Li Li, a talented entrepreneur and deputy to the National People’s Congress, is on a mission to promote the charm of ethnic culture and create job opportunities for local women. Li’s passion for the indigenous Bouyei culture of Zitang village, Qinglong county, Qianxinan Bouyei and Miao autonomous prefecture in Southwest China’s Guizhou province, has inspired her to establish a successful costume-making business that integrates traditional and modern elements.
After attending the two sessions in Beijing in March, Li Li returned to her business with renewed enthusiasm. The government work report of 2021 has proposed enriching the spiritual and cultural life of the people, promoting traditional Chinese culture, strengthening cultural heritage protection and inheritance, and supporting the development of cultural industries. Li is optimistic about the future and believes that her work aligns with the report’s stipulations.
Li’s business not only showcases the beauty of the Bouyei culture but also offers employment opportunities to many local women. She pays special attention to popular colors, styles, and other elements while creating Bouyei clothes, as she believes that adding rich local ethnic elements can make the clothes exotic yet fashionable for modern occasions. Li’s efforts have significantly increased sales, and some of her ethnic costumes have been highly sought-after, especially during livestream sales.
Li’s business is not limited to Bouyei costumes only. She also creates ethnic clothing for other groups, such as the Yao and Yi people, who are also present in Qinglong county. Li’s work is a testament to her love for traditional culture and her desire to contribute to society.
Since the beginning of this year, Li Li’s business has been inundated with orders for her clothes, reflecting the growing demand for traditional culture-inspired modern clothing. Her success not only brings financial benefits to her business but also enhances the cultural identity and confidence of the local community.
Li’s contribution to the preservation and promotion of ethnic culture has gained widespread recognition and admiration, both locally and nationally. Her business has not only created job opportunities for women in the area but also inspired many others to appreciate and embrace traditional culture.
As a deputy to the National People’s Congress, Li Li’s work is not only focused on her business but also on promoting policies that support the development and protection of traditional culture. Li’s vision is to see the rich and diverse cultures of China preserved, promoted, and celebrated in modern times. Her passion and dedication serve as an inspiration to many who seek to contribute to society while preserving their cultural heritage.
Li Li’s success in creating a modern look for ethnic clothing and promoting the cultural heritage of Southwest China is a testament to her entrepreneurial spirit, dedication, and love for traditional culture. Her work has not only brought financial benefits to her business but also inspired many others to appreciate and embrace the beauty of traditional culture. Li’s contribution to society serves as an example of how traditional culture can be preserved and promoted in modern times, and how it can enrich the lives of people in local communities.
According to Li, March orders this year have tripled compared to those of the same period last year, which is a testament to the growing demand for ethnic costumes. This increased demand has inspired Li to teach more local women the art of embroidery and costume-making, with the hope that they will be able to start their own businesses and create more job opportunities for locals. Li’s concern for the well-being of her community was one of the reasons why she was elected to represent them at the Beijing event.
To the two sessions, Li wore two ethnic costumes that she had made specifically for the occasion. “I wanted to wear my home costumes to the two sessions,” she says, proud of her heritage and eager to showcase it to the world.
During her time in Beijing, Li put forward several suggestions, one of which was to improve the follow-up support measures for the relocation of poverty alleviation sites in ethnic minority areas. Li’s proposal is a testament to her commitment to helping her community overcome poverty and improve their quality of life.
Li’s interest in traditional clothing stems from her upbringing in the Bouyei tradition, where it is customary to evaluate a potential son-in-law based on his ability to plow fields and a potential daughter-in-law based on her ability to weave. Growing up, Li and other local girls were exposed to the process of making traditional clothes from a young age.
Li’s mother taught her how to sew, dye fabric, embroider, and other handicrafts, which sparked her interest in pursuing a career as a tailor. She dreamed of owning a set of Bouyei ethnic costumes, and it wasn’t until she saw the clothes she had made herself that she realized how fulfilling it was to create something by hand.
At the age of 18, Li left her hometown to seek work in Guangdong province and support her family. Her journey to becoming a successful tailor was not without its challenges, but she persevered and worked hard to achieve her dream.
Li’s success in the industry and her commitment to helping her community have made her a role model for young women in the region. Her dedication to preserving traditional culture and promoting local economic development is an inspiration to us all.
Li, a woman from the Bouyei ethnic group, embarked on a nine-year journey that took her from a garment factory to a handbag workshop, and eventually into sales positions, honing her sewing, cutting, and design skills along the way. Her experience in sales taught her the art of persuasion and the value of building relationships with customers, and she found an entrepreneurial spirit emerging in her.
Growing up in the culture of the Bouyei group, Li deeply loved her origins and always wanted to promote the culture of her people and make it known to the world. This urge grew stronger after she worked outside her home village for a long time, where she felt a lack of sense of belonging and missed everything from her hometown. Her increasing knowledge and experience sharpened her belief that the intangible cultural heritage of her home should not be left behind.
Therefore, Li quit her job and returned to the mountains of Guizhou. In 2016, she started up her own business, Bouyei Yao Cultural Development Co, in Xingyi, a county-level city in the southwest of the prefecture. She produced a series of ethnic cultural and creative products, including hand-woven bags, clothing, scarves, bedding, and small items. She made a point of incorporating Bouyei ethnic elements into daily necessities as well as creative cultural products, which gave the traditional weaving techniques a new charm.
Those distinctive ethnic products got positive market feedback and were then sold in Beijing, Shanghai metropolises, as well as Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Fujian provinces. In the Bouyei language, the company’s name Bouyei Yao means “we are Bouyei people”. Li hopes her business can “elevate ethnic cultural creativity to a new level through hard work, and let the ethnic brand go global.”
As her business grew, Li increasingly realized that the key to retaining good craftsmanship lies with traditional craftsmen. Making ethnic clothes involves intricate yet delicate handicraft, from yarn spinning to thread arrangement and weaving. Besides technique, a profound culture exists behind the costumes. Wang Jing, a Bouyei costume craftswoman, says that generally speaking, flowers, birds, fish, and insects are the major symbols on Bouyei costumes. “They all originated from nature and have been artistically processed to evolve into the patterns we see today,” Wang says. Ethnic costume styles vary with the local environment. “For example, aquatic animals like fish and shrimp have emerged more in embroideries near the Nanpan River, while those originating in mountainous areas feature flowers, grass, bamboo, and banana leaves,” Wang explains.
Li believes it is the cultural inheritance from generation to generation that makes ethnic craftsmanship unique and charming. To breathe new life into her products and ensure better and more sustainable development of traditional ethnic costumes, Li took the plunge and moved her company to Zitang village in 2019, with the aim of bringing together local experienced ethnic costume makers.
“With the help of my family at home, we gathered nearby embroidery artists to work in the company, allowing them to leverage their expertise to pass on ethnic handicrafts while increasing their income by working from home,” Li says. Although transportation and logistics are a bit inconvenient, Li considers this a small price to pay.
In June 2020, her cause won support from the local authorities, who assigned her a 400-square-meter plant with a favorable rent. She made it her mission to promote and preserve the intangible cultural heritage of the Bouyei ethnic group by bringing together traditional craftsmen and using her business as a platform for promoting their work.
Li’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In March 2021, she was elected as a deputy to the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature. Li wore.
With the incorporation of Bouyei ethnic elements into her products, Li’s business took off, and her products received positive market feedback. She expanded her reach and started selling her products in Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Fujian provinces.
As her business grew, Li realized that the key to retaining good craftsmanship lay with traditional craftsmen. Making ethnic clothes involves intricate and delicate handicraft, from yarn spinning to thread arrangement and weaving. Li believed that the cultural inheritance from generation to generation made ethnic craftsmanship unique and charming.
To breathe new life into her products and ensure better and more sustainable development of traditional ethnic costumes, Li took the plunge and moved her company to Zitang village in 2019, with the aim of bringing together local experienced ethnic costume makers.
Li’s decision to move to Zitang village proved to be a game-changer. She was able to bring more ethnic elements to her products, and her products evolved to become more diverse, of better quality, and with distinctive features while preserving her ethnic traditions.
Li has also kept up with the times by building a livestream team and begun to sell products through various online platforms, with the highest daily sales reaching 20,000 yuan ($2,907) a day. Her products enjoy brisk sales across the country, and the booming business has enabled Li to better respond to local authorities’ efforts to boost villagers’ incomes over the past three years.
Li has taken the initiative to arrange vocational training at local communities to offer job opportunities to about 200 people, each of whom receives an extra income of 28,000 yuan per year. In addition, she developed an ethnic intangible cultural street that features costume exhibitions, intangible cultural heritage handicraft training, production, and livestream experiences.
Li has promoted local natural scenery, ethnic culture, and creative products on online platforms such as Douyin, drawing a fan base of more than 100,000 people. She plans to rely on the ethnic intangible cultural heritage sector to vigorously explore the integration of multiethnic culture and create more creative cultural products and mature production lines.
Li’s ultimate goal is to connect the production line and the market and have ethnic embroidery highlight the local tourism industry. She hopes to elevate ethnic cultural creativity to a new level through hard work and let the ethnic brand go global.