Wondrous Xinjiang: Young "bow man" fosters traditional handicraft

(Xinhua) 13:27, September 03, 2022

URUMQI, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- First roughly grinding the body with filer and then finely grinding the burrs with sandpaper, a traditional bow of the Xibe ethnic group is about to be ready as young craftsman Zhao Hu finishes up the last touches.

After graduating from university, Zhao, who is a member of the Xibe ethnic group, returned to his hometown in Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to learn the traditional bow- and arrow-making techniques.

Long before archery became a sport, bows and arrows were used as hunting weapons by the Xibe people.

Both Zhao's father and grandfather excel at carpentry. "They've made various kinds of toys out of wood for me since I was a kid, of which bows and arrows were my favorites," he said.

However, it is not easy to master the skills. Traditional bows may look simple, but the production process is complicated. It requires more than 10 types of materials and involves dozens of processes to handcraft a decent bow.

After three years of training, Zhao is now capable of making two types of bows and designing quivers, and he said he makes about 10 to 30 bows a month.

To promote the inheritance of traditional techniques, a bow and arrow museum has been established in Qapqal with support from the local government. Zhao has been offered a bow and arrow production studio in the museum.

"I don't need to pay any rent for the studio. I also enjoy the subsidy for college graduates who start their own businesses, about 5,000 yuan (about 727 U.S. dollars) a year," Zhao said.

The Xibe ethnic bow- and arrow-making technique was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage in 2008. Many archers from Qapqal have won medals in major competitions at home and abroad. With Xinjiang's booming tourism, the Xibe archery culture has also gained vitality.

Zhao plans to hold a series of activities such as bow and arrow culture courses and themed parent-child activities to popularize this traditional craft.

"I hope this will help more children and tourists learn about Xibe traditional bow and arrow culture," Zhao said. 

(Web editor: Sheng Chuyi, Bianji)


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