Kinmen County rebrands the huapei, an emblem of local culture

02/21/2020 07:44 PM

Kinmen, Feb. 21 (CNA) Taiwan's Kinmen County has long been renowned for its kaoliang liquor, but for many Kinmen locals, the ultimate symbol of home is a black and white checkered swaddle wrap known as a huapei.

While historians debate the origin of the six square foot, cotton and linen wrap, it is thought to date back centuries, and contains a symbolic richness belied by its simple design.

On every huapei are two lead discs, representing congeniality, which are held together by an embroidered red 卍 symbol that is thought to repel evil spirits. Similarly, all four edges of the fabric are decorated with red labels for good luck.

The checkered black and white design, meanwhile, is drawn from Chinese astrology.

Traditionally, huapeis were handed down through generations and were often given with the dowry during wedding celebrations.

For Kinmen natives living on the Taiwan mainland, the distinctive swaddle wrap was a way to immediately recognize someone from home, according to Lee Yu-chung (李有忠), chairman of the Kinmen County Chamber of Commerce.

More recently, the huapei has seen a resurgence in popularity, appearing in the works of local artists and craftsmen and becoming a subject of interest to tourists in its own right.

Lee Yu-chung (李有忠)
Lee Yu-chung (李有忠)

In Kinmen's Jinsha Township, military veteran Lin Hsiang-chi (林相吉) used the huapei's design as an inspiration for redecorating his grandmother's neighborhood grocery, turning it into a popular photography destination.

Lee, meanwhile, worked with the county's Cultural Affairs Bureau to roll out a line of huapei-themed products, including picnic blankets, vacuum flasks and neckties.

Through their efforts, they hope to introduce this valuable piece of Kinmen's cultural heritage to a wider audience.

(By Huang Hui-min and Matthew Mazzetta)

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