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September 2, 2013

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Mill-turned-museum displays craftsmanship

An old cotton mill that was once the backbone of the local economy has been transformed into a museum. After expansion and renovation, it now houses mementos of those who once worked at the mill as well as skilled craft workers showing how other famous and time-honored local products are made.

The Workmanship Demonstration Pavilion of Hangzhou Arts and Crafts Museum reopened to the public last Thursday after three months of preparation.

The reconstruction primarily showcases the industrial powerhouse that was once the Hangzhou No. 1 Cotton Mill, including collections of pictures, videos and objects.

The zigzag-roofed building where the demonstration pavilion is located was a former factory building at the cotton mill. Designers were able to transform it into a modern and fashionable exhibition hall.

Zhang Xueliang, 72, and 11 other former workers at the factory were invited to visit the new pavilion on Thursday. They lingered over the exhibits and told visitors their stories from bygone days in the former state-owned factory.

“I worked in this mill for more than 30 years,” Zhang says. “Some of the displayed black-and-white photographs were taken by me. They all recorded our glory days in Hangzhou No. 1 Cotton Mill.”

In January, organizers went looking for former employees of the cotton mill. Some sent items such as uniforms, enamel mugs, photos, certificates and medals issued by the mill. They are now on display.

Zhang Guixiang, factory director from 1973 to 1989, found three photographs in her home and says she hoped they would stir memories of the mill.

More than a century ago, in order to strengthen and modernize its economy, China built numerous cotton mills around the country. One of these was Hangzhou No. 1 Cotton Mill, established in 1889 by the local wealthy entrepreneur Ding Songsheng.

The mill went through changes in government and survived wars and was a major factor in the development of the textile industry in Hangzhou.

Before China opened up to the outside world, this once-great cotton mill was the pillar of Hangzhou’s economy. But with the reconstruction of economy, the mill gradually declined, finally closing in 2007.

Hangzhou’s government decided to use the factory buildings for the Hangzhou Arts and Crafts Museum, and the museum conceived the idea of carving out space to showcase artisans making crafts.

“Formerly, the crafts were stationary in glass cases, but now visitors can see every single procedure of how they’re made, which is conductive to stimulating people’s admiration for traditional crafts and helps hand down our intangible cultural heritage to descendants,” says Wang Lian of the museum. 

In the demonstration pavilion, you can take a close look at how the craftsmen weave cloth, make scissors, cut paper, carve wood, and make chopsticks, leather knickknacks, pottery and embroidery.

Shanghai Daily describes below a few of the crafts that typify Hangzhou and Zhejiang folk workmanship.

You can see all of them in the demonstration pavilion.



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