Zhaohu, a Xibe youngster, born in the 1990s. Xibe, like Uygur, is among one of China’s 56 ethnic people.
Zhaohu used to be a costume designer working in Jiangsu province. But two years ago, he quit his job and back to his hometown, Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County, in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and decided to become a traditional Xibe bow maker.
Zhao Hu demonstrates his archery skills to the guests.(Xinhuanet, Rustan)
The Xibe people are known for their skill at horseback riding and archery. Making bows and arrows used to be a skill that every Xibe man had to master.
Zhaohu’s hometown was known as “home for bow and arrow in China”. And there are also many famous archers taking their first step in archery from here who has represented the region and even China owning many prizes.
With the changing times, bows and arrows was no longer used as the hunting or defensive tools as before, but collections or decorations. Gradually there are fewer people can make bows and arrows.
Xibe arrow and bow-making technique was included in the UNESCO representative list of world intangible cultural heritage in 2008. And from then on, some people began to relearn the technique.
Zhao Hu and his father introduce the ancient Xibo family tree to the guests.(Xinhuanet, Rustan)
Zhaohu’s father Zhao Yushu used to be a carpenter, and he is fond of making traditional bow as well. After few years of learning and trying to make bows, he finally quit the carpenter work and focus on making bows and also became a good bow maker in the County.
In recent years, with the heating up of Xinjiang tourism, traditional Xibe bows have become very popular tourist souvenirs. Zhaohu’s father was also benefited. At the same time, with the great supports from local government, Zhaohu’s Father has his own workshop of bow making.
Seeing the changes，Zhaohu decided to follow his father’s footsteps back to his hometown and pass on the bow making techniques.
And he finally got the support of his family. As the one of the few craftsmen in his hometown, who can make traditional hard bows, his father also wanted to pass on the skills.
However, it is not easy to learn the skills. To make a decent bow involves a good many procedures and techniques. Under the careful guidance of his father, Zhao Hu made rapid progress. Soon he got his first buyer, which encouraged him lot.
Zhaohu’s father demonstrates the technique of making bow. (Xinhuanet, Rustan)
Besides following the traditional way, Zhaohu also add his designs in his bows which has attracted lots of attentions. And now he also has his customer base. Before this spring festival, Zhaohu was very busy. He got several orders, including stage-use bow and arrows, and few custom-made bows.
Zhaohu and his father exchange experience of making bow. (Xinhuanet, Rustan)
There are two flow chart of making traditional Xibe horn bow hanging up on the wall in his workshop. Everyday when he has time, he will study the chart. And to make the Xibe horn bow is his dream. According to Zhaohu, it will take one year and hundreds of procedures to make this kind of bow. And across China,there are few people can make such bow. Even his father dose not understand the procedures.
Zhaohu’s work of traditional bow. (Provided by Zhaohu)
Flow chart of making traditional Xibe horn bow. (Xinhuanet, Rustan)
“I wish one day that I can learn the making skill,” said Zhaohu, “The skills passed down from our ancestors should be passed on by our youngster.”