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Oz Fair Trade

Meet the Artisans of Yunnan Gushu

Oz Fair Trade Yunnan China

Yunnan (云南, yúnnán) has always stood apart from the rest of China, set high on the southwestern frontiers of the empire, and shielded from the rest of the nation by the unruly, mountainous neighbours of Sichuan and Guizhou. Within this single province, unmatched in the complexity and scope of its history, landscape and peoples, you’ll find a mix of geography, climates and nationalities that elsewhere on Earth takes entire continents to express. 

Yunnan is noted for a very high level of ethnic diversity. Some 38% of the province's population are members of minorities. In Yunnan language and culture are of primary interest because they are the basis for classifying most minority nationalities. Religion plays a role in groups such as the Hui ( Muslims ) who, to all intents and purposes, are Chinese except for their faith. Historical background can sometimes tip the balance in determining the status of a people.

The main challenge that Yunnan faces is its lack of major economic development. Many people still prefer to live in villages where employment and educational opportunities are limited. Some rely on the craft of making cloth from furs, linen, silk and cotton etc which has been passed down from generation to generation among many minority groups. Each minority group has their distinct designs and motifs. With the economic development of China, hand weaving is in danger of becoming a lost art. The Yunnan Nationalities Museum has a collection of hand weaving machines and ancient textile pieces. With the pressure of having to contribute to household incomes, men and young people from villages are moving to where the employment opportunities with higher pay lie – cities. Those that remain in the village still value the art of embroidery for its beauty and cultural importance. 

We buy directly from Yunnan Gushu, a Yunnan village producer group that is owned by crafters. They often make use of local materials, and their designs have very strong cultural elements. Minority groups celebrate strong personalities through vibrant colours and outstanding accessories. We challenge you to try some on!