Huang Dao po (黄道婆; c. 1245 – 1330) rose from poverty to become one of the most famous women in the early Chinese textile industry.
Coming from a poverty stricken family, Huang ran away from home when she was ten years old after being sold into marriage by her family. Unable to bear the constant ill-treatment she received, Huang followed the Huangpu Riverfrom her home in Songjiang, near Shanghai then boarded a ship bound for the port of Yazhou in Hainan. In Yazhou she learnt spinning and weaving from the local Li people.
Around 1295, Huang returned to Songjiang and began to teach the local women about cotton spinning and weaving technology whilst at the same time manufacturing suits, fine silk fabrics and weaving machinery (such as fluffing machines, crushers and three-spindle treadle powered weaving looms) that greatly increased efficiency. From the weaving aspect, Huang produced mixed cotton fabrics, colored fabrics and fabrics with mixed warp and weft fibers. Her weaving technology made her hometown famous and began its textile manufacturing industry.
“Huang Daopo is especially venerated by people in Southeast Asian countries,” said Chen Jingyou, head of Xuhui District’s relics and culture management office.
Huang is listed among China’s great names but there is not much recorded material about the legendary woman.
According to known history, Huang was born in a poor family in what is today’s suburban Songjiang District of Shanghai, and following an ancient tradition, she became a child bride for another local family when she was only 12 years old.
Unable to bear the maltreatment of the in-laws, she fled her hometown and hid in a boat anchored on the Huangpu River and was accidentally ferried to Hainan Island. On the island, she met people of the ethnic Li group, who were kind to her. She settled down there for some 30 years, learning from local weaving and spinning skills.
When Huang returned to her hometown later, she brought back the weaving techniques and spread them to her folks. As a result, Huang’s techniques spread across the country.
Huang’s memorial hall is beside her tomb at the intersection of Longwu and Outer-Ring roads in the city’s southwestern area.
“Although there is an ancestral temple for Huang in the Shanghai Botanical Garden, the new hall has a richer variety of exhibits,” Wu Renhong, its curator, said yesterday.
With a statue of Huang in the center of the courtyard, the house is a typical Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) architectural structure. There are more than 300 exhibits showcased in the hall and most of them are textile-related artifacts and tools collected from the city’s suburban areas.
Huang Daopo is a legendary Shanghai woman who made a remarkable contribution to innovate weaving and spinning techniques in the 13th century. Even a modern memorial hall was open in commemoration of her in 2003.