Shandong Province is a major exporter of willow crafts in China, and its export volume accounts for a quarter of the country's exports, while Junan County accounts for one third of the province's willow exports. Therefore, it is said that the national willow is in Shandong and Shandong willow is in Junan. In 1998, a total of 20,000 acre of willows were lanted which produced 12 million kilograms of wickers. The wickers were exported to more than 40 countries and regions including the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom. The total export volume exceeded 100 million yuan.
Peeling the wicker, the whole body is white, it is called white wicker. Farmers in the western towns of Junan County are good at weaving wickers and white wickers into thousands of baskets and other products.
There was a very famous willow maker in Junan county who was Luban’s apprentice named Taishan. Taishan was born by the Shuhe River in Junan County. At first he learned carpentry from Luban, but he was not attentive. He always sneaked into the wicker bushes by the river to practice wickerwork. Lu Ban was very angry when he saw that he was not growing, so he gave up on him. However, Taishan soon became an excellent weaver, making willow products more delicated than wooden products. After Luban knew about Taishan's situation, he was very guilty and said, "I really don't know Tai shan!" 我有眼不识泰山. Mount Tai is known as the eastern mountain of the Five Great Mountains of China, “Shan” means mountain in Chinese and nowadays when people say “ i really don’t know Taishan” meaning someone is too ignorant to identify a person of importance or great ability.
With that said, Taishan felt encouraged and worked even harder, his skills continued to improve with more varieties. Not long after, the emperor was celebrating his birthday, and the local magistrate asked Taishan to weave something with wickers for the emperor. Taishan’s apprentice chose the best quality wickers, faded and whitened. Taishan then manually shaved the wickers thinner and used the best skills to weave a delicate plate. He put a few juicy peaches in it together with a few bunches of red crystal-like grapes next to it, (in Chinese culture, peaches means longevity) .The county magistrate looked at it and couldn’t stop his compliments. He couldn’t leave his hands off the willow basket and suddenly he found that there were still two coins on the plate. He felt strange, so he reached for it and the plate was picked up together. It turned out that the two coins were also made of willows. Later, when the emperor saw this treasure, he also praised it. Since then, the reputation of Shuhe willow art has been greatly spread.
His apprentices inherited his craft after Taishan's death. He weaved baskets, dustpans, and various supplies, which are sold well across the country.
Walking into the hometown of wicker weaving, you can see acres of green willows. When the breeze comes, it is green waves of ten thousand acres of willow fields rising one after another, and the scenery was spectacular. Even more fascinating is the wickerwork trade warehouse or processing factory located in more than a dozen villages. There are more than 10 spacious and bright large warehouses that are set aside. The warehouses are filled with thousands of varieties of willow products. Among them are all kinds of flower pot jackets, flower baskets, hanging flower baskets, etc. There are daily necessities such as paper baskets, laundry baskets, carrying baskets, and hanging baskets. Each piece is exquisite and translucent, each is patchy, static and dynamic, and lifelike. I don't know who ever produced a melodious "Wicker Song": "The wetlands in the floodplains can sprout, and the green branches and green leaves are not luxurious..." The lyrics express the appreciation of the hardworking weavers .They are diligent, pristine, and down to earth.
Although Junan has a long history of wicker planting and wicker weaving, export has been in recent decades. Speaking of exports, one cannot fail to mention the first village of Junan Liubian exports: Yinzhuang Village in Banquan Town.
In the 1960s when “grain was the key” and the forest was destroyed to grow food, the villagers of Yinzhuang quietly planted wild wicker along the river in the flooded depressions of Laolinpan. The folks in Yinzhuang have their own plans: wicker is wet and productive, and the products weaved with it are closely related to the daily lives of the people. Perhaps it is because the planting area is small and not very noticeable. The wicker in the waterlogged depression in Lao Linpan actually thrives in the cracks. People woven dustpans, baskets, and vegetable baskets, and then sold them. With the money in hand, they bought groceries like oil, salt, sauce and vinegar. In the early 1970s, the willow weaving industry in Yinzhuang ushered in a major historical turning point. The foreign trade group, which was just separated from the county supply and marketing cooperative, would organize the export of willow products. The pilot work was first carried out in Yinzhuang Village.
The county sent Wang Weihe, an old worker, to the village to conduct sample weaving experiments. The traditional craftsmanship of the folks came in handy. Since then, their products have traveled across the oceans to many foreign countries. The small and exquisite willow products won honors for the people of Yinzhuang and the people of the county, and they also exchanged a lot of foreign exchange. In 1983, the County Foreign Trade Bureau organized an on-site knitting technology competition in Banquan Town. There are more than 20 villages in the town participating in the competition, with more than 60 people. Yinzhuang sent 8 people to participate. The results of the competition made the folks proud: 5 people won the first prize; 3 people won the second prize. Soon, people from other villages and places came to compete for these living gods of wealth.