Raft builders keep craft afloat along China’s Yellow River


Drifting down the Yellow River on a sheepskin raft whereas listening to conventional songs from northwestern China – it’s only a common time out on the Shapotou Resort within the metropolis of Zhongwei, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

For 2,000 years, sheepskin rafts have been used to move items on the river. Now they carry vacationers, drawn to the novel sensation of flowing with the present aboard a vessel from a bygone age.

But it isn’t simply the vacationers who profit. The raft rides convey beneficial earnings to native individuals who have turned their efforts to the vacationer commerce. At the identical time, the apply serves to protect the traditional craft of raft-building, which is a crucial merchandise of intangible cultural heritage.

According to Zhou Denan, an heir of the sheepskin raft-making craft in Zhongwei, the method of building is way from easy, involving a variety of guide expertise.

“One must first carefully choose a good sheep to sacrifice, skin it, let the skin ferment and finally soak it with oil and leave it to dry in the open air. This process can take at least two weeks to finish,” mentioned Zhou.

Once the pores and skin has been fashioned right into a leather-based bag, it should be full of air, making a balloon that floats on the water. The craftsman then inflates the bag by blowing air from his lungs, a job requiring each talent and energy.

“When we ‘breathe’ the skin, we must know how to coordinate our hands and mouth,” mentioned Zhou. “We open the cut in the sheepskin, form an ‘O’ shape with our mouths and begin to breathe air into the sheepskin. After this has been completed, we fix the opening. We breathe air into the skin with all the force of our lungs, while simultaneously allowing natural wind to blow into it.”

The constructing of sheepskin rafts was listed as a key merchandise of intangible heritage in Ningxia in 2009.

At the Shapotou Resort, a crew of rafters serves the vacationers with a complete of 80 vessels. During the excessive season, from April to October, they ferry roughly 400,000 vacationers.

In the Eighties, Zhongwei started to develop the desert and Yellow River tourism assets in Shapotou, looking for to introduce sheepskin rafts as a tourism-experience challenge. The challenge began with about 20 rafts, later rising to greater than 100 on the peak earlier than the epidemic. They introduced in additional income, whereas injecting cultural components into the event of native tourism.

He Taizhu, govt of the aquatic occasions division on the Shapotou Resort, mentioned that, to reinforce the vacationers’ expertise on the river, they lowered the variety of vacationers per raft from eight to 4, and invited the raft employees to sing people songs for them.

Among these incomes a wage from rafting is 47-year-old Chen Tianli. He grew to become a daily worker on the scenic spot from his second 12 months there, gaining reputation as a result of high quality of his singing.

Singing helps to reinforce the vacationers’ enjoyment, he says, whereas giving the rafters some additional power.

“Before the epidemic, I could ferry more than 20 trips a day in July or August, earning 70,000 to 80,000 yuan (RM45,950 to RM52,520) during the April-October period,” Chen mentioned.

“There’s a market here, and there are many people willing to learn,” he mentioned. – Xinhua

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