Elderly Retiree Helps Women Shake off Poverty Through Embroidery

November 16, 2018
Editor: Wei Lingling
Elderly Retiree Helps Women Shake off Poverty Through Embroidery
Gao Fenglan, 67, is the owner of a Yan-style embroidery workshop. [Photo/ecns.cn]


The owner of a special ethnic crafts workshop in Daixian County, north China's Shanxi Province, has led thousands of local women to alleviate poverty in recent decades by developing a thriving embroidery business.

Gao Fenglan, 67, is the owner of a Yan-style embroidery (Yanxiu) workshop. After her retirement in 1999, she determined to take responsibility for rescuing and inheriting traditional embroidery techniques in the nearby area.

During the years that followed, she has been devoted herself to researching, classifying and developing the craft.

She visited old embroiderers who lived in different villages and asked them for advice on stitching and embroidery, then collated materials on techniques to compile them together in a large volume.

Meanwhile, she bought many books about embroidery techniques, color theory and painting to improve her skills.

Because of her profound mastery of the local embroidery tradition, the figures, landscapes, birds and flowers crafted in Gao's embroidery works are always vivid and lifelike.

In 2009, Gao studied Suzhou-style embroidery and then integrated its techniques with her local embroidery techniques to create the distinctive Yanxiu.

The tapestries, embroidered slippers, insoles and waist-bands made with new techniques sell well overseas.

Also in 2009, Gao raised funds and rented facilities to open the Yanxiu Workshop, which she built as a platform for impoverished rural women to alleviate poverty.

Her workshop undertakes training, production and sales. The rural women involved can work from their own homes and the workshop sells their products on commission.

Gao and the teachers in her embroidery workshop have collaborated with women's federations at all levels, poverty alleviation , labor and agriculture departments concerned in an effort to teach embroidery techniques in other villages and towns.

Most of the rural women that have acquired the embroidery skills have been able to increase their incomes. Some can earn up to 20,000 yuan a year.

Since 2016, Gao has been running an embroidery training class targeted for poverty alleviation. Teachers with expertise and great patience are arranged for impoverished rural women and embroidery tools are provided for free.

Over the past few years, Gao's team has trained some 5,000 women. Many of the talents cultivated by her team have now become inheritors of the embroidery industry.

(Source: ecns.cn/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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