Anping County in Hebei Province, which is located in the middle of th North China Plain, is in the center of Beijing, Tianjin and Shijiazhuang. It was set as a county in the reign of Gaozu Emperor of the Han Dynasty and has enjoyed a history of over 2,000 years so far. It's named Anping because of its flat topography and people live and work in peace and contentment. Anping is named 'The Township of Wire Mesh'. Walking in the county town of Anping, people are deeply impressed by ubiquitous wire mesh shops and plants. Various categories of metal wire meshes have been the most unique scenery of this small county. Nowadays, metal wire mesh has been applied widely to every walk of life and fields. It's incredible that 80% of wire meshes in the entire China are from this small county. Over 150 countries in the world have established trade contacts with this country.
Form kitchen wares to household appliances, from ordinary window screens to building balustrades, from expressways to airports, wire meshes produced in Anping are almost ubiquitous.
It,s said that FU Xi, who is the humane ancestor of Chinese nations, was enlightened by the Phenomenon that spiders spun webs by chance, so he tied knots into sieves and taught people how to fish and hunt. From then on, sieve, which is a tool used in agriculture, fishing and hunting, was born. It's applied widely to people's production and life and plays a crucial role.
After thousands of years since Fu Xi invented the sieve, a young man in Anping a small county in Hebei, China. Is seeking for a category of sieve with great effort. He is Zhao Shifeng, who is 31 now. However, he has been engaged in foreign trade business for 12 years. From his grandfather, his family has engaged in the production and processing of horse tails and hairs all the time.However, what Zhao Shifeng wants to seek isn't medal wire mesh. which is developed popularly. Instead, he wants to seek another sieves mode from special materials, namely, horse tail sieves. Moreover, horse tail sieves are exactly the origin of wire mesh industry in Anping. The original from of wire mesh is sieve. The original meaning of sieve in Chinese is a net used to catch birds. Later, people use it to classify things. The history of Anping had once been closely related to sieves. At the very beginning,sieves were woven by silk, so they were called silk sieves.
Such category of sieve body was extremely expensive, so people always wanted to replace it with a cheaper material. Therefore, another material of sieves drew the attention of Anping people. That's horse tail. Smart people in Anping used horse tails to produce various kinds of tools.
Zhaoshifeng introduced the good usefull of horse tail: The structure of horse tail is invisible by our naked eyes. Its surface is of scale structure. It is composed ofprotein, just as the nature of human hairs. This is the shortest horse tail. It's named Magaiwei. which is the most natural. It has a flexible end of the tail. It's used to produce Chinese writing brush because it is flexible. Then, hairs on the body of horse are used to produce make-up brush, eyebrow pencil or other similar things, which are liked and used by female especially.
Due to the fact that horse tails are purely natural, nontoxic and similar to components of human hairs, they are applied widely to the processing and filtration of foods and medicines. Moreover, flexible and ventilate horse tails, are high-quality materials of clothes, interfacings, cases and bags, shoes and even pillows and mattresses. However, in Anping, horse tail are frequently applied to weave sieves. For a long time, such small pedaled wooden weaving machines give out the same melody in every household in Anping. Horse tail are used to weave sieve bodies, which will be produced into tools used to classify things after being processed.
Xu laoshan, Who made such a historical step in Anping wire mesh. Xu laoshan was a great figure among people in Anping. Before 1918. He was still a doctor who treated difficult diseases, macula and skin ulcer specially. Once, when Xu laoshan used horse tail sieves to sun medicines, he had an extraordinary thought, namely, would medicines were classified more finely if sieves were made of more of more subtle wires? Therefore,he introduced wires form Japan and wove them into sievers successfully. He also changed his profession accordingly and made metal wire meshes especially.
For Zhao Shifeng, who had just begun to do foreign trade business, 2500 orders should be a happy thing. However, after he knew the truth, the emotion of Zhao Shifeng fell immediately form the top of cloud to valley bottom, because instead of being produced by machines on a large scale, horse tail sieves could only be produced manually.
However, with the rapid development of wire mesh industry in Anping, manual labor had long been replaced by large machines and horse tails were also replaced by various kinds of steel and cooper wires. What's worst, this ancient handicraft on which most of people in Anping had once lived. Had been almost lost. In that period, the main task of Zhao shifeng was to seek for the ancient weaving technique of horse this traditional handicraft, he should firstly find the weaving machine of horse tail sieves. If he wanted to recover this traditional handicraft. He should firstly find the weaving machine of horse tail sieves. After seeking for 3 years difficultly and travelling through all villagers in Anping, Zhao Shifeng collected over 20 weaving machines.
Young people today are reluctant to learn this traditional handicraft because it's painstaking to weave sieves while the profit is marginal. In over 10 year, some of 10 old grandmothers who weaved sieves for Zhao Shifeng originally have passed away while some of them are too old weave sieves. Now, There are only 3 grandmothers who weave sieves for Zhao Shifeng. It becomes more difficult for Zhao Shifeng to run, his horse tail sieves business. What sharply contrasts with it is the industry of wire sieves, which develops vigorously in Anping.
The first step to produce wire mesh is to draw wires. Iron strips are drawn into wires of different standards after multiple processes, which will be woven into various categories of meshes according to different usages. The diameter of such wires is only 0.025mm, which is 5 times thinner than human hair. They can be woven into compact wire meshes, whose holes are so small that even water can't permeate.
The development of technology expands significantly the usage of sieves. Such wire mesh is applied to the air bag in car while this is used to reduce the discharge amount of vehicle exhaust. Moreover, some of them are used to exploit mines and gold while some others are used to classify military gun powders. Wire mesh can almost be seen in all walks of life. However, it's because of the vigorous development of metal wire mesh that the manual technique of horse tail sieves, for which Anping was well-known is on the verge of extinction. Bringing bodies of horse tail sieves purchased from various places.
Zhao Shifeng came to Tangbei Village, where sieves were woven at the earliest. Jin Shujuan is one of the few who still process sieves now. He will process these sieve bodies into sieves finally. Jin said When I came to places where there were horse tails, I would yell, 'Weave horse tail sieves.' Zhaoshifeng said 'People who weave horse tail sieves are all from Anping. At the very beginning, they would carry a pole, on which their tools, horse tail sieves and sieve rings were hung, and walk through all towns and villages while they yelled 'weave horse tail sieves'. This sound goes through the country in the way.
Several decades have passed. Today, such a yell and sound of the shuttle in every household have been replaced by the thunder of large machines. Anping, which produces lots of handicraftsmen capable to weave sieves, attracts people from various places in China and even the world to come here to seek business opportunities today.
Now, the life of people in Anping is better and better and their business grows bigger and bigger gradually. However, they won't forget the traditional handicraft, on which generations of the past lived. They won't forget these handed-down handicrafts, because they are a kind of memories, warmth and culture.