Embracing a traditional life and costumes

Updated 2017-07-24 09:39:53 Shanghai Daily
Chinese irons, which were used as a jewelry case in Europe, are on display.

Chinese irons, which were used as a jewelry case in Europe, are on display.

Yao Yao, 27, is a fan of traditional lifestyle. He wears convention-al costumes, practises kung fu and long-standing Chinese arts, and runs a hotel in the mountains that encourages people to live with the nature and tradition.

The young man's usual look is a long gown, a pair of round glasses, and sev-eral strings of beads.

From Yuhang, Yao is a descendent of Yao Nai (1731-1815), who was famous for his classical works and considered an important figure in Tongcheng School.

No wonder the young Yao loved studying Chinese history and litera-ture ever since boyhood.

His titles include manager of the Hangzhou Garment Culture Museum, CEO of Nine Villas On A Mountain resort, calligraphy and seal carving artist, teacher of Chinese classical lit-erature, and an entrepreneur.

Yao says he is enchanted by the shape, the embroidery and the style of traditional Chinese costumes, which "gives a feeling that machine can never make."

"Clothes are a product of history and a mirror to culture," he said, citing ex-amples that royal costumes unearthed 2,000 years ago were of only one or two colors, yet those of royal court of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) were colorful and exquisite, as the economy was prosperous.

So, it is not enough to merely wear them.

Earlier this summer, he established the Hangzhou Garment Culture Muse-um in Yuhang, after he convinced the Yuhang government to provide some space and a local garment company to invest in.

Months ago the museum had the Maritime Silk Road Exhibition, which showcased antique costumes, acces-sories and shoes that were imported or exported on the Maritime Silk Road.

Interesting exhibits include the dragon robe of an emperor, qipao (cheongsam) that once belonged to an American diplomat, Chinese irons ex-ported to Europe and used as a jewelry case because of delicate enameling decorations, lacquerware imported from the Middle East, and European sewing and knitting equipment made of ivory and shell.

The museum also exhibited tens of sewing machines — electric and man-ual, hand-cranking and foot-stepping, of normal size and mini size.

Yao, a sewing machine collec-tor believed "the history of the sewing machine is part of modern cloth history."

Currently he is preparing a new exhi-bition that involves women's garments through the country's history.

Running the museum is just one part of his life, and another section is man-aging a resort named Nine Villas On A Mountain, which is truly adapted from nine endangered or wasted houses on a mountain in Taihuyuan Town in Lin'an, Hangzhou.

The town has a history of over 1,000 years and is known for its golden gink-go and fiery maple trees, he wished to run a resort there.

Again, Yao's persuasive talent lured several investors to buy into for his own dream.

To remind people the town's history, they didn't tear the old houses down but renewed them instead, despite it being more expensive.

"Old houses have their own beauty. Tearing down them is easy, but reviv-ing the beauty is not possible," said Yao.

Today, the wasted sty is a villa, the old cowshed is a restaurant, and one of the houses remains a house to its host-ess — Yao's 70-year-old grandmother.

"We pay her rent but don't move her out. Because she is the soul of the houses, who gives us the feeling of home and life," he explained, adding the lady's daily routine is to plant veg-etables, take care of poultry, and make bacon.

Some old stuff that cannot be used are now served for other functions, like a stone-made pig's trough is used as a basin; a wooden cake mold works as an ashtray; an old bucket is to con-tain umbrellas.

"I don't just retain the local culture, but combine it with modern ones so we can sustain it," he said.

Among all his titles, Yao favors "teacher" the most.

He gives lectures in studies of Chinese ancient civilization to both children and adults.

What makes the young teacher dif-ferent from the others is that he tells students "not all traditions are good," for example, the stereotypical view that "the theories of women are inferior to men, and children must be obedient to parents, should be consigned to the dustbin."

What Yao does highlight is the free spirit and lifestyle that the ancient Chinese literati chased.

"It is stupid to take all traditions or deny all modern things," he grinned.

"I am personally a huge fan of hip-hop, it is free."

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