That was my reaction when I found out I’d be accompanying Bonnie Browning to Keqiao, China, during the last week of October.
Keqiao is a district of the city of Shaoxing in Zhejiang province, China. The area is known as the textile capital of China. Always a fan of travel adventure, I was ready to go!
As guests of the China Quilts Color and Art Committee and the organizers of this, the first China International Quilt Festival, Bonnie and I arrived with eyes and minds wide open—even after 27 hours of traveling!
The quilt festival was held in conjunction with the China Keqiao International Textile Expo, shown here from above.
Quilting is unexplored as an art and an industry in China, so this trip held the excitement of quilters from around the world gathering together to help open China’s doors to today’s world of quilting.
It’s clear that although the country’s artisans and craftspeople have designed and enjoyed quilts and quilt-like bed coverings, art, and garments for centuries, the time is ripe for organization and growth in the art and industry of quilting in China.
Our trip proved to be a wonderful opportunity to meet quilters from around the world. Participants in the quilt festival’s forum, workshops, and displays included Kim Misik from Korea, Qi Teng from Japan, Brenda Miller from Canada, Sham Lohani and his wife Momtaj Lohani (“Momo”) from Australia, Jin Yuanshan from China, and Lin Hsin-Chen from Taiwan. Marin Hanson of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln brought a special exhibit of historical United States quilts from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and was pleased to announce a cooperative educational agreement with Shaoxing University’s College of Fine Arts.
I had the lost-luggage blues, but among these lovely ladies no one seemed to mind that I wore the same casual travel outfit day after day! Positive thinking (my suitcase did, after all, finally arrive five days later) kept me from fretting. Jenny, the very accommodating associate of our host, kept on top of the situation with the airlines—and she took me to the mall when hopes for retrieval were slim!
In case you’re wondering, “the mall” in this progressive part of China was very much like a major mall in any American city. A little help with the signs and the yuan conversion was all I needed. A huge group of women were dancing in front of the mall enjoying a dance craze that looks a lot like line dancing and not quite as fast as zumba. Women meet in large public spaces in the evenings to participate.
Every visitor was pleased to have interpreters on hand to help and especially appreciated this assistance at the banquets we attended each evening.
At these important traditional Chinese meals, guests are seated at large round tables.
Servers deliver course after course—dozens of dishes—to the table’s rotating center.
With chopsticks in hand (our chopstick efficiency has improved dramatically), we reached to pluck small portions of the food as it made continuous rounds, the various smells wafting constantly toward our noses.
The steamed fish we understood, but a little more interpretation was needed to discern the different types of bamboo, the exotic mushrooms, many forms of vegetables including pickled radishes plated in stunning flower designs, much bok choy and other greens, and varieties of squash.
Meats and soups were presented that were truly foreign to us, with unfamiliar seasonings that we have yet to determine. The “stinky tofu” (yes, that is how it was translated to us) was the most talked about—and perhaps the most challenging to our senses—of all the dishes. At each banquet, the host would never fail to end the meal with multiple toasts, clinking his glass of the region’s traditional yellow wine with us before we headed back to the hotel.
In bits and pieces, we learned much about the traditions and culture of China. And it’s a fact that quilters everywhere are much the same, even on the opposite side of the globe. Whether quilting, eating, or helping one another in a difficult situation, we love to laugh, converse, and enjoy life through our very special common bond.
Bonnie gave a quilt to our host, Mr. Yang, from AQS.
The streets are busy with many kinds of vehicles that all seem to be honking nonstop! Intersections were confusing masses of vehicles to us, but the locals seemed to work it all out and the traffic kept flowing.
The foodie in me couldn’t help but take food photos, although after awhile they started looking much the same…
A beautiful example of the art of Pejogi in this close-up shot, followed by a few of the display quilts:
New quilting friends looking over Bonnie’s foundation piecing book:
Signs of the textile industry on wagons and trucks throughout the city: