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Bringing the past into the future
Updated: 2019-01-10 07:40:12
( China Daily )

Artist Zhang Xiaodong's effort to revive China's ancient dragon-scale binding technique (pictured above) will be presented in a documentary named Blooming Crafts. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Zhang Xiaodong's obsession with ancient books has urged him to revive a forgotten binding technique from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and to hand-make different kinds of paper books with exquisite workmanship.

"I loved reading in university," he recalls.

"I found that many books are subtly designed."

This enticed the 37-year-old to become a book designer after graduation.

But the market has declined in recent years with the prevalence of online readers, smartphones and tablets.

Zhang has been studying historical documents about dragon-scale bookbinding. Bookmakers must paste the edges of hundreds of pages on a long scroll at certain intervals to ensure the margins create complete pictures across the pages.

"It's marvelous," Zhang says.

"I believe this endangered art shouldn't be lost."

He spent years studying the technique, although he couldn't find many references to guide him. He succeeded in creating books using the method in 2010.

The story of dragon-scale binding and Zhang's efforts to sustain it will be featured in a TV documentary about traditional folk arts in countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Filming of the 100-episode series, Blooming Crafts, will start this month. It'll explore how craftspeople are adapting to modernization.

The first season will show crafts in such countries as Australia, Ethiopia and Turkey, and seven Chinese cities, including Beijing, Suzhou and Jingdezhen.

Zhao Pu, TV host and producer [Photo provided to China Daily]

Host and producer Zhao Pu, a former China Central Television anchorman, has long been passionate about traditional culture.

"Crafts are a borderless language," Zhao says.

"They connect people from different cultures. Some ancient arts are at the risk of becoming obsolete. I think commercialization is a good way to protect them."

He's cooperating with Dongjia, an e-commerce platform that links craftspeople and customers.

"We're not just recording and promoting those crafts. We want to try a new way to bring real profits to artisans."

Documentary viewers can scan QR codes on the screen to purchase the featured crafts via Dongjia's app.

Dongjia's co-founder, Zhu Jianshan, says customers can order customized items like furniture, tea sets and jewelry. They can contact the creators to explain their requirements.

"Makers can also draw inspiration from users' suggestions and requests," Zhu says. "This helps craftspeople keep pace with the times."

Zhu's platform has gathered around 7,500 craftspeople. All the creators featured in the series will be invited to join Dongjia and develop connections with customers, according to Zhu.

The first season of Blooming Crafts will air on Xi'an Radio and TV Station after the first World Craftsman Conference kicks off in Xi'an on May 28.

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