Su Xiaoli (Middle) [Photo/Women of China]
Su Xiaoli, a native of Huzhu Tu Ethnic Autonomous county, in Haidong, in northwest China's Qinghai province, has been promoting Pan embroidery of the Tu ethnic group. Pan embroidery was added to the national list of intangible cultural heritage in 2006.
Since she established an embroidery company, in 2015, she has cultivated 120 skilled embroiderers, and she has provided employment opportunities to about 15,000 impoverished residents of the county. Her company's products are sold in Japan, the South Korea and Southeast Asian countries.
Su's idea (of starting a Pan embroidery business) was inspired by her experience during one of her trips to Xining, capital of the province, in 2012. In one store, she witnessed two tourists buying Tibetan crafts. "Our Pan embroidery is also very attractive. Why should villagers live in poverty when we have embroidering skills? I need to sell Pan embroidery products for them," Su thought.
After she returned home, she began sharing her idea with villagers. She visited 120 villages in the county, within three years, to invite women who had embroidering skills to join her business. "You are only responsible for embroidering. I will help you sell the products," Su told them.
"Right after my company was established, a Party branch secretary of an impoverished village came to me. He asked whether I could employ some poverty-stricken villagers. At that time, I needed skilled embroiderers badly. However, the villagers didn't know how to embroider at all. Despite that, I still agreed to accept them, and I trained them how to embroider," Su recalls.She sold the items in tourist destinations. She also went to a grand hotel in Xining, where she promoted the embroideries to the hotel's manager, who came from France. Touched by her sincerity, and being interested in the embroideries, the manager bought all of her products.
To date, Su has established embroidery bases and poverty-alleviation workshops in 10 townships or towns, where she has offered free embroidery materials and provided free training. "No matter whether women can embroider or not, I will accept them as long as they are from impoverished families," Su says.
Some women, who were born in the 1980s or 1990s, have returned to their hometowns to learn how to make Pan embroideries. The senior embroiderers pass on their skills to the young generation.
In 2019, Su received the National Poverty-Alleviation Award for her efforts to lift women out of poverty. "More villagers have lived happy lives because of my existence. Only in that way can my life be more valuable and meaningful," she says.