Wuzhen is one source of the world famous fabric, indigo. The Indigo Fabric Workshop was founded in Wuzhen South Scenic Zone during the 13th century when Mongolian rule replaced the Song Dynasty. It was moved to the present site in the late 19th century during the reign of the Qing Dynasty Emperor, Guangxu. Today the dyehouse still serves as both the production base and distribution center of indigo cloth.
Indigo cloth has been part of Chinese folk culture for more than a millennium. Legend has it that it was first invented by a loving husband for his wife, and became immensely popular among common people for its low cost, high quality, and because its raw material and dye were readily available in rural areas. This handicraft, growing out of the countryside, is filled with depictions of the flowers and plants familiar to its creators. The cloth impresses people with its warm familiarity, naturalness and purity. Its blue and white motifs stand out as the unmistakable representation of folk art. Almost all households in this area used this fabric as curtains, kerchiefs, aprons, wrappers, quilts and tablecloths. In the west wing of the dyehouse there is a hall displaying many different types of articles made with indigo cloth.
The procedure for making indigo cloth has remained unchanged through the generations. Pattern design, screen carving, pigment application, printing, dyeing and drying are all conducted naturally, without industrial chemicals or pollution, which has increased indigo fabric’s popularity. At the Indigo Dyehouse, visitors can see the complete production cycle and bring products from the shop back home with them. Across the street is a small weaving factory where a few elderly women roll out cottonseeds, spin yarn, and weave greige goods themselves. After viewing both facilities, visitors will know just how indigo fabric is woven and where the adorable prints come from.