I’ve never quite understood the appeal of the “oddly satisfying” category of videos that pop up on my Instagram Explore feed. A fluffy dog getting a haircut or someone pulling apart an oozing grilled cheese sandwich doesn’t thrill me. Maybe the algorithm doesn’t have me figured out as well as it thinks.
But one relatively new YouTube channel with similar intentions did catch my eye. The 李子柒 channel, which essentially means Seven Plums, features short videos of a young Chinese woman painstakingly making household items from scratch.
Each video is around five minutes long and focuses on one task completed by hand. The cinematography includes close-ups and panning shots as the woman slowly constructs an outdoor patio, makes dumplings and more.
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I’m not the only one to tune in. Her channel launched last August and already has millions of views. One of the most popular videos shows the woman designing a dress, though unless you read Chinese, that’s unclear until the end.
It starts with a paper-and-pencil sketch and follows the woman as she makes the design into a flowing reality. It leaves no detail out. For example, it zooms in on her hand peeling grapes, which she cooks into purple dye for the fabric.
Hours, even days, of skilled labor turn into a short, meditative clip. This particular video comes to a calm conclusion with the woman twirling in the dress with her dog by her side. Sigh, lovely.
Maybe it’s the soothing background music or soft rustle of materials, but the simple videos instill a state of calm. This traditional, back-to-basics lifestyle holds an illusive appeal. In fact, it’s so far removed from our own technology-centric lives, it feels as if she lives on another planet. Life there is stress-free, and you can spend all day turning flowers into makeup or whatever else strikes your fancy.
Without narration, and with captions in Chinese, the videos don’t seem to be created to teach viewers the specific skills shown. Instead, I imagine Seven Plums hopes viewers will appreciate the effort and the beauty in the traditional steps.
It worked for me. While watching the videos, I felt immersed in a simpler life. In fact, it’s hard to continue worrying or stressing out for those five minutes.
So, will you tune in for a taste of the traditional?