Hmong Miao Embroidered Mei Tai Baby Carrier – Art? Yes, but Love is More

Because of the elaborate design and incredible embroidery techniques, baby carriers of Hmong Miao ethnic people are now prized by primitive artists and tribal arts textile enthusiasts.

Hmong Miao women living in Southwest China are exquisite creators of textiles. From the age of 5 or 6, they begin to learn needlework, continuing through to their teens. At that time, they make their wedding dresses, baby carriers, and baby clothes. When they reach middle age, they continue to make clothes for their descendants, and they never stop sewing and embroidering.

 

Expression of Love through Baby Carrier

Embroidery was a symbol of femininity and feminine accomplishment in Hmong Miao ethnic tribes. Every stitch and thread of a mother’s embroidery work on children’s hats, bibs, shoes, clothes, and baby carriers is the deepest expression of a mother’s affectionate embrace to her child.

Baby Carrier Baby Carrier

A Miao/Hmong friend once told me that the most touching scene he had ever observed was that of his mother sewing and mending for her children under the pale glow of a lamp. This memory echoes a well-known poem by Meng Jiao, the great poet in Tang Dynasty (AD 751- AD 814).

Thread in the hands of a loving mother

Turns to clothes on the traveling son

Baby Carrier

With a unique emotional message, the baby carrier expresses the love of a mother for her child and her hopes for the future. It is a symbolic extension of the umbilical cord. A line from a poem states parents willingly work as hard as oxen for their children. Baby carrier is a testament to the dedication of the mother to the child.

 

Always Ready to Be a Good Mother

 

Hmong Miao women lavish particular attention on their baby carriers. But many carriers are not created after they get married or have a baby. Prior to getting married, a Miao/Hmong girl begins designing and making a baby carrier, baby clothes and wedding clothes. The entire process of raising silkworms, producing silk, embroidering, doing patchwork, dyeing, and designing are very refined.

It is said that, Women learn to make batik and embroidery from an early age, and they achieve their social status in this fashion. The girl who can weave and embroider special patterns is seen to be hardworking and extraordinary intelligent, and she will become the most sought after bride in the community. Therefore, in some villages, a girl may wear her baby carrier to market events, showing off her work to potential suitors. Her handiwork is an artistic representation of her individuality and creativity.

Hmong Miao Antique Mei Tai Baby Carrier
 Baby Carrier  Baby Carrier  Baby Carrier

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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6 thoughts on “Hmong Miao Embroidered Mei Tai Baby Carrier – Art? Yes, but Love is More

  1. My grams made one for me when I had my first child. Although it’s not as elaborate as the Hmong/Miao in China, my grams still spent a lot of time and effort into making it. Although I no longer embroider, I still appreciate the artistry and creativity of the craft.

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    1. Hi, MaiBao, glad to hear from you again, and thank you for your appreciation to Hmong/Miao baby carrier. The ethnic handicraft, not just baby carrier, deserves more attention for their unique aesthetic and sophisticated craftsmanship and cultural significance. We hope that more people could appreciate its artistry and creativity like you.

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  2. you shouldn’t call hmong people miao…it’s a negative connotation like the n word for black people but other than that, it was a good read

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    1. Hi, immaturegirl91, first you deserve my two “sorry” and one “thank you”. Sorry to delay so long a time to give you a reply; sorry if the use of word “Miao” give any offendence, and last, thank you for pointing it out frankly. I want to give you some explaination about the term “Miao”. “Miao” in China literally means “sprout” “young plant”, it is a very beautiful word and its connotation is “full of hope and vitality”. There is no any negative connotation in Chinese. Hope that one day you could come and visit China, you’ll learn about it. Sorry for this misunderstanding. If you have any other question, please let me know, Thank you!

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      1. I had to come back and comment. Many western and SE Asian Hmong do not like the term “Miao” because they believe it was a derogatory name given to the Hmong to mean “barbarian.” And I used to be the same way as immaturegirl91 about being called “Miao” as well. HOWEVER, after tons of research, I’ve come to find out that Miao does not mean barbarian at all. Like you stated, it means “sprout” or “young plant.” I’ve heard that the reason behind it is because the Miao/Hmong were so resilient against Han Chinese that every time we were bashed down, we sprouted up again—thus the name. It may have meant “barbarian” for an instance in the past, but the meaning has changed. Or, it may have just been Hmong propaganda. Who knows? All I know is that there are still many Hmong who have animosity against the Chinese for what took place thousands of years ago and many who refuse to acknowledge their ties to the Miao ethnicity.

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        1. Hi, MaiBao, thank you for your understanding and your detailed explanation about the term “Miao”. I really appreciate it! Though it may be not a easy task, I still believe that the misunderstanding will be dispelled one day with more communication. Thank you again!

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