On February 18, “Jiangsu Culture” series of micro-documentaries produced by the Information Office of the Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government released the sixth chapter: Blue and White. The documentary is based on three parts: “Blue in memory”, “Blue in handwork” and “Blue in life”. It presents the national intangible cultural heritage – Nantong Blue Calico Printing and Dyeing Skills. From the whole process of engraving, scraping, dyeing to drying, it shows in detail the persistence and inheritance of inheritors from generation to generation.
Nantong, near the river and the sea, is an excellent growing area for the growth of indigo plants, the raw material of blue calico. 2,000 years ago, the blue-dyeing industry arose here. Locals extracted indigo from plants, combined with hand weaving, printing and dyeing techniques, the blue and white work was made.
The design and engraving of the pattern are the basis of the blue calico, they are constantly on artisans’ mind. Each carving testifies the memory of time. A blend of soybean flour and lime powder creates a protective layer. The anti-dyeing paste, printed on the cloth through the engraved plate, produces the initial appearance of the pattern. Dried long cloth is then oaked in a dye vat and lifted after several minutes. As indigo and oxygen intermingle, the blue calico changes from yellow to cyan and from cyan to blue. The harmony of blue and white displays the wisdom of workmanship and presents unique Chinese-style beauty of color.
The beauty of cloth lies more in its decorative patterns than in its colors. Blue calico patterns are mainly auspicious ones of folk tales and plant and animal metaphors, such as Dragon and Phoenix Bliss, Bumper Harvest. The plain, pure blue and white colors demonstrate the unique features of Chinese folk art and carry the living stories on this land. Blue calico is a lifelong commitment, craft inheritance, and an oriental sentiment dear to many hearts. Through the river of time, it came down from thousands of years ago and now glows with new vitality.
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Source: Information Office of the Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government