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Celebrating the sachet in Qingyang

2009-05-30 09:19 BJT

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Special Report: 2009 Dragon Boat Festival |

Wearing a sachet is lesser known tradition for the Dragon Boat Festival. But in the city of Qingyang in northwest China's Gansu Province, there's a whole celebration centered around the scented bags. It's a folk art that's put the city on the map for more than 2000 years.

A sachet is a traditional Chinese handicraft stuffed with fragrant herbs. It's typically found at the Dragon Boat Festival. The use of sachets goes back to the Warring States period when people first wore them as distinctive decorations. Qingyang was designated by the Chinese Folk Art Institute as the hometown of sachets.

Qingyang was designated by the Chinese Folk Art Institute as the hometown of sachets.
Qingyang was designated by the Chinese Folk Art Institute as 
the hometown of sachets.

Originally a clothes accessory, sachets have had different functions over time. Their herbal fragrance made the scented bags mosquito repellents for generations, before it became a luxury decoration for the rich and powerful during the Tang and Song dynasties. In the Qing dynasty, sachets were used as love tokens. Today, they make popular wall hangings.

Sachet designs are dominated by flora and fauna. The scented cloth tigers signal far more than their outward appearance. The long-entrenched concept of tigers as an animal that subdues and keeps away evil spirits accounts for their popularity. And the fish-shaped sachets suggest maternity and ancient fertility worship. The humble frog, pronounced similarly to the Chinese word for "baby", also gets its share of sachet designs as a blessing for the newborn.

The sachets are now taking on more commercially popular shapes and colors. However their symbolic function as a package full of hope and blessings, and a carrier of profound culture values, has survived the march of time.

Qingyang was designated by the Chinese Folk Art Institute as the hometown of sachets.
Qingyang was designated by the Chinese Folk Art Institute as 
the hometown of sachets.