The Miao Hmong ethnic tribes in southwest China are proud of their unique batik. There’s a myth about the origin of batik:
When a Miao Girl Meets with Butterfly
A long time ago, a beautiful and smart girl lived in a village with her sister and parents. One day when the girl worked on the cotton field, she saw a beautiful butterfly flying around her. The girl stopped working and said to herself, “How amazing her colorful dress is! I wish I could have beautiful clothes like that! But why are our Miao women’s clothes simply blue and black?”
So the girl talked to the butterfly. “Hi, are you the mother of the Miao Hmong people? I guess you have forgotten your children! How come a Mum has a beautiful garment, while her children don’t? Look at the clothes you wear, and look at your children’s! Now I want your colorful wings to decorate myself.” The butterfly wasn’t happy, “No! Please don’t break my wings! I will die if I lose a pair of wings. Yes, a butterfly is the Miao Hmong people’s Mum. But you guys should learn to take care of yourself, since you have grown up.”
Butterfly Secret of Making Colorful Clothes
The girl caught the butterfly in her hand, “OK, if you don’t give me your beautiful wings, I will break your wings.” The butterfly said, “Don’t do that please! OK, I will teach you how to make colorful and beautiful clothes.” The butterfly flapped her wings onto the girl’s clothes for a while, and some beautiful patterns were left on the clothes. The butterfly told the girl the secret before she flew away, “Just paint these patterns on all your clothes, and you will be more beautiful than me.”
After back home, the girl asked her father to pick up some colorful stones along the riverside. Then she hammered the stones into powder and mixed it with rice to make color pigments. Using this pigment, the girl started to paint the patterns the butterfly gave her on her clothes. Seven days passed, and she finished painting two new skirts. One was for herself, and another one for her sister. Wearing their beautifully painted clothes and their unique silver bracelets, the two sisters looked gorgeous! Other women in the village all followed the sisters to paint colorful patterns on their clothes.
But Patterns All Fainted Away
But only in a few days, the painted patterns on the clothes all fainted away, as it couldn’t stand water or sunshine. The disappointed women told the girl, “Look what that butterfly did to us!” The girl said, “I will try to find a way to resolve this problem.”
Bee Came Along to Offer Help
One day, a bee flew around the girl’s window, singing, “We built our nests on the cliff, which can’t survive under harsh circumstances. If anyone can save our lives, I will teach her the batik technique. The dyed patterns on the clothes will never fade away.” The girl was surprised and excited, “Hey, little bee! Please tell me what the batik technique is. I will ask Dad to make a wooden box for you, and to give you a warm and comfortable home.” The bee sang, “We are good at producing beeswax and honey. Using beeswax, you can draw beautiful patterns on your clothes.” The bee then told the girl the detailed process of making batik.
The girl let her father make a wooden box, and they fed the bees at home. Soon they got lots of beeswax. Using the beeswax and the batik technique, the sisters dyed all of their clothes. Since then the unique batik technique has been popular in Miao Hmong areas, and has been passed down. The designs on batik clothing influence a lot on the patterns of Miao Hmong silver bracelets and other jewelry.
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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