For centuries, intricate crafts and remarkably complex artistry have been handed-down from parent to child, from master to apprentice. This informal process of education has assured the viability of ethnic practices and maintained the visual richness of culture. Thousands of small young hands have been guided by the well-worn hands of grandparents, as they learn the tradition of their household, and the essence of their heritage. These are the practices known as folk arts. They are the traditions that knit the threads of individuality into a common social fabric and which identify a community of people – whether that be a nation, region, occupation or religion.

Knotting is a tradition found in Chinese communities throughout Asia and continued by Chinese Americans. It’s functionality and symbolism are evocative of the integrity and creativity of this ancient culture where everyday objects are imbued with uncommon beauty.

In American society where the extended household is not the norm, the process of transmission of folk artistry from the elder to a younger generation is difficult to accomplish. When the gift of culture is not passed on, tradition is at risk and heritage identifiers are no more.

When a tradition is not preserved – mankind suffers the loss. It is for this reason the Chinese Knotting CD was developed. It employs the latest 21st century technology to teach an ancient skill, and creates a permanent format for the documentation of numerous Chinese knots that form the basis of traditional design.

Intended for all ages and persons from all cultures, the CD provides the basics of Chinese Knotting, and allows users to learn at their own pace. Images are enhanced by video illustrating individual steps to a finished knot. These may be viewed at a standard playing speed or at a slower-motion speed that allows a user to follow along with ease.

On behalf of the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission, and the generations of persons who will be enriched by this effort, I wish to acknowledge the Asia Society In America (A.S.I.A.) and their efforts to promote heritage and contemporary artistry of all Asian cultures. And this complex project that produced a web site, book and CD, was possible because of the tireless efforts of Marjorie Li – former Chairwoman of the Commission advisory board and cherished friend. She has devoted countess hours to this project, that began as her dream to bring traditions of the ages to young people – and to do so in a media familiar to them. Congratulations you have done so! This is a landmark effort that sets a standard for folk arts education and preservation.

Thank you also to artist and tradition-bearer, May-Lu Jen, whose creations embellish this CD, to Ms. Sheng-hung Chen, a master artist whose hands guide viewers through the knots. And, gratitude is extended to the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, for generous underwriting of the project.

And thank you to the Chinese community for their continued support – you have enriched my life and all the programs of the Cultural and Heritage Commission. This project is especially for you.

Anna M. Aschkenes
Executive Director
Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission