Across China: Out of poverty, Yi woman's pursuit of beauty

Source: Xinhua| 2020-09-25 20:09:15|Editor: huaxia

by Xinhua writer Huang Xinxin

CHENGDU, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- With her eyebrows tattooed, eyelids colored, cheeks rouged and lips reddened, He Jianxiu is embroidering a pair of socks in the village square, wearing a self-tailored costume with handmade knot buttons in the shape of clouds.

Only four years ago, she would be somewhat bashful wearing makeup in public. But now she feels comfortable even when meeting visitors from afar.

He, 27, a woman from the Yi ethnic group, is living in a new community with her fellow villagers in Yuexi County. They moved out of their mountainous village with poor roads and living conditions last year, under a relocation project sponsored by the local government. Her family of four is now living in a 100-square-meter apartment.

Yuexi County in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, southwest China's Sichuan Province, is among the last 52 counties yet to shake off poverty in China. By the end of this year, China aims to achieve the goal of eradicating absolute poverty.

Though some residents are still adapting to their new lifestyle, such as using refrigerators and smartphones, or getting around by bus instead of on foot, He is embracing her new life.

"I used to wash my face only once a day," said He, who now starts each day with her skincare and makeup routine.

She is learning makeup skills through tutorials on Kuaishou, a leading video-sharing platform in China. Many young women like He have also tried their hand at applying makeup in the village.

They are able to easily buy online cosmetics, apparel, shoes and other products thanks to the 4G network, express delivery services and their higher salaries.

It takes her five minutes on her electric motorbike to collect the parcels in the town. A cement road was built to link her community with the town center.

"17 years ago, to get to school I had to ride a horse for more than three hours along narrow and winding paths deep in the mountains," He recalled.

In 2016, He learned how to apply makeup for the first time while working in factories in south China's Guangdong Province.

"Girls in the cities are pretty with makeup, so I also want to have a try," He said.

She continued to wear makeup after leaving Guangdong for home to better take care of her two children in 2018.

Upon returning home, He also took up traditional Yi embroidery and adopted a flexible schedule, allowing her to improve her makeup skills.

He was unfamiliar with Yi embroidery until January this year when her community committee invited some senior Yi women to offer free embroidery training, which they learned from their mothers and grandmothers.

She joined other homemakers after one week of training to embroider ethnic patterns on socks, which earns her more than 1,000 yuan (about 148 U.S. dollars) per month.

Though the pay is less than what she and her husband earned in Guangdong, it serves as extra pocket money for He who needs to take care of her children at home.

With this pay, He has more financial freedom to shop online and buy things for herself.

Since May, Liangshan Prefecture has built 26 Yi embroidery workshops in seven poverty-stricken counties, where Yi women are able to turn their traditional cultural heritage into wealth, said local authorities.

A team of college students in Sichuan are now collecting Yi embroidery works to build a database of their patterns, facilitating their widespread use for fashion design. In this way, Yi embroidery is bringing higher incomes to poor people in Liangshan Prefecture while promoting cultural inheritance.

Clothing with Yi embroidery patterns even appeared at New York Fashion Week, Spring/Summer 2020.

He has little awareness of New York Fashion Week, but with the increasing popularity of Yi embroidery, more women like her are escaping poverty in Liangshan Prefecture. The total output value of Yi embroidery in Ganluo County, another poverty-ridden county in Liangshan Prefecture, has exceeded 20 million yuan since 2015.

This year the COVID-19 epidemic has impacted the poverty alleviation project as people were unable to go out to work as usual. Luckily with the help of Yi embroidery, more women are able to work from home.

"The COVID-19 epidemic has not stalled our progress in tackling poverty in Liangshan Prefecture, since more poverty-stricken people are getting flexible jobs on their doorstep," said Lin Shucheng, secretary of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefectural Committee of the Communist Party of China. Enditem