The Chinese Hand Printed Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall: story of a passion

I have always been fascinated by the history that says that denim, the so called “blue de Genes” which became the “blue jeans” fabric, was invented in my hometown Genoa: since the Middle Age it was a rough cotton fabric, naturally dyed using the blue from the indigo plants (indigofera tinctoria) and it was originally used for port workers’ clothes because of its durability and comfort. But the success of this strong cotton came also because of its bright, precious because rare, bright blue color.Reading on the subject I actually learnt that the indigo dying technique has its roots in ancient time civilizations from Asia, mainly from India. Chinese printed blue hall nankeen exhibition hall is attracted by many tourists .Of all the fascinated traditional handicrafts, it is one of the Man Pride fiber arts and it is something special. You can view the skills and perfection of many country men arts work in the exhibition hall. They are preparing the dye form the indigo to manufacture the blue cotton cloth. Later, only when I saw on display in Milan the Japanese popular blue-indigo “printed” cottons from the Montgomery Collection, I found out that starting from the Edo period (since XVII sec.) the Japanese were able to produce real masterpieces in this domain.When I moved to China I could add another piece to this “indigo” puzzle by becoming aware that the art of the hand “printed” blue indigo calico’ cotton has also been typical of the rural Chinese tradition for centuries, especially in the area south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze river, and it’s still well and alive. Like in Japan the cotton is hand woven and dyed with the natural blue color from the indigo flowers; paper stencils or wax or rice starch are applied on the fabric before the dying process and later removed to allow some areas of the cotton to remain white and form a decorative patterns or some bigger designs with traditional subjects like peony or peach flowers, insects, fishes, flowers and leaves etc.The printed cloths are real pieces of art, with their bright, perfect blue and white patterns and that primitive simplicity that dates back to many hundreds of years ago, and the calico clothes are as much confortable as your old pair of blue jeans!While exploring Shanghai I found out several shabby old shops offering on sale on their dusty shelves traditional indigo printed clothes, but only when I walked inside the gates of the Chinese Hand Printed Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall I felt I had found what I was looking for.This hidden little shop was founded from the Japanese (!) Madam Kubomasa, who also collected traditional dying tools, handlooms,spindles, wooden printing blocks, and many samples of antique traditional design leftovers from Chinese ordinary people families.The shop, together with a very little “Chinese blue indigo art” museum, is secluded at the end of an old, charming Shanghainese lilong (a lane neighborhood) and is selling by the meter different styles of hand made traditional printed blue calico’, arts and crafts and Chinese garments; but the real magic is its garden, where in the sunny days hand-dyed long pieces of cloths, just arrived from the Pudong dye-work, and silk scarves from Japan are washed and laid under the sun to dry.It’s a timeless view welcoming the visitor and the magic of the place makes it impossible to leave without buying at least one piece of cloth.

I have always been fascinated by the history that says that denim, the so called “blue de Genes” which became the “blue jeans” fabric, was invented in my hometown Genoa. Since the Middle Age it was a rough cotton fabric, naturally dyed using the blue from the indigo plants (indigofera tinctoria). It was originally used for port workers’ clothes because of its durability and comfort. But the success of this strong cotton came also because of its bright – precious because rare – bright blue color.

Reading on the subject I actually learnt that the indigo dying technique has its roots in ancient time civilizations from Asia, mainly from India.

Later, only when I saw on display in Milan the Japanese popular blue-indigo “printed” cottons from the Montgomery Collection I found out that starting from the Edo period (since XVII sec.) the Japanese were able to produce real masterpieces in this domain.

When I moved to China I could add another piece to this “indigo” puzzle by becoming aware that the art of the hand “printed” blue indigo calico cotton has also been typical of the rural Chinese tradition for centuries, especially in the area south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze river, and it’s still well and alive.

Like in Japan the cotton is hand woven and dyed with the natural blue color from the indigo flowers. Paper stencils or wax or rice starch are applied on the fabric before the dying process and later removed to allow some areas of the cotton to remain white and form decorative patters or some bigger designs with traditional subjects like peony or peach flowers, insects, fishes, flowers and leaves etc.

The printed cloths are real pieces of art, with their bright, perfect blue and white patterns and that primitive simplicity that dates back to many hundreds of years ago and the calico clothes are as much comfortable as your old pair of blue jeans!

While exploring Shanghai, I found out several shabby old shops offering on sale on their dusty shelves traditional indigo printed clothes, but only when I walked inside the gates of the Chinese Hand Printed Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall (Changle Lu, Lane 637, n. 24.) I felt I had found what I was looking for.

This hidden little shop was founded from the Japanese Madam Kubomasa, who also collected traditional dying tools, handlooms, spindles, wooden printing blocks and many samples of antique traditional design leftovers from Chinese ordinary people families.

The shop, together with a very little “Chinese blue indigo art” museum, is secluded at the end of an old, charming Shanghainese lilong (a lane neighborhood) and is selling by the meter different styles of hand made traditional printed blue calico, arts and crafts and Chinese garments.

The real magic of this place is its garden, where in the sunny days hand-dyed long pieces of cloths, just arrived from the Pudong dye-work and silk scarves from Japan are washed and laid under the sun to dry.

A timeless atmosphere welcoms the visitor. The magic of this place makes it impossible to leave without buying at least one piece of cloth. Especially for me, because I love it!