LANZHOU, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- For centuries, sachets have been worn and exchanged as tokens of hope, happiness, and prosperity in northwest China's Gansu Province. Today, innovative designs are injecting new life to the millennium-old handicraft.
The sachets produced in Gansu's city of Qingyang are handmade silk pouches stuffed with Chinese herbal medicines and embroidered with colorful patterns, ranging from vegetables to the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. The craft dates back more than 2,000 years and was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage in 2006.
But in recent years, the craft has gradually lost attraction to the youth, which has raised concerns for the city's sachet makers.
"Traditional Qingyang sachets are deemed old-fashioned by many young people now because they lack variety in patterns and colors," said Liu Lanfang, 53, an inheritor of the craft and manager of a sachet making company in the city.
"The old craft needs to keep up with the times to stay alive," said Liu, who has been designing sachets for over four decades.
Since 2013, Liu and her company's design team have been working to revive traditional Qingyang sachets with new designs while keeping the craft's original flavor.
The design in which Liu takes the most pride is a donkey-shaped sachet, with a cartoonish look and available in various colors.
"Donkeys are common household animals in Gansu and used as a typical pattern in Qingyang sachets," she said. "But the traditional design is more like a realistic representation of the animal, black and dull."
To make the design more vivid, Liu gave the donkey a fluffy tail, pointed ears, big round eyes, a cute smile as well as all kinds of colors.
The newly-designed sachet has also been produced in different sizes to expand its use. People can use the small sachets as cell phone chains and the big ones as car decorations, in addition to wearing them as talismans to pray for happiness and ward off misfortune.
"The new design quickly caught on with the consumers and has won awards in many tourism product competitions in China," she said. "Some donkey farming bases even asked to use it as their mascots."
So far, Liu's company has designed over 500 types of sachets, based on traditional Qingyang sachet patterns. It sold over 300,000 sachets last year, many of which were exported to countries including the United States, Germany, Italy and Belarus.
The growing demand in foreign markets has also motivated Liu to design sachets tailored for overseas consumers.
Inspired by Halloween pumpkins, she embroidered pumpkin-shaped sachets with the masks of the Shaanxi opera, a style of Chinese folk opera popular in northwest China.
"I sent the pumpkin-shaped sachets to my friends in the United States, and they were very interested in them," she said. "The sachets represent the blending of Chinese and Western cultures."
Besides making the designs more appealing, Liu's company has also used new materials to create more diverse sachets, such as using lavender as the filling and replacing silk with cotton and linen to make the pouch.
"Only when we keep innovating can we pass down the craft to future generations," she said.