Category Archives: Intervention?

Let zha-ran FLy

During this summer, I got the chance to interview one of the most famous Chinese tie-dye artist Fanglu Lin.

She is one of the 30 finalists for the Craft Prize 2020 organised by the Loewe Foundation and her artworks about Chinese tie-dye is going to be exhibited in Paris soon.

“I saw the possibility of using tie-dye technique for self-expression which is quite important for our young generation.” As a young artist, she brought a lot of creative ideas and new designs for traditional Chinese tie-dye technique. “Actually, a lot of foreigners are fascinated by our traditional culture and the Chinese tie-dye sofa I designed earned a lot of popularity from international furniture buyers.” Fanglu Lin said.

By the interview with Fanglu, I started to think what kind of intervention can combine the traditional zha-ran with modern interior design together and attract people’s attention. I start to search and found out that “the global home fragrance market size is expected to reach USD 27.63 billion by 2027” (by Fortune Business Insights) which inspired me to create a home diffuser with zha-ran fabrics.

When I keep going with the journey of exploring all the possibilities of zha-ran innovation, I noticed that young generation is very fond of unique or customised designs to present their identities. So now I came up with the idea of zha-ran 2020 Nature Collection. With the combination of tie-dye fabric and gold, the design conveyed the message of ‘the beauty of tradition’.


During my interviews with Duan Shukun, the founder of Chinese Zha-ran National Museum, I realized the museum is not just a place to present the history, the culture and the artworks of zha-ran, but an important platform to interact with visitors and inspire them to learn how to make zha-ran.

A group of students came to visit Zha-ran Museum during Chinese National Days, And they spent a day in the museum to learn how to make zha-ran by themselves.

They wrote down the whole process of zha-ran and their own experience and ideas which is an extremely helpful influence for developing zha-ran culture in the future.

social media=Online museum

From the secondary research, I learnt that social media can play a very important platform for me to carry out my intervention to promote Chinese tie-dye. Therefore, I choose two most popular social media platforms, Tiktok and Instagram, to register Chinese tie-dye account, as an ‘online museum’ to show and share what zha-ran is and what innovative design we could have to arouse the attention for Chinese tie-dye.

Due to the Covid situation, I had to count on my stakeholders to supply me firs-hand pictures and videos, so I can build up the basic structure of this ‘online museum’ to support my first-step intervention. Thanks to the support of Dali Zha-ran museum, the only national museum about Chinese tie-dye in China, I received a lot of original documents about Chinese tie-dye art pieces which I could use to edit and post on Tiktok and Instagram.

During the past few months, I received more and more likes and comments. “Before I only seen Zha-ran as a local souvenir in Yunnan to represent their Bai ethnic group culture. But the story behind made me want to know more about zha-ran. If I will have chances in the future, I would love to go to Dali and make one zha-ran scarf for myself.” Ziyi Wang, a Chinese college student commented on my Tiktok post. Also, I received very positive feedback from my stakeholders. “Young generations spend a lot of time on social media and by using social media promotion, more and more people came to buy our products online.” Hanmin Zhang, the owner of Lanxu Zha-ran Textile company in China told me.

Innovate our tradition?

During all these days, I did a lot of research about fashion design. And I found out a lot of luxury brands are combined their products with some traditional techniques, such as tie-dye.

Dior design has tie-dye style
LV handbag with the printing looks like tie-dye
Chanel chain bag with tie-dye printing

So this bring me an idea, can we innovate our traditional design and make it more diverse or fashionable?

So I interviewed Fanglu Lin, the designer of Beijing Zha-ran Culture&Arts, ltd. Apparently she did a lot of innovation about Chinese traditional tie-dye and some of her artworks won the recognition internationally.

I like to innovate our traditional tie-dye patterns and design something more modern. From the exhibition I had I can see young generation like our traditional techniques, we just need to find more ways to attract them and tell them all of these treasures are not old.

Fang lu said.

Young talent is the future of our tradition inheritance

HANMIN ZHANG(the left), the owner of Lanxu Zha-ran Textile company in China

When I had the chance talk to Hanmin, I felt like she is such a good example of how young generation can inherit our cultural heritage

She was born in Dali where is the hometown of Chinese tie-dye. After she grown up, she found a job in Beijing and she stayed there for many years until she got pregnant. When she came back to her hometown, she felt sad that she was no longer seeing zha-ran everywhere like her childhood memory. So how to make the traditional Chinese tie-dye still alive in our lives became to her goal.

‘Are we really going to watch our traditions dying in front us? Zha-ran supposed to be one of our most proud of tradition that we need to keep it and pass by to next generation.‘

In the end of 2019, Hanmin was invited to be the guest speaker to Open MUJI in Kunming, China. And she prepared a small workshop to the audiences that day.

And then I proposed to her that maybe she can look for more chances to do more workshops in different cities with more brands.

Museum is not only for tradition showing

Shukun Duan, the founder of Bai Ethnic Group Tie-dye Museum

The young generation need to know their ‘root’, the history, the culture which bring them to today.

When I was having this interview with Shukun, I was impressed by his passion of zha-ran, the Chinese tie-dye technique.

As the first national Zha-ran textile museum, Puzhen Museum is not only a place to preserve all Chinese tie-dye traditions, but an important platform to attract more people come to know about zha-ran.

So my intervention idea is can we use the museum as a place to hold workshops for young talents who wants to learn about Chinese tie-dye?

During the conversation with Shukun, he told me that there is around 50,000 to 60,000 young people come to visit the museum each year and there is around 10,000 among them are willing to learn how to make zha-ran.

And during the lock-down, the museum had to shut down without any choices. So I was proposing to make some videos online to show the museum.

扎染文化传承之璞真博物馆游学记,大理旅游攻略- 马蜂窝
大理璞真扎染博物馆(第1页) - 一起扣扣网

Shukun said, he believes young generation has to come to really try to make tie-dye with them and they could understand how amazing of zha-ran textile.

How to make the intervention happen

After gathering the materials about Zha-ran, I’m planning to use this project to arouse people’s attention to rethink about the traditional textile art which we are neglecting these days.

I would like to build up a platform to present the beauty of Zha Ran in a modern way and gain more popularity of this traditional textile art around the world.

And I see this project as a long-term and sustainable project which I will keep making efforts to make progress. At the end of the course, I hope I can gather some certain number of stakeholders on board as a team to work on this project continuously after and bring positive changes for the traditional textile art forms.

How to make Chinese tie-dyeing ?

After showing what is zha-ran, how zha-ran looks like, I decided to move further to show the process of how to make tie-dye towards our young generation.

Handmade zha-ran needs a long time to produce.

The process can be repeated several times to achieve the best results, and the effects could be vary which would depend on the quality of the fabric, pattern designs, dye density, temperature and time. So each tie-dye product is unique, even if made by the same craftsperson.

They need to collect some Radix Isatidis roots (Banlangen in Chinese). This root is a Chinese medicinal herb which can be used to dissipate excess heat from the body, remove toxic substances and diminish inflammation and detumescence. 
Then they need to ferment the Banlangen and produce the indigo in a vat
Time to design the pattern for the textile
Use a brush to print the pattern out in the fabric
They need to fold and stitch the cotton cloth that the tied part will retain its original colour, while the rest is dyed
Soak the cloth into the water and let it destarch
Put the fabric in the boiling water with the dye for half or one minute
Take them out and cool them for oxidation
Take out the stitches
Use the clean water to wash again
Final step —– Dry it

Finding out What is Chinese tie-dye?

Due to the lack of awareness of zha-ran among young generation, I decided in the beginning of my intervention, I need to prepare all the documents, pictures or videos to show what is Chinese tie-dye, what Chinese zha-ran looks like.

Zha-ran, a Chinese tie-dye, is one of the most traditional textile dyeing techniques which is still popular by the Bai ethnic group people in Yunnan, Southwest China. This skill appeared over 1500 years ago in China and is still used today.

In 2006, zha-ran is entitled to The First Batch of China National Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

In Dali, Yunnan province, there is a place named Zhoucheng, a small village where 99% are Bai ethnic group people who became the main producing place of Chinese tie-dyed cloth, known as ‘the living-fossil of Chinese tie-dye.’

The fabric used is normally white fabric made of cotton or linen. The dye was originally made of natural herbs ,especially with radix isatidis  root (Banlangen 板蓝根 in Chinese)that produce blue colour.

Blue and white are two principal traditional colours for tie-dye in China. In Bai ethnic group, they believe white represents lucky and blue represents hope. So the locals always use tie-dyed cloth for the new-born babies, bride gowns even grave-clothes.


1.The Inquiry of the Education and Inheritance system in Dali Zhoucheng Bai Ethnic Group Tie-dye Technique, Lu Zhiyan

2. The Cultural Connotation of Zha-ran Technique in Zhoucheng, Dal i

Tutorial with George


1. What: TITLE

1.1 Subject / area / theme

> These are the big words (e.g. creative collaboration, plastic recycling, empowerment, ambient design, sustainability in fashion, inclusivity, accessibility, wearable technology, primary education, cultural exchange, etc.)

Traditional textile sustainability, accessibility & popularity

Research more about organic

1.2 What it is within the subject area that you intend to focus on

> Your subject areas can be broad, so what key elements within your subject topic will you focus on?

The topic will be focused on how to promote Chinese traditional Zha Ran in modern age especially among young people

1.3 What is your ‘How can’ question?

> The question is the most important component of your research. What is your overarching question, that will act as guidance for your action research? The question will naturally develop over time.

How can Zha Ran(a traditional Chinese textile art form) keep sustainability in modern age and have bigger market share among young generation?

Gain popularity — preserving / revive this traditional technique

Creative experiment

Branded what is the one image represents Zha Ran

2. Why: TITLE

2.1 Why is this research project worth pursuing?

> Make sure it has not been done before, through research. It may certainly be a topic that has been explored but how will you tackle it differently?

Nowadays, we pay more and more attention on tradition preservation and Zha Ran is definitely one of the jewels from the crown of history which we need to make more efforts to make it shine.

But due to the lack of promotion and innovation, Zha Ran is disappearing in our lives. Only few craftspeople are still working on Zha Ran in Dali, SW China.

Compared with the growing of African and Indian tie-dye, Chinese tie-dye deserved more opportunity to gain the popularity. So how to make Zha Ran survive and more popular became an urgent and worthwhile topic to do further research.

2.2 Why will it bring positive change to the world?

> Your project will create positive change in the world if there is a need for this change

Zha Ran is one of the most traditional textile-dyeing techniques in China, which already has over thousands of years history. But we could see less and less Zha Ran in our modern use around the world, even in its hometown China.

So how to find a breakthrough for traditional Zha Ran technique in our modern world could bring a lot of positive reflection and sustainable development of cultural heritage protection.

2.3 Why is it important to you?

> Are you passionate about your project and excited to make it part of your life over the coming months?

I used to interview few craftsmen who are still using Zha Ran for clothes production. And when they were talking about the young people who are not interested about Zha Ran and it’s hard to find new apprentice to inherit the technique, I felt the calling of the responsibility to promote Zha Ran and do my best to see if I can make a difference.

3. How: TITLE

3.1 Background research

         a. What books, blogs, online articles/papers will you read? Make a list of these. This list will grow over time

         b. What films, theatre pieces, music performances, exhibitions, talks, TED talks or other interactive things will you engage with? These will differ and change as lockdown restrictions change

         c. User questionnaires (surveys)

1.Securing the past : conservation in art, architecture and literature /

Eggert, Paul

2.Digital applications for cultural and heritage institutions /

3.The future of the past: how the information age threatens to destroy our cultural heritage / Stille, Alexander

4. Heritage: critical approaches / Harrison, Rodney,

5. Made to Stick / Chip and Dan Heath

6. Comparing Research about the Beauty in Form between Fractal and Traditional Textile Patterns / Tang Ying

7. The Inheritance and Development of Ethnic Traditional Craftsmanship of Decorative Arts in Modern Garment Design / Yang Xiao Bing

8. Exploring textile arts: the ultimate guide to manipulating, coloring, and embellishing fabrics.

9. Sustainability and the social fabric Europe’s new textile industries / Clio Padovani, Paul Whittaker.

3.2 Questions that are intriguing and that you would like to answer. These will come up as a result of your research, and you can use these questions to develop interventions, to test with users and stakeholders. Make a list of these….

How many ways can promote Chinese traditional Zha Ran around the world?

What intervention can be used to innovate Zha Ran?

How can we attract young people increase the interest about Zha Ran?

How to branding Zha Ran to make it more popular among young people?

3.3 Users, who is your target user group(s). Think of how to approach them

Young generation

By online approach mostly

3.4 Stakeholders, who are your stakeholders. Think of how to approach them

Textiles factory              Mazdak Khoshdaman  Textile manufacturer in LA

Textile designers             Agne Jonynaite

Textile experts.                Wendy Garrity  Owner of Textile Trails

Art school.  

Fashion critics                  Matt Trueman Art journalist and theatre critic

E-commerce website        Lisa Founnder at LivingxLG

Government                     Dali local government, Yunnan government

3.5 Action research

         a. Intervention ideas (products/artefacts, workshops, other sessions that you would like to pursue`

         b. Small ideas

         c. Big idea

I googled Zha Ran or Chinese tie dye and there are only few materials to show about this technique.

So my intervention plan could be few steps ——

First I would like to build up a website include more information about Zha Ran, such as the film and photos about how to use Zha Ran, and the history, interviews about the craftsmen,etc.

Then based on the website, I would prepare questionnaires and collect feedbacks from target users and stakeholders.

From the feedbacks, I will keep develop the website and reach out to art schools to seek the opportunity of promoting Zha Ran.

After maybe create an online shop for customized Zha Ran crafts to attract more attention and exposure.

3.6 Challenges, make record of these as your project develops

4. What-if: TITLE

4.1 What happens if your project is successful?

I will make it a long-term sustainable project to promote more Chinese traditional arts and make more efforts to make ‘obsolescence’ become fashionable again.

4.2 How will your project be valuable to your users?

Textile is a way to express self-identity. And Zha Ran can be represented as a way of pursuing organic, natural and simple lifestyle which could be worshiping by a lot of young people.

And this project can arouse the attention from young generation to realize the importance of the traditional heritage protection.

4.3 How will your project be valuable to your stakeholders?

Zha Ran can be an exotic option for textile industry and it will be very catchy with the trendy of simple lifestyle. From the market, most stakeholders know about African and Indian tie dye, but Chinese tie dye could be a new excitement to explore.

4.4 Where would you like to be toward the end of your journey?

I would like to make this project into a long-term program that I can keep working on and branding.