Miao Hmong exquisite craftsmanship of Miao’s ‘hundred-bird dress’

It was a normal day at the end of November. Jiang Laoben expertly cut a piece of paper and a classic design for a renowned traditional dress of the Miao people was instantly seen. The dress, with its complicated pattern and rich colors, is called “hundred-bird”.

The “hundred-bird dress” originated with the Miao ethnic group, Guizhou province. The dress is decorated with celebrated Miao embroidery, a craft that falls on the state-level intangible cultural heritage list.

Jiang Laoben, who is in her late forties, is an inheritor of dress craftsmanship in the village and she is well-known across the province due to her superb technique. The complicated patterns and diverse designs turn into beautiful outfits of excellent quality in her skillful hands.

Jiang Laoben draws traditional patterns on the cloth with a wax knife.
 Miao culture

A “hundred-bird dress” is made of Miao handwoven cloth, pieced together with brocade silk in different colors, including red, yellow, green and blue. Rich mixtures of exquisite patterns, such as flowers, birds, insects, fish, butterfly and sun and other natural creatures, are sewn around the chest pocket and corset.. The hem of the skirt is made of embroidery and batik, with a circle of bird features decorating the bottom edge.

Jiang Laoben sews on fabric according to the paper-cut design.
 Miao culture

The dress, with its diversified colors and unique patterns, is highly valued by the Miao ethnicity and has earned the reputation of “the epic of Miao worn on the body”.

Jiang Laoben creates decoration for the dress.
 Miao culture

The production of such an outfit is labor-intensive and time-consuming. One dress will strain all the spare time of a skilled craftswoman for more than six months or even a year. Therefore, very few people in the past worked on making the dresses and they were sold overseas at high prices.

“I want to pass the craftsmanship of the Miao’s ‘hundred bird dress’ on to more people and also to the next generations so that this skill can be carried forward” Jiang said.

Jiang Laoben is creating a “hundred-bird dress” with her students.
 Miao culture

To advance the technique and tradition, Jiang organized “Baibei embroidery mutual-aid team of Miao women” at her home and imparted her skills to the women in the village. With an increasing number of learners coming to her, she’s always teaching them face-to-face with great patience and care.

Jiang Laoben and her students check the finished dress.
 Miao culture

“Nowadays more and more people start to learn the handcraft of the ‘hundred-bird dress’ and Miao batik technique,” Jiang said with a smile, looking into her house full of her students.

Jiang Laoben helps one of her students try on the finished dress.
 Miao culture

Jiang has already taught more than 100 people. Thanks to Jiang’s effort, some women in the village have begun to produce the traditional outfits at home, which brings them tens of thousands of yuan in extra income.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China

“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

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