Murong Yi is bringing back the ancient Chinese cultural tradition of making velvet flowers. PROVIDED TO TEENS
Making velvet flowers was an endangered folk craft, but it’s now kept alive with more young craftsmen dedicating themselves to the art. Murong Yi, 21, a senior studying at a university in Beijing, is one of them.
Recently, she was trending on Sina Weibo for her video about how to make velvet flower headwear shaped like a golden phoenix. Inspired by Wang Xifeng, a character in A Dream of Red Mansions, the artwork was made of 4,000 pieces of cocoon fiber in 12 days. Generally, it only takes two to three days to make a velvet flower. The video has received over 2.4 million views on Bilibili.
Velvet flowers are called ronghua in Chinese, homophonic of wealth and glory. It was a popular decoration in festivals and weddings. Despite being included in the Intangible Cultural Heritage List of Jiangsu Province in 2006, Nanjing velvet flowers were previously lesser known to the public.
Therefore, Murong faced challenges in learning this handicraft. “I started to learn about it five or six years ago from some ancient Chinese costume historical dramas,” she said. She tried to learn from others but couldn’t find many online tutorial videos. Finally, she watched a one-hour TV program, in which an inheritor showed how to make velvet flowers in detail.
Then, there was the problem of selecting and buying materials. Velvet flowers are made of silk and copper wires. “However, it was difficult to buy these raw materials with fewer suppliers at that time,” Murong said.
Another key step is to choose copper wires in the proper size and type. “The hardness really do matter,” she said. “Even a 1-millimeter discrepancy would lead to a different shape.” Without much experience, she had to make adjustments by trial and error.
New ideas naturally came up when Murong grew as a skilled creator. She found a way to have ready-made fiber produced in a factory, allowing consumers to skip the time-consuming task of splitting the fiber by hand. Now, people interested in this craft can simply buy the material from her Taobao store.
“By doing this, I hope it will lower the threshold for those who want to try ronghua,” Murong said. As a lover of Chinese traditional culture, she said “I’ll learn more about different handicrafts and promote them among young people on social media platforms.”