Weaving a Symphony
Jin Juan
Shanghai
Heritage
Fabric Making

It is a hot August day. After a 40km drive from Jing’an Temple I finally reach the countryside home of Jin Juan to see her do her Wangxiang weaving. Even though she has not been well lately, she enthusiastically welcomes me to her home to show me the weaving loom that has passed to her from generation after generation before. I listen to that handmade old machine make its music as this fourth generation lady throws the shuttle from side to side between the weft, the wooden thread carriers flying between her two hands. The pattern changes in response to her feet dancing on the wooden pedals in the steps she has learned over decades. Even though I am distracted by the scent of ripe peaches from her nearby orchard, I am still mesmerised by the sound, the skills and the melody of her performance. I look at the eyes of the old woman sitting at her loom and can see them flashing as she works, much like a maestro performing on stage her angel fingers play her instrument, making the complex actions seem simple. Red, green, blue shuttles throw back and forth making the pattern like a musician remembering the notes and playing the music learned over years of head-down practice. The flower pattern grows and blooms as she plays.

Today Jin Juan is weaving a double-happiness patterned cloth for her daughter’s wedding, crafting a blanket cover for her. Even though the machine has been repeatedly repaired, she still desires to weave into her work all the love she has for her daughter, each row signifying her undying affection. And in years to come, when her daughter touches the blanket she will remember her mother’s face, the food she prepared and her broad smile.

The old lady is happy to meet me, spend time with me and she convinces me of the unbreakable attachment she has to her gift. As I leave she presses into my hands a roll of the beautiful cloth she wove. Then she takes me to her orchard and insists my visit ends with another present of warm, aromatic peaches fresh-picked from her fruit trees. Her stooped body waves goodbye and her face fades, but the strength of her passion and dedication to weaving will leave an indelible mark on me. 

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