Baoding, 15 May (Zhongxin She) — Topic: The “shoe world” of non-genetic inheritors: turning traditional old cloth shoes into a “trend” industry

Authors: Li Xiaowei, Li Qian, Lu Zihao

The “mille-feuille bottom” is fixed on the wooden frame, and fine holes are pierced in the “mille-feuille bottom” with a needle cone, and the twine is quickly threaded … On the same day, Liu Wudai, the fourth-generation inheritor of traditional cloth shoe making skills in Baoding City, Hebei Province, was in the Cloth Shoe Culture Museum he created, displaying the most important link in traditional Chinese cloth shoe making skills – the sole.

I saw that his movements were completed in one go, and in just a few minutes, the soles of his shoes were full of fine stitches.

“You can’t meet the standard without years of skill.” Liu Wudai, who has been making shoes for 28 years, took out a densely packed sole full of stitches and said that the traditional cloth shoe production technology has strict requirements, and the sole alone must accept thousands of stitches, and ensure that the stitches are uniform and fine, otherwise it will affect the comfort of the shoe. “Handmade shoes is both a manual and a technical job.”

According to reports, the production of a pair of traditional handmade cloth shoes has more than a dozen processes such as cutting, mille-feuille sole, hemming, hammer sole, silk shoes, last shoes, and baking shoes. Since the Tongzhi period of the Qing Dynasty, the handmade cloth shoe making skills inherited by the Liu Wudai family have a history of more than 140 years. This year, the skill was inscribed on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Baoding City, Hebei Province.

Liu Wudai said that handmade cloth shoes have a long history in China, not only comfortable and healthy, but also reflect traditional skills in every step, so each pair of handmade cloth shoes is “unique”. However, with the development of society and the prosperity of industrial footwear, this traditional Chinese skill gradually declined.

In order to better pass it on, over the years, Liu Wudai has changed his thinking and devoted his energy to the innovation of traditional old cloth shoes. He traveled to Wenzhou, Nanjing, Shenzhen and other regions to investigate the fashion trend of new handmade cloth shoes, and on the basis of the advantages of his traditional handmade cloth shoes, he integrated with contemporary pop culture elements, and regarded traditional old cloth shoes as a “trend” industry.

“Not only the elderly, but more and more young people are also starting to like cloth shoes.” Today, Liu Wudai has launched more than 20 kinds of various styles and fancy products, with an annual output of more than 200,000 pairs, which sell well in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and go abroad and exported to South Korea and Russia.

In order to let more people understand Chinese cloth shoe culture, in 2016, Liu Wudai mobilized relatives and friends to collect old shoemaking objects and old shoes with historical value, and built the Cloth Shoe Culture Museum. Over the past few years, the museum has collected more than 1,200 pairs of shoes of different periods and nationalities, such as flag shoes, clogs, bast sandals, embroidered shoes, etc., as well as various shoemaking tools such as old spinning wheels, looms, and shoe lasts. Walking into it is like entering the “world of shoes”.

In 2020, after the outbreak of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, Liu Wudai’s cloth shoe sales were affected. In his predicament, with the encouragement of his son, he began to try the popular live streaming goods. Liu Wudai, who is not good at words, felt nervous when he faced the camera for the first time. However, what surprised him was that the effect of the live broadcast was good, and many netizens watched it and interacted with him.

“Some merchants learned about our cloth shoes through the live broadcast and took the initiative to contact us to supply them.” Liu Wudai said that the live broadcast has broadened sales channels, and from March to May 2020, their sales of cloth shoes reached 60,000 pairs, an increase of 30% compared with the same period of previous years.

“Good craftsmanship needs successors.” Liu Wudai said that his greatest wish is to be able to bring good apprentices and pass on his old skills. Liu Wudai set up 10 handmade cloth shoe processing contact points in Shunping County, Baoding City, carefully teaching villagers skills and driving more than 30 surrounding villages to engage in shoe soles, silk shoes and other work. “More people are joining the lineage, and I believe that healthy and comfortable traditional cloth shoes will be revitalized.” (End)

Source: China News Network