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Intangible Culture Workshop: SISU students rush to collect cotton before Chanthu hits


13 September 2021 | By Li Cathy | Copyedited by LIN Yan

  • Highlighting Intangible Cultural Heritage

    The "Plant Your Cloth" workshop aims to offer students hands-on experience with farming cotton and weaving Songjiang's old cotton cloth.

  • Highlighting Intangible Cultural Heritage

    The "Plant Your Cloth" workshop aims to offer students hands-on experience with farming cotton and weaving Songjiang's old cotton cloth.

  • Highlighting Intangible Cultural Heritage

    The "Plant Your Cloth" workshop aims to offer students hands-on experience with farming cotton and weaving Songjiang's old cotton cloth.

  • Highlighting Intangible Cultural Heritage

    The "Plant Your Cloth" workshop aims to offer students hands-on experience with farming cotton and weaving Songjiang's old cotton cloth.

As typhoon Chanthu is about to pour rain onto Shanghai, students in Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) hurried to collect all the cotton they could from their "Plant Your Cloth" workshop. 

The students have rushed to pick out as much cotton as possible from their cotton field just days before Chanthu is predicted to arrive. Among the five kilograms of cotton harvested, they also found a particular type of cotton called “purple cotton,” a rare cotton that is actually brown. Compared with ordinary white cotton, it is softer in texture and relatively rare to find in a cotton field. On average, there is only about 40kg of “purple cotton” per acre of land, while about 120kg of white cotton.

The "Plant Your Cloth" workshop, launched on January 3 in SISU by Zhang Lijun, a Spanish-language lecturer, aims to offer students hands-on experience with farming cotton and weaving Songjiang's old cotton cloth.  

In January, about 20 eager students showed up in a small piece of land at the east corner on campus and began to pick out the stones, pull out weeds, get rid of pests, and water the land, starting the long process of prepping the soil for planting. They planted the seeds in April and came to the field daily to water the soil. They also built tunnels around the sprouts so that water and air can flow freely around the stems, as the roots must absorb enough water and fresh air. 

The sprouts kept grow as the number of volunteer planters. When the bolls appeared, the workshop expanded to over 70 students and teachers. "I learned so much from joining this workshop, from knowing nothing at all about agriculture. For example, we have learned how to apply fertilizer, whether to cut the flowers or weeds around it, how to water the plants properly," said Zhong Xurui, a student from Spanish studies. 

Apart from learning specific farming techniques, these novice cotton farmers found the entire process to be eye-opening and enjoyable. "It is such a long process but seeing the growth feels like it all happened instantly. I feel that witnessing the growth of life is profound happiness," said Liu Qi, a student from Foreign Affairs studies.

As August approached, their biggest problem arrived with summer vacation.

Typhoon season swept across China during summer vacation; the heavy rainfall and howling wind did not mercy the cotton field on campus. Some students stayed on campus who helped rescue the cotton field.

"We gathered students that are available and spent the whole morning trying to save the roots. We did our best, and it was up to nature's power to decide whether the bolls are strong enough," said Zhong.

The main problem caused by the typhoon was lodging; however, the roots and stems were not heavily affected. Thankfully a week later, on a sunny day, many bolls of cotton started to bloom despite the effects of the typhoon.

Now, another typhoon is to hit Shanghai, but this time the cotton planters at SISU are not too worried.  With the lion share safely harvested, they have enough for weaving, according to professor Zhang.    

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Press Contact

SISU News Center, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Tel : +86 (21) 3537 2378

Email : news@shisu.edu.cn

Address :550 Dalian Road (W), Shanghai 200083, China

Further Reading