Better life looms large in Shanxi villages

By Yang Xiaoyu (

Updated: 2020-07-24


Two weavers work in a textile workshop on July 17 in Dongzhang village, Quting township, Hongtong county of Linfen city in North China's Shanxi province. [Photo by Yang Xiaoyu/]

Munian, literally translated as "mother's handmade cloth", is a type of rough fabric made with a millennia-old weaving craft unique to Hongtong county of Linfen city in North China's Shanxi province.

But the craft has almost faded into oblivion, as people turn to readily available mass-produced fabrics and garments.

That is until June, when it gained a new lease on life.

The local government of Quting township in Hongtong built munian workshops in seven villages, offering job opportunities to 40 local women.

Most female villagers in middle and old age are left behind to care for their families and tend farms while most men work in the cities, said Fan Ding, the head of the township.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has kept male villagers from returning to their jobs for months, resulting in a decrease in their household income. "So we decided to revive the traditional munian craft to expand their incomes," Fan explained.

In Dongzhang village, the earliest to get 20 looms working on June 20, a dozen local women, all over age 55, are working in the textile workshop.

"The job is flexible and not so tiring," said Li Shenglan, a local woman at the workshop. "I can just leave here when the busy farming season comes and get back during the off-season."

As a greenhorn weaver, Li earns 25 yuan ($3.58) per day.

"When I become more skilled, my productivity will double and so will my pay," said Li, who looks to earn around 1,500 yuan ($214.65) from the shop per month after one to two months' training.


An array of four-piece munian sheet sets on display at a e-commerce service station on July 17 in Quting township, Hongtong county of Linfen city in North China's Shanxi province. [Photo by Yang Xiaoyu/]

A government-sponsored e-commerce service station in the town collects finished textiles and sells them under a newly registered bedding brand,Kuang Yi Bo Bei (Kuang's clothes and Bo's quilts).

The brand borrows the names of two well-known historical figures of the county -- Shi Kuang, a legendary blind music master living in 6th century BC, and Empress Bo, mother of Emperor Wen of the Western Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 24).

Priced at about 200 yuan ($28.62) apiece, four-piecemunian sheet sets, highly breathable and comfortable, are selling well during livestreaming promotions.

As productivity is limited, only 70 sets have been produced in the first month. "But they were sold out soon, making us all very optimistic," said Yue Jinchuan, the head of the village.