture, showcasing their heritage on a world stage.

Every stitch is a step towards independence, improved livelihoods and sustainable development for these women, reinforcing the fabric of their communities and culture.

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