The hidden cheongsam store welcomes guests with ceremonies
Welcoming guest with the ceremony of gong-hitting
This is a secret cheongsam store that is hidden in the lanes of Tianxingqiao, Shapingba District, with no signs of indication or billboards. Passers-by may come and go without any knowledge of its existence, even for people long lived here. Wang Xuebi, the second generation successor of the cheongsam store, said that not everyone has the chance of wearing their cheongsams, only those destined, no matter how far they may be or how long the journey is, can find the store and be able to try the cheongsams on.
The cheongsam store is on the 3rd floor and its bamboo door is tightly locked. Visitors are to ring a bell before a girl wearing cheongsam opens the door. Walking up the stairs, there is a drum on the ground and a gong hanging above. “Please hit the drum and the gong!” said the girl as she passes you a stick. It turns out this is a required ceremony for visitors. The storekeeper thinks it a custom to welcome important guests with bells and gongs, and that all visitors are considered important.
Needles and strings
Except for hitting drums and gongs, there are also warm hugs from the storekeeper. Jiang Lingjun, the third generation of the cheongsam store, is in a black and exquisite cheongsam. The cheongsam family wears cheongsams all year round, regardless of their age.
Jiang said the cheongsam store is succeeded by four generation of people: her grandmother, her mother, she herself and then assistant Ms Zhang. Her grandmother passed away last year at the age of 105.
Wang Xuebi is 79 years old. From the day she can remember, her parents were making cheongsams. “Back then cheongsams were for rich families, we didn’t have a chance of wearing them.” Jiang was intrigued by cheongsams under the influence of their parents at a young age. Her mother had no time sewing cheongsams for her, so she used materials left from customers and made it herself. “What a pleasure it is to wear a cheongsam.”
Making cheongsams is intricate work as there can be over 100 processes, from choosing materials, measuring size and cutting and resizing cloth. 15 days are need to make a cheongsam, said Jiang. No one can be any faster from her grandmother, her mother and she herself, and they are all in the same pace.
To build a museum
Now there are more than 1,000 cheongsams in the store, for dinners, weddings, daily life as well as banquets, in addition to 5 or 6 antique cheongsams that are the legacy of her grandmother in display. When cheongsams fades away from the lives of Chongqing women, what Jiang wants to do is to make a difference for cheongsams in the future of Chongqing woman.
As of now they have applied to build a cheongsam museum, and Jiang hopes to attract more people who loves cheongsams culture, and to make visitors know about the Chinese culture among the carved beds and Chinese lute and psaltery, and experience the century-old souls of cheongsams. (Translated by Yang Lifu, Fathom Language Limited)