Exploring the symbolism of Miao Hmong embroidery

Written by Helen McGlade 

The Miao Hmong people are one of China’ 55 recognised ethnic minority groups, living predominantly in Southwestern China. Known for their breath-taking embroidery and silversmithing, the ‘Miao Hmong’ classification encompasses a wide diversity of peoples, cultures and languages. Originally a nomadic people, the Miao Hmong had no written language and so recorded their history and mythology in richly detailed, vibrant embroidery. Today let’s explore some of the symbolism woven into this beautiful textile art, recognised as National Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Chinese government in 2006! 

Check out the expressive faces of each character – how intricate!

The Butterfly  

One of the most common symbols in Miao embroidery is the butterfly and I bet you’re all wondering why… Well, taking the needle for a pen and thread for ink, Miao women embroider their creation myth onto the garment, and guess who’s the most important figure in the Miao creation myth? Mother Butterfly of course!  As legend has it, long, long ago when the world was at peace, the immortal maple tree gave birth to a butterfly. This beautiful butterfly fell head over heels in love with a water bubble and laid twelve eggs. The maple tree transformed into a big bird that hatched the eggs, one a year, for twelve years. Out of these eggs came a thunder god, a dragon, a buffalo, a tiger, an elephant, a snake, a centipede, a boy called Jiangyang, and his sister, from whom the Miao people are descended. So, as you can see the Butterfly is the mother of gods, animals and human beings – a very important symbol!  

Can you spot the beautiful mother butterfly?
Here’s mother butterfly looking a bit angrier – I wonder who’s been naughty?!

The Pomegranate Blossom  

Other symbols include the pomegranate flower, the sun and the moon and curling patterns of thread!  The rich, red blossom of the pomegranate tree has many seeds and translates to a symbol of fertility in Miao embroidery. Multiple seeds mean thriving offspring, so by embroidering the flower, the Miao women represent their wish for a flourishing family.  

Such a perfect pomegranate blossom!

Celestial Bodies  

As for the sun and the moon, this harks back to another foundation legend of the creation of the universe: in the beginning, there were ten suns and ten moons in the sky. The ancestor of humanity arrived and shot down eighteen of these celestial bodies until there remained only one sun and one moon. Often, Miao women choose to embroider ten suns and moons on their garments to remember and celebrate the creation of the world. Finally, the curling pattern also links to the legendary beginning of the world, a world where there was as yet no earth or sky, simply this spiralling, waving entity. By adding this pattern, the old legends are remembered and passed down to future generations, ensuring the Miao people do not forget their origins.  

How many of the patterns we’ve mentioned can you see? I spot at least three!

The Dragon

As I mentioned before, the ‘Miao’ name encompasses a wide variety of smaller ethnic groups. It is important to note how individual ethnic identity is expressed through adaptation of different important symbols. For example, the dragon, a symbol of imperial power for the Han ethnic groups, is also an important part of Miao culture. Yet, different Miao groups embroider this symbol in different ways. Miao women living Bala River basin tend to embroider dragons in a green colour, with leaf- or stalk-like bodies. These dragons usually do not have horns or feet, rather they have crests on their hands! However, the Miao women of Shidong town present the dragon in red or blue threads, with a scaley body, horns and big ears. By presenting a specific image of the dragon in the embroidery, the Miao women living in neighbouring areas establish the ethnic mark of their own subgroups, displaying their own affiliation and weaving multiple layers of identity into the cloth. 

Miao women are passing on the traditional knowledge of how to make a ‘Hundred-Bird’ dress to younger generations.

Embroidery skills are passed on from generation to generation; mothers start teaching their daughters from the age of six or seven, as the skill is so complex to learn! In transferring the skills of embroidery, children learn the history and legends of their people, grounding and enriching their Miao identity. I hope you’ve enjoyed this small tour of symbolism in Miao embroidery. There are so many symbols still to explore and I encourage you to go and discover more for yourself!

A Miao women explaining the steps of the embroidery process, starting with the planning stage!

About Interact China 

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

Aileen & Norman 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 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste. 

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts. 

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!  
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you! 

4 Lessons From a Master Silversmith in Yunnan

Written by Sean Callahan

In 2017, I spent a month apprenticing under a master silversmith in a small Bai village in Yunnan, China. I expected to simply learn the techniques used to craft silver jewelry, but my master and teacher, Li Shifu, showed me that in order to truly appreciate a piece of silver, one must understand all that it represents. 

Master silversmiths such as Li Shifu believe the art of silversmithing is more of a mindset than a set of skills. Their work embodies their life philosophy which in turn means each piece has its own unique story. This is not just my story or Li Shifu’s story, but rather the story of centuries of craftsmen and craftswomen in China, a story that Interact China carries around the world.

Lesson #1: The Master can only open the door. The apprentice must learn to walk through it. 

Throughout my apprenticeship, Li Shifu emphasized the idea that he could only give me so much and my success ultimately depended on myself. He told me stories of his own apprenticeship where he and his fellow apprentice “brothers” would be made to do menial chores for months before the master would allow them to touch silver. This arduous process was not meant to take advantage of them or to punish them, but rather to select for the most important traits a silversmith can have: work ethic and dedication. Learning to be a silversmith, like most other things in life, takes hard work and repetition. Whether you want to become a silversmith or a poet, your teacher can only give you the tools to succeed. You must strive to use those tools to better yourself; only then will you truly improve. 

Lesson #2: In our rush to finish, we often lose sight of our goal. 

The first piece Li Shifu taught me how to make was a shiny silver bracelet. He instructed me to first hammer a rectangular piece of silver into a round one suitable for shaping into a bracelet. I proceeded with this task with great speed, hoping to quickly move on to the next part. After about 90 minutes, I proudly showed him my perfectly round silver rod. However, he frowned and handed it back to me saying, “it is too long.” As I spent the next few hours restarting from scratch, Li Shifu cautioned me that in my rush to shape my rod I had neglected to consider the end goal of my work. Similarly, in life, we need to consider the context which surrounds our actions and make decisions with the larger picture in mind. 

Lesson #3: Small details matter just as much as large steps. 

Undoubtedly the loudest and most noticeable step in silversmithing is the initial shaping of the item where a blowtorch and hammer are used to pound the silver into the correct shape. Silversmiths put enormous amounts of time and effort into this process as it creates the base for their product. Engraving, on the other hand, is a process which involves a chisel and tiny movements. The engraving of minuscule lines and figures may seem unimportant compared to the shaping process, but Li Shifu assured me that was not the case. A bracelet can be deemed unworthy due to one erroneous engraved dot just as it can be due to an entirely misshapen piece of silver. In our lives, we must keep in mind that seemingly trivial details can often prove to be just as meaningful as large events.

Lesson #4: Handmade goods appeal to the human spirit.  

The rise of silver factories has flooded the market with cheap mass-produced silver jewelry. Li Shifu, however, says that people still seek out handmade items like those that he makes for both practical and sentimental reasons. Not only is handmade silver stronger and more flexible, but Li Shifu believes each piece shares a connection with its maker which makes it unique. When someone opts to buy a handmade piece instead of a factory-produced one, each time they look at the piece they can admire the skill and dedication of the craftsman. One can’t put a price tag on this human element of handmade silver and that is the reason why it remains popular today. 

Oftentimes, when consumers look at the incredible pieces created by ethnic craftsmen, they recognize the beauty and allure but they miss out on the culture, philosophy, and process behind them. So next time you admire an art piece, whether it be silver jewelry or an embroidered bag, think of Li Shifu and other artisans and what their work means to them. This knowledge will allow you to appreciate and connect with handmade art more fully.  


About Interact China 

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

Aileen & Norman 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 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste. 

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts. 


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!  
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you! 

A Day in the Life of Miao People

By Emma Marler

Miao people are one the 56 ethnic groups in China. Their vibrant culture attracts visitors from all over the world. They are well renowned for their silver crafting and embroidery skills. Let’s now try to imagine to spend a day in the life of the Miao community. It’s going to be an exciting journey!

The majority of Miao people lives in Guizhou province in Southern China. There is an old saying that describes their homeland this way: “No three days are clear, no three feet of land are level, and no one has three ounces of silver”. Guizhou is therefore known for its mountainous sceneries, long rainy seasons and for not being very prosperous economically.

Their houses are built on steep hillsides and use stilts for support. Their tradition to plant bamboo and trees around their homes makes the wooden buildings blend in beautifully with the natural surroundings. But it’s at night that magic happens. When it gets dark and each family turns the lights on, the mountains seem to be lit up.

The cultivation of rice has been their main means of subsistence, especially before tourism started to spring up. As many Chinese liquors, Miao’s mijiu (米酒) is also rice-based. Hospitality is a big part of their culture. Guest are welcomed with this rice wine to toast while dancing and singing takes place to greet visitors. Miao are great cooks and they love sour and spicy food. There is even an ancient saying that states that “without eating a sour dish for three days, people will stagger with weak legs”! Fish soup is Miao’s staple dish. Fresh carps from the rice fields are cooked in a boiling soup with chili pepper, garlic and tomatoes.

If you go and visit, you might be lucky enough to participate in one of their Long Table banquets! During special occasions like New Year or weddings, every household brings a home cooked dish and shares it with the rest of the extended family and their guests.

Apart from agriculture, Miao people have cultivated several artistic skills along the years. Men are exceptional at silver work. At festivals or special occasions girl accessorize their dresses with head to toe silver jewelry, it can weigh up to 10 kilograms! Silver is believed to symbolize light and it can scare away evil spirits. Silver is therefore a recurring element in the most important milestones of their life. When a new born baby takes his first bath, parents put a piece of silver into the water to wish for a happy future. Families start collecting silver jewelry for their daughter’s wedding since the day they are born.

The traditional costume is a perfect representation of Miao culture and history because it combines both silver work and embroidery. Women are extremely talented artists and produce the most stunning embroidery pieces. The techniques they use are very elaborate and to finish a set of traditional clothes can take up to two years. To recognize a Miao embroidery pattern you have to look out for natural and geometric shapes in beautiful bold colours.

Their embroidery techniques are passed on for generations and girls start learning how to weave, embroider and cross-stitch at the age of 6. When a girl finishes her first embroidered dress all on her own it shows that she is ready to get married.

Miao people have also mastered the art of batik. According to a Miao traditional song, a young girl dreamt of some bees landing on her blue skirt one night and when she woke up she found some wax on it. After washing it a few times she realised that those spots were flowered shaped and had adorned her simple skirt.

Batik and embroidery are an essential way for Miao people to express themselves because they don’t have their own written language. Those patterns are a visual language to transmit their culture, religion and history to the rest of the world.

With the passing of time and the rise of globalisation, rich culture and traditions like those of the Miao are even more unique but are also at risk of dying out. Our mission is to preserve their heritage and pet people know how much these ethnic minorities have to offer. We hope you enjoyed this journey into the wonders of the Miao world!


About Interact China

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

Aileen & Norman 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 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Ikat, the ancient art of cloud weaving

Written by Maria

Feeling blue today? If you know what Ikat is, you may agree that it is not necessarily a bad thing. Coming from the Malay-Indonesian word mengikat (to tie), Ikat is an ancient textile art particularly diffused in Southeast Asia, particularly in China, Indonesia and Thailand.

The technique is complex and time-consuming, mainly consisting in dyeing the cotton yarns before weaving.

Named after such technique, the Ikat fabric can come in a variety of colours and patterns, although one of the most popular variations is the blue-patterned one. Ikat weavers use pigments of indigo, the local plant which famously gives the characteristic colour to denim, to obtain the particularly dense, sky-like blue. This is probably why in Persia Ikat technique is known as abr brandi, which literally means tying the clouds.

Origins

Although its origins are highly debated, Ikat is probably one of the most ancient and unique textile techniques of Asia. The earliest historical record was found in China and dates back to the 6th Century, though there is track that the technique has been used in India at least since the 7th century and developed in other Asian Countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.

Surprisingly, Ikat has also widely flourished in Latin American countries such as Peru and Guatemala since ancient times, where it developed independently of the Eastern world.

Ikat was brought to Europe by Dutch and Spanish explorers from Asia and Latin America during Colonialism, started in the 7th Century.

The traditional patterns of Ikat used to be entrenched of spiritual meaning. In particular, Ikat used to be a symbol of wealth. Until recent times, in Southeast Asia only aristocrats were allowed to wear Ikat fabric. The rule, also sanctioned with death punishment, slowly disappeared because of the colonialist pressures to trade and diffuse the product abroad, which led to its largest diffusion in the 20th Century.

Process

Just like batik and tie-dye, Ikat is obtained with a resist-dyeing method, mainly by controlling the colour spread so that it does not reach all the fabric. The purpose is to create the patterns out of the contrast between coloured and uncoloured areas.

The difference between Ikat and other famous resist-dyeing techniques like Batik or Tie-dye, is that dyeing is applied before and not after weaving. First, the design is marked onto the yarns. Then, the unmarked areas are then tied with rubber, wax or other materials, to avoid that the colour penetrates them.

The yarns are then dyed with the use of a straw. Finally, the yarns are untied and woven in the loom. Dyeing is fundamental to the creation of the patterns. A variation of Ikat is double Ikat, where both the warp and the weft are dyed.

If you want to know more about Ikat, watch the following video to see how ikat is made! https://youtu.be/3OAnnvPEOl8

If you have fallen in love with Ikat, please have a look on our new sleek line of blue scarves on InteractChina.com. Enjoy!

About Interact China


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

Aileen & Norman 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 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Dongba Writing: A Primitive Pictogram

Written by Juliette Qi

 

Dongba Culture and Naxi Ethnicity

In China, the Dongba culture, associated with Lijiang City in the Yunnan Province and Muli District in the Sichuan Province, refers to the traditional culture of the Naxi ethnic group. The Naxi live mostly in northern Yunnan, in Lijiang, Weixi, Zhongdian, Ninglang and Yongsheng prefectures.

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The Naxi in Traditional Costume

 

The Dongba culture is based on the polytheistic religion of the same name and also has own writing, dances, paintings and music. “Dongba” is the name given to shamans, types of wizards, who transmit this culture from generation to generation. The Dongba priest is an important figure in the community because he preaches the harmony between men and nature, which is a fundamental value among the Naxi people, just like the cult of the ancestors.

The Dongba religion, more than a thousand years old, has been influenced by Tibetan Lamaism over the centuries, but also by Taoism and Chinese Buddhism. In this religion, the elements of nature are considered as gods who rule the world.

 

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The polytheist Dongba religion

 

From an artistic perspective, Dongba culture is indeed very rich because it is transmitted and expressed by music and painting. Many colorful scrolls depicting religious scenes or deities can be found in Lijiang.

The city of Lijiang is a research center which studies the Dongba culture and keeps all objects related to this culture. Many Chinese and foreign researchers come to this place to study this fascinating culture. In religious rituals, the Naxis dance in their traditional costumes reminiscent of Tibetan ones. They also sing sacred texts, written in Dongba.

 

Dongba Writing: The Legendary Characters

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Wood Engraving of Dongba Writing

 

The dongba or tomba script (in romanized Naxi: ‘na-‘khi ²ggŏ-¹baw) is one of the scriptures used to write in the Naxi language, which is spoken by the Naxi people. It is more than 1000 years old and is probably the only predominantly pictographic writing system used today; however, some characters are used as syllabic characters.

There are currently 2000 religious works written in the Dongba language in which more than 2000 pictograms are used. These books are of crucial importance to understand the Dongba culture because they inform us about religion and customs but also about philosophy, history, literature, astronomy, medicine, fauna and flora as well as the paintings and music of this culture.

In the Lijiang prefecture in particular, the signs are usually written in dongba, han Chinese and sometimes in English. There are also dongba – hanzi / english dictionaries in the bookstores of the city.

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Dongba calligraphy

 

Dongba calligraphy is still practiced by using bamboo stencils, as well as prints, both of which usually use a high-quality handmade paper specifically made for Dongba.

The traditional production of dongba paper uses the bark of two shrubs, wikstroemia delavayi and wikstroemia lichiangensis, growing at an altitude of 2,000m above sea-level, as in the canton of Sanbei. The barks are cut into thin strips, soaked in a tray, and then dried on boards in the sun. There are also many murals of this writing, in bas-relief or painting.

 

 

 

About Interact China


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

Aileen & Norman 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.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!

If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us atbloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

The Weaving, Dyeing and Embroidery of the Li People: 2000-Year-Old Techniques

Written by Juliette Qi

 

The weaving and dyeing techniques of the Li* have a long history and unique characteristics. The Li mainly produce linen fabrics, cotton, brocade, printed and dyed products, embroidery and long bedspreads (a kind of brocade, the most delicate to make). Li women are skilled in spinning and weaving, and especially show their ingenuity in spinning and weaving “bombax” cotton and local cotton. Even before Song Dynasty (960-1279), Li women already knew how to weave and could weave colorful bed sheets and curtains.

 

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According to historical records, the traditional spinning and weaving techniques of Li cotton have a history of more than 2,000 years. Since the Han Dynasty (207 BC-220 AD), Li brocade has been offered as a tribute to feudal emperors of later dynasties. Cheng Bingzhao, a poet of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) once praised the exquisite work of Li brocade in these terms: “Li brocade is as beautiful and brilliant as the sun in the sky “. “Li” brocade is appreciated because it is exquisitely manufactured, beautiful in its design, practical, and has the characteristics of the spinning, weaving, dyeing and embroidery of the ethnic group.

 

The Different Techniques

The Li minority has its own spinning, weaving, dyeing and embroidery techniques and, in different regions, has also developed them according to local preferences.

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Spinning: The main tools involved are the hand wheel and the wheel driven by a pedal. Spinning using the hand wheel is the oldest spinning technique. Before cotton sheets grew in popularity, wild linen sheets were predominant in areas inhabited by the Li minority. People peeled the wild flax fibers they picked up during the rainy seasons and turned them into a base material after soaking and rinsing. After dyeing, they spun it by hand or with the spinning wheel and wove it.

Dyeing: The dyes are based on wild or cultivated plants. They are characterized by bright colors, speed of catch and various resources. Dyeing is important empirical knowledge of the Li people. In the Meifu dialect area there was also a knot dyeing technique, called “Jiaoxie dyeing” in the old days. This unique process follows the process of “knotting first, then dyeing and finally weaving” and has obviously integrated these three techniques.

Weaving: There are mainly two types of looms, the loom powered by a pedal and the craft “Juyao”. The craft “Juyao” is rather old, similar to that used by the Banpo clan six or seven thousand years ago. Li women could use the “Juyao” craft to weave exquisite, sumptuous and complicated patterns. The loom is even far ahead of the big modern jacquards in jacquard weaving technology.

 

Li Knot Dyeing

Knot dyeing, known as “Jiaoxie” in the past, played a major role in the textile printing and dyeing of the Li. The raw materials are knotted, dyed, spun and woven into colored fabric. The dye is mainly made from leaves of plants, flowers, bark or tree roots. Natural mineral dye is also an addition.

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Currently, Li-knot dyeing is widespread particularly in the Meifu dialect region. In this region, there are stands that support the fabric reserved for dyeing knots.The patterns are fine and exquisite. In the dialect region Ha, however, there is no support for knot dyeing. People tie one end of the vertical line to their waist and the other to their feet. The patterns consist of thick and irregular lines. The process of dyeing knots consists of drawing the pattern, tying, dying, re-dyeing, rinsing etc. However, the pattern decision process is often omitted by Li women, as various drawings are already in their memory.

 

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Knotting, also known as “wrapping”, plays a crucial role in knot dyeing because it directly affects the result. When the knotting is finished, the skeins are lowered from the wooden bearing and then dyed. After being dyed repeatedly too? Does not make sense on its own), they are dried to allow the indigo to be oxidized and air dried. Then the hanks are dyed repeatedly, until they reach the required color. When the dyeing process is complete, the skeins are loosened, rinsed with clear water to remove the excess color, and then dried. The vertical lines (weft) will then present a pattern. People can then weave the horizontal lines of color (chain) with the loom “Juyao”. An exquisite piece of art will then be born.

The Li process of ” dyeing knots first and then weaving”, although different from the other ethnic methods of “weaving first and then dyeing knots”, not only allows the pattern to show all its fineness, but also adds more color changes and causes the pattern to have a distinct color gradation. Such a kind of naturally formed chromatic halo makes the brocade more exquisite and superior in its artistic efficiency.

 

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NOTES*

The Li 黎族 (Lí Zú) is one of 56 ethnic minorities living in China. Their population was just over 1.2 million at the end of the 20th century. The majority of the Li live off the south coast of China on the island-province of Hainan, where they are the most numerous natives.

 

 

 

About Interact China


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

Aileen & Norman 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.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!

If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Xinjiang keeps the traditional way of making Atlas silk

For more than 1,000 years, traditional craftsmen have been making Atlas silk in Hotan prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Inspired by the shapes of flowers, leaves and fruits, the people weave beautiful patterns.

Model present Atlas silk in the Taklimakan Desert in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region
 silk

Atlas is a traditional type of Xinjiang silk that means “graceful” in Uyghur language. It is a kind of silk fabric with fine intricate patterns that Uygur women like very much, and is renowned for its multiple and resplendent colors. Usually the colors include sharp contrasts such as viridis, sapphire, indigo, yellow, peach, orange, gold, mauve, black, white, etc. The patterns are well-knit and lifelike, representing the light and color of nature. Atlas silk is soft, flexible, beautiful in patterns and excellent in quality. It is used by the local people not only for costuming but also as an interior ornament.

Drawing Silk

 
 silk

The first step is drawing silk. The cocoons have to be sorted out first and the dirty and abnormal-shaped cocoons have to be boiled in water for about 15 minutes until the cocoons change to green color and are soaked with water. Then a stick is used to stir the cocoons and twist the fiber threads of the raw silk into strands. Normally, 25-30 threads make one strand.

Coloring the silk

 
 silk

Once the silk has been extracted it can be tied and dyed using a tie-dye or dye-resist process. It means plastic bags are used to bundle the threads up before coloring each part.

Based on the design requirement, different patterns are made by staining lightly or deeply. Different colors are made by bundling up different parts each time and dipping into different colored dyestuffs. To get the multi-coloured patterns the silk may be dyed one colour at a time. The traditional Atlas silk has four basic shades: black, red, yellow and multi-color.

Minerals like alum, indigo and natural plant extracts like walnut skin, jujube skin, and tamarisk are used to make dyestuffs.

Tying the silk

 
 silk

The silk is secured to a wooden frame and then tied up according to traditional patterns. Once the threads are placed into patterns the thread is loaded onto the machines for the weaving to be done.

Weaving

 
 silk

In accordance with the designed patterns, workers start weaving on top of the basic colors. Normally, a handmade Atlas silk is 6.45 meters long and 0.45 meters wide.

The traditional weaving method requires workers using their hands and feet at the same time and one person can produce 3-4 meters long silk per day.

 
 silk

Known for its softness, lightness, and bright colored patterns, Atlas silk is made through a complicated process and is extremely popular among Uygur women in Xinjiang. Nowadays, the traditional silk garment has been fused with modern design and is becoming more fashionable.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


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

Aileen & Norman 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.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Tujia Brocade-Xilankapu

Deep in the remote, mountainous region of Western Hunan Province lives one of the largest minority groups in China. They are called “Tujia,” which literally means the “Soil Family.”

In August, the osmanthus flowers blossom and send forth fragrance.

The Tujia girls are busy weaving brocade.

The fragrance drifts far away,

But the brocade girls’ cloth stretches even further.

– Song of Weaving Girls, traditional Tujia song

People of the Tujia ethnic minority are adept at the handicrafts of stone carving, embroidery, paper-cuts and textile printing. But they are most famous for their brocade. Tujia brocade has a history of 2,000 or more years and embodies the basic features of brocade weaving system of Chinese ethnic groups. It’s a very special skill and is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

 
 ethnic culture

The Tujia people are good at brocade weaving. The Tujia brocade is known with the name of “Xilankapu”.

Features

Xilankapu, also known as ‘Knitting Floral Bedclothes’, is a Tujia masterpiece. Woven on a simple, ancient wooden waist loom via 12 procedures, this kind of brocade, thick and durable, simple but gorgeous, is reputed to be one of the three most famous brocades in southwestern China.

 
 ethnic culture

On weaving machines with narrow lathes, it is woven by hand, with blue, black, red, and white threads going lengthwise and, silk, cotton, and wool of many kinds of colors going across. It has an energetic structure, bright and beautiful colors, and unique patterns, showing significant artistry. It is the quintessence of Tujia folk art. In 2006 it was listed in the state-level intangible cultural heritage.

Significance

More than four hundred kinds of traditional decorative patterns on Tujia brocade are unique forms of expression of Tujia ethnic cultural psychology and cultural heritage of different times. The patterns, favoring landscapes, trees, flowers, and animals, reflect their paying homage to nature, and their deep love for life.

 
 ethnic culture

With no written language, the Tujia people have relied on their traditional craft of brocade weaving to record their history and pass it on to future generations. Through the designs in the brocade, the Tujia people express their understanding not only of history, but of life, society, nature and, of course, art.

Nowadays, thousands pieces of Xilankapu have been sold all over the world every year through e-commerce and modern logistics so that people outside can know more about the culture of Tujia Minority and the market also gives a new life to the cultural heritage.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


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

Aileen & Norman 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 12 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Horsetail Embroidery, the Unique Craft of the Shui People of China

Every ethnic group of China has its own unique way of designing and adorning their costumes and textiles. For centuries a special traditional type of embroidery, horsetail embroidery, has been kept alive by the Shui women in Guizhou province, southwest China. The horsetail embroidery is a special craft which uses horsetail hair as a main raw material for embroidery, and is passed down from generation to generation by women of Shui Nationality.

A Shui woman in traditional costume embroidered with horsetail hair
 Chinese Culture

Origin

The horsetail embroidery of Shui Nationality has an untraceable origin. Shui legend says that when one of the ancestors groomed his horse prior to a race, a lot of horse hair fell to the ground. His wife thought it would be a shame to leave these strong and glossy hairs unused. She collected them and started to use those hairs in her embroideries along with silk threads.

Techniques

Horsetail embroidery is a hard, time-consuming craft. Girls begin learning embroidery at about 5 or 6 years old. Some of them spend 10 years on a single embroidery piece, which is specially prepared for their wedding.

Working with horsetail hair
 Chinese Culture
 
 Chinese Culture

There are a variety of unique skills and methods involved in this craft. The first step is to take 3 to 4 pieces of horsetail hairs as the core, around which white silk threads are tightly wrapped by hand, making pre-made embroidery threads akin to bass strings. The second is to use the threads to embroider the outline of traditional embroideries and paper-cut patterns. The third is to make flat colored threads with 7 colored silk threads and use them to fill the inside area of the coiled embroidery patterns. The fourth is to complete the rest using such ordinary techniques as flat embroidery, cross-stitch embroidery, random stitch, skipped stitch, etc.

Motif

Horsetail embroidery
 Chinese Culture

Flowers, plants, and mystical creatures from Shui folklore are the common embroidery motifs. Butterfly patterns are woven mostly into children’s clothing or accessories. This is related to Shui beliefs that butterflies are children’s guardians. Dragons, a phoenix and fish also possess great symbolic meaning and are commonly seen on Shui handicraft.

Horsetail embroidery
 Chinese Culture

As another Shui legend says during an ancient flood, a brother and a sister were saved by fish. Their descendants multiplied to become the Shui ethnic group and the image of double fishes became one of the favourite motifs of the Shui artisans.

Features

The horsetail embroidery technique is very intricate, and works using the technique appears to have a bas-relief, with abstract, generalized, and exaggerated shapes.

Horsetail hair embroidered insoles
 Chinese Culture
Horsetail hair embroidered baby carrier
 Chinese Culture

Besides decorating with embroidery all parts of their traditional costume – blouse, trousers, apron, headdress, shoes and even insoles – women use the horsetail hair for embroidering baby carriers, tablecloths, wall hangings, bags and wallets.

Unfortunately, due to social changes and other reasons, the inheritance of horsetail embroidery craftsmanship has been seriously neglected and the quality of modern horsetail embroidery products has become poor. As a result, few people are willing to use such products. As such, it is imperative to protect the special craftsmanship of horsetail embroidery of Shui Nationality from disappearing forever.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


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

Aileen & Norman 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.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

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.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!