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The Umbrella Artisans of Beijing’s Ruo Shui Tang Workshops

By Marisa Wong

Apr 4, 2012

From the May/June 2012 issue

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Photo courtesy of Ruo Shui Tang Oil Paper Umbrella Workshop

Photo courtesy of Ruo Shui Tang Oil Paper Umbrella Workshop

These craftsmen and women are keeping an ages-long tradition alive.

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“Our umbrellas are a part of our culture that is disappearing,” says Cheng Dehu, the owner of Beijing’s Ruo Shui Tang Oil Paper Umbrella Workshop.

As China has modernized at a breakneck pace, most traditional oil paper umbrellas have been left behind. But Ruo Shui Tang artisans still turn them out using a century-old technique: they boil bamboo, carve the wood into collapsible frames and handles, and glue on translucent paper.

Artists then paint landscapes or portraits on the paper, and waterproof it with tung tree oil. The whole process, which relies on the work of 30 people, produces umbrellas that can withstand being opened more than 2,000 times. Visit the studio to peruse or purchase umbrellas.

Umbrellas cost from $30. 144 Gulou Dong Dajie, Dongcheng District, 86/(0) 10-6406-4496.

>>Next: Who’s Who in Beijing Fashion

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