Letter from China: Story of a Chinese county's rising economy-Xinhua

Letter from China: Story of a Chinese county's rising economy

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-04-19 23:31:15

by Xinhua writer Zhang Xu

JINAN, April 19 (Xinhua) -- I made a trip to Caoxian County in east China's Shandong Province recently to find out why its story became a trending topic.

The county has earned the title "the center of Hanfu" because of its unparalleled Hanfu industry amid a fashion craze for the traditional Chinese attire embellished with intricate embroidery.

Seeing is believing. When I arrived at Daiji, a town in Caoxian, it felt like entering a kingdom of Mamianqun, literally horse-face skirt, a traditional long pleated skirt.

The shops along the town's main road covered all the businesses involved in horse-face skirt production: plate making, fabric weaving, laser cutting, embroidery, ironing, packaging, elastic bands, and hardware accessories.

At the Youaiyuncang Hanfu base in Caoxian, a variety of Hanfu was displayed for sale. At the same time, over 40 internet marketers promoted products on e-commerce and short video platforms through livestreaming.

In less than half an hour, visitors continuously came to select and make purchases. Mamianqun is the most sought-after product.

During this year's Spring Festival holiday, sales of Hanfu in Caoxian County exceeded 300 million yuan (about 42.22 million U.S. dollars), and online sales in the first quarter reached 1.98 billion yuan, up by 90.8 percent year on year.

In Sunzhuang Village of Caoxian, an express delivery center was packed with Hanfu.

"The village has over 2,600 Taobao stores and more than 200 Tmall stores (both Alibaba's online shopping platforms), and over 500 merchants on other online platforms," said Sun Xueping, the village's Party secretary.

In recent years, traditional Chinese culture has regained its popularity and become a fashion trend, especially among younger generations. Caoxian, which dominates almost half of China's Hanfu industry, has become an important promoter of Chinese culture and traditional costumes.

However, years ago, the Hanfu from Caoxian was a low-end product that originated from photo studio clothing, performance costumes, and children's wear. Hanfu shops were mostly small family businesses with no professional teams or marketing, extremely low costs, or original designs.

Despite considerable sales, low prices, knock-offs and poor quality brought the Hanfu industry in Caoxian a bad reputation. But things have changed after years of industrial upgrading.

According to the data from the county's e-commerce center, a complete Hanfu industry chain has been established from designing, tailoring, embroidery, and printing to finished products, even including bases dedicated to Hanfu entrepreneurship and brand incubation. The rate of Hanfu with original designs has exceeded 90 percent in the county.

Apart from selling products on domestic live-streaming platforms, many original brand owners have begun to explore businesses overseas.

"We are now negotiating with cooperation partners in the United States and Britain," said Yao Chixing, the general manager of the original Hanfu brand "Luoruyan" from Caoxian.

In her view, selling Hanfu in China or the overseas market is first and foremost based on an aesthetic appreciation and love for traditional Chinese attire. "The key is cultural exchange."

Besides the Hanfu boom in the county, wood carvings are also a source of pride for locals.

Listed as a national intangible cultural heritage, the Caoxian wood carving is widely used on wine boxes, furniture and art products, among others, forming a complete cross-border e-commerce industry.

Culture-related industries, with the help of e-commerce, have fueled Caoxian's economy. It cost less than 20 years for its GDP to leap from the poorest level to the first in Heze City and above average in the province.

The county's success has marked the broader recognition of and passion for traditional Chinese culture and handicraft. How to turn them into real products and nurture industrial chains to boost economic development is an amazing story told by Caoxian.