Yang Drama in Youyang is a kind of folk opera which combines sacrificial rites and opera art with a strong religious atmosphere. It is regarded as one of the core cultural geographic symbols of Youyang.
There are usually 7 to 32 sets of masks depending on performance needs. According to different roles, performers wear different kinds of masks. Various melodies and instruments are used during the performance. There are now 7 distinct types of Yang Drama in Youyang county, each with its own cultural and regional characteristics.
Masks for Yang Drama are unique and delicate. Few local residents still know manufacturing skills handed down from their ancestors. They use cypress as the main material. After selecting the proper branch from the cypress tree, they cut it into two in the middle and put it under the sun for about 2 months, then start to carve and paint it in order to make it delicate and charming.
The first time we heard about Qinghao Straw, or the sweet wormwood, was from a news article published in 2011. This article explained that Artemisinin, found by the Chinese medical researcher Tu Youyou, who won the Lasker Medical Research Awards, was extracted from Qinghao Straw. When we first saw the Qinghao Straw in YouYang, it seemed to be ubiquitous: in the houses,in the yards, on the roads……
After our astonishment a local resident told us that a big packet of Qinghao Straw can be purchased for only 5 RMB. Planting Qinghao Straw requires a lot of labor, but it is sold so cheaply. So we naturally began to think about the farmers’ welfare and the difficulty they have to bear to make a profit. How can we protect their efforts? Who cares about them? What can designers do to improve their lives?
“It is easier to climb to heaven than to take the Road in Sichuan.” This is a poem by Li Bai that complains about the poor traffic in Sichuan. Situated in the southeast of Sichuan province and nearby to Wuling Mountain, Youyanng is on the east side of the YunGui Plateau. With luxuriant forests, this area is strategically located and difficult of access. Normally, villagers can be seen “shouldering” heavy loads in flat areas. However, in plateau carrying loads on the back is more efficient because villagers can use both hands to assist their climbing. Thus “carrying on one’s back” becomes an indispensable part of production and life, creating a culture on the backs of the local people.
According to the content and material, this “culture” carried on the back falls into two main types: “basket” and “bucket”. The “basket” is weaved by bamboo and rattan, usually used to load solids. While the “bucket” is a wooden container that can hold liquids. These two kinds of containers have different styles in different geographical conditions.
In the ancient agricultural civilization, Tujia people in Wulin Mountain area saw longevity turtles as their totem. They have developed a sophisticated skill in making Grapefruit Turtles by hand, including molding the face, mouth, eyes, and feet of turtles, which also had the Chinese character “回” on their back shells.
The nursery rhyme ”Little Basket” pops out when it comes to this topic. Western Hunan is known as the “Hometown of Pack Baskets”. But this time when walking in the streets of Youyang, a place far from Hunan, we unexpectedly found that baskets were everywhere. It is clear that baskets are a common tool for delivery, production and daily life.