Thangka Painting (I)


What is Thangka

A ‘Thangka’ is also known as “Tanka”, “Thanka” or “Tangka”. Thangka paintings are essentially painted or embroidered Buddhist banner which are hung in a monastery or a family altar or even carried in ceremonial processions. Thangka is a mark of devotion to Buddhism and often serves as an object of worship.

In Tibetan language the word “Thang” means a flat surface, “Ka” means painting, so “Thangka” means “a painting on a flat surface”. Thangka painting is also known as scroll-painting as it can be rolled up when not displayed. Originally, thangka painting became popular among traveling monks because the scroll paintings were easily rolled and transported from monastery to monastery.

Thangka Painting




Nobody knows where and when Thangka painting originated, but comparing with other types of Tibetan paintings, the history of Thangka painting can be traced back to as early as the Tubo period or Songtsen Gampo (604 CE? – 649 CE) period in the 7th century. It is a combination of Chinese scroll painting, Nepal painting and Kashmir painting.

Until the 7th century, Songtsen Gampo united Tibet and hence a new period in Tibetan history began. Later Songtsen Gampo married the princess of Nepal and the princess of Tang Dynasty Wencheng (623 CE? – 680 CE), further strengthening the connection of politics, economy, and culture between Tibetan and Han Chinese ethnic groups. The two princesses came to Tibet with a lot of Buddhist scriptures, architecture technology, soothsaying and lawmaking, medical scriptures and many skilled artisans, greatly stimulating the development of Tibetan society, especially the flourishing of Tibetan Buddhism. At that time fresco alone could not satisfy the need of those disciples, and another art form of thangka, was easy to carry, hang and collect and became popular.

During the Ming and Qing dynasties in China (1368 CE – 1911 CE), the central government adopted the system of approving Tibetan chieftain to strengthen the control over Tibet. These methods made contribution to the development of the Tibetan society. So the Ming and Qing dynasties saw a great progress in the development of thangka painting.




The themes of thangka painting include various subjects, i.e. historical events, religious figures, religious philosophy, Tibetan scenery, social customs, folklore, myths, great deities and Buddhas.

Thangka Painting

Thangka Painting

The theme also encompasses Jataka stories of the Buddha, and so on, involving politics, economy, history, religion, literature, art, social life, Tibetan astrology, pharmacology, theology, and many other aspects.

Buddhas appear on almost every single thangka painting. The artists must follow the sacred laws for portraying gods and Buddhas. Scripts from Buddhism are written on the back. Thangkas are always unsigned so it is impossible to know who paints thangka and when it is painted.




The structure of Tibetan thangka painting is precise, balanced, thick, and flexible. The painting methods are mainly bright color and line drawing.

Most thangka paintings are in upright rectangular shape while thangka with Mandala themes are in square shape. A thangka comprises a painted or embroidered picture, a mounting, which is further embellished with a silk cover, wooden dowels at the top and bottom, leather corners and beautiful metal or wooden decorative knobs on the bottom dowel.

Thangka Painting

Thangka paintings vary in size, ranging from a little over a few square centimeters to several square meters. A large thangka often takes months or years for a large team of artists to paint.

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Tibetan Thangka Painting- Wheel of Life

Thangka served as important teaching tools depicting the life of the Buddha, various influential lamas and other deities and bodhisattvas. One popular subject is The Wheel of Life, which is a visual representation of the Abhidharma teachings (Art of Enlightenment).

The Wheel of Life (called the Bhavachakra in Sanskrit) represents the cycle of birth and rebirth and existence in samsara. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it is believed that the drawing was designed by the Buddha himself in order to help ordinary people understand the Buddhist teachings.

Thangka Painting


The Figure Holding the Wheel: Impermanence

Thangka Painting

The wheel is being held by a fearsome figure who represents impermanence. This figure is often depicted as Yama, the lord of death. The meaning is that the entire process of cyclic existence (samsara) is transient; everything within this wheel is constantly changing.




Thangka Painting In the hub of the wheel are three animals: a pig, a snake, and a bird.

The pig stands for ignorance; this comparison is based on the Indian concept of a pig being the most foolish of animals, since it sleeps in the dirtiest places and eats whatever comes to its mouth. The snake represents aversion or anger; this is because it will be aroused and strike at the slightest touch. The bird represents attachment (also translated as desire or clinging). The particular bird used in this diagram represents an Indian bird that is very attached to its partner. These three creatures chase and bite each others tails, giving rise to the endless cycle or becoming.


The Second Layer


Thangka Painting The second layer of the wheel shows two-half circles:

One half-circle (usually light) shows contented people moving upwards to higher states, possibly to the higher realms.

The other half-circle (usually dark) shows people in a miserable state being led downwards to lower states, possibly to the lower realms.


Third Layer: Six Realms


Thangka Painting

These six realms can be divided into three higher realms and three lower realms.

The three higher realms are:

God realm: the gods lead long and enjoyable lives full of pleasure and abundance, but they spend their lives pursuing meaningless distractions and never think to practice the dharma.

Demi-god realm: the demi-gods have pleasure and abundance almost as much as the gods, but they suffer from competitiveness and ambition as they strive for the realization of their desires.

Human realm: The human realm is considered to be the most suitable realm for practicing the dharma, because humans are not completely distracted by pleasure (like the gods or demi-gods) or by pain and suffering (like the beings in the lower realms).

The three lower realms are:

Animal realm: wild animals suffer from being attacked and eaten by other animals. Domestic animals suffer from being exploited by humans.

Hungry ghost realm: hungry ghosts suffer from extreme hunger and thirst. Hungry ghosts have huge bellies and long thin necks.

Hell realm: hell beings endure unimaginable suffering for eons of time. There are actually eighteen different types of hells, each inflicting a different kind of torment.


Outer Rim: The Twelve Links


Thangka Painting

The outer rim of the wheel is divided into twelve sections that represent the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination.

The twelve causal links, paired with their common visual representations, are:

  1. ignorance – a blind person, often walking, or a person peering out

  2. volitional action or conditioning – a potter shaping a vessel or vessels

  3. consciousness – a man or a monkey grasping a fruit

  4. name and form- two men afloat in a boat

  5. six senory organs (i.e. eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) – a dwelling with six windows

  6. contact or touch – lovers consorting, kissing, or entwined

  7. sensation – an arrow to the eye

  8. desire, craving, thirst – a drinker receiving drink

  9. grasping – a man or a monkey picking fruit

  10. becoming or existence – a couple engaged in intercourse, a standing, leaping, or reflective person

  11. birth – woman giving birth

  12. decay and death – corpse being carried




Thangka Painting

At the top right of the painting is the paradise of Amitabha. A pathway leads from the judgment hall of the dead in the hell realm to Amitabha’s paradise, along which those being with the most fortunate Karma proceed. At the top left is Shakyamuni Buddha who, having attained liberation from the wheel of existence, points towards his perfect wheel of the Buddhadharma.

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Tibetan Thangka Paintings – Meditation or Blessings?

A Thangka is more than just a painting. It is an object of devotion, an aid to contemplative practice, and a bringer of blessings. Thangka paintings can have multiple functions.


Teaching Tools

Thangka Painting

Images of deities can be used as teaching tools when depicting the life of the Buddha, describing historical events concerning important Lamas, or retelling myths associated with other deities.


Contemplative Practice


Thangka Painting Thangkas are intended to serve as a record of, and guide for contemplative experience. To Buddhists these Tibetan religious paintings offer a beautiful manifestation of the divine, being both visually and mentally stimulating. Its brilliant colors and forms awaken the mind and energize consciousness; its images stimulate capacities for visualization and nourish the heart. Looking at a thangka is in itself considered to be a meritorious activity. By further meditating on such objects, under the guidance of a qualified teacher, one can train the mind and gain an understanding of certain types of awareness that the specific image portrays.

For example, you might be instructed by your teacher to imagine yourself as a specific figure in a specific setting. You could use a thangka as a reference for the details of posture, attitude, colour, and clothing. etc., of a figure located in a field, or in a palace, possibly surrounded by many other figures of meditation teachers, your family, etc.


Bringer of Blessings


Thangka Painting

Another reason for commissioning a thangka painting may be bring about good health, prosperity or long life. Sometimes they are commissioned to aid the recovery of a sick person, or to protect a person, or to help in the rebirth of someone who has died. In these cases a spiritual teacher or Lama is usually consulted to advice on which deity should be painted to be of greatest benefit to that person.

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Thangka Painting Mandala

Mandala is a Sanskrit word that means “circle”. In the Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions their sacred art often takes a mandala form. The basic form of most Hindu and Buddhist mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the shape of a T.

Thangka Painting

These mandalas, concentric diagrams, have spiritual and ritual significance in both Buddhism and Hinduism. The term is of Hindu origin and appears in the Rig Veda as the name of the sections of the work, but is also used in other Indian religions, particularly Buddhism. In the Tibetan branch of Vajrayana Buddhism, mandalas have been developed into sand painting. They are also a key part of anuttarayoga tantra meditation practices.

In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of aspirants and adepts, as a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation and trance induction. According to David Fontana, its symbolic nature can help one “to access progressively deeper levels of the unconscious, ultimately assisting the meditator to experience a mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity from which the cosmos in all its manifold forms arises.” The psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw the mandala as “a representation of the unconscious self,” and believed his paintings of mandalas enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality.



Thangka Painting

The Mandala shown here is connected with the Buddha Vajrasattva, who symbolises the original crystalline purity.

In the centre is a lotus blossom with eight petals, resting on a bed of jewels. In the next place are the walls of the palace with gates towards the four corners of the earth. The gates are guarded by four angry doorkeepers. Before the meditating person arrives at the gates, she must, however, pass the four outer circles: the purifying fire of wisdom, the vajra circle, the circle with the eight tombs, the lotus circle.




Thangka Painting

Here are the four circles, symbolizing the enlightenment, which the meditating person must gain, before she can enter the illuminated palace:

Fire of wisdom: the outermost circle consists of the purifying fire

Vajra circle: the diamond circle expresses strength and fearlessness

Tombs: there are eight tombs, which symbolizes the eight states of consciousness, which the person must go beyond

Lotus circle: expresses the open state of devotion, that is necessary to enter the palace




Thangka Painting

The symbol of Buddha lives in the centre, surrounded by eight Buddhas for meditation – symbolic deities: four male and four female. These figures, facing the corners of the earth form together a lotus flower.


Mandala in Tibet


In ancient Tibet, as part of a spiritual practice, monks created intricate mandalas with colored sand made of crushed semiprecious stones. The tradition continues to this day as the monks travel to different cultures around the world to create sand mandalas and educate people about the culture of Tibet.

All monks at Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are required to learn how to construct mandalas as part of their training. The learning process is two-fold, including the memorization of texts that specify the names, lengths, and positions of the primary lines that define the basic structure of mandalas, as well as the manual techniques of drawing and pouring sand. These texts, however, do not describe every line, nor every detail of each mandala, but rather serve as mnemonic guides to the complete forms of mandalas that must be learned from the repeated practice of construction under the guidance of experienced monks.

As a meditation on impermanence (a central teaching of Buddhism), after days or weeks of creating the intricate pattern of a sand mandala, the sand is brushed together and placed in a body of running water to spread the blessings of the mandala.

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Thangka Painting Making

Technically making a painted thangka occurs in six steps.


Prepare the Canvas

Thangka Painting

A piece of cotton cloth is stitched onto a wooden frame along all its four sides. After setting up the cloth canvas in the frame, the cloth is applied on both the front and the back with a thin layer of gesso, which is made of glue and zinc oxide. The canvas is then rubbed on both sides with a stone to make the canvas surface smooth and lustrous.

Tibetan painters pay great importance to the preparation of the canvas surface since thangka paintings are rolled up for storage and any sort of defect due to neglect may cause cracks or make the paint peel off.




Thangka Painting

Before sketching different parts of the composition, eight major lines of orientation are drawn. These include a central perpendicular, two diagonals, a horizontal and four outer borders. Now with charcoal or graphite the rough drawing of the deity in full accordance with the canonical proportions is delineated. Within a given composition, the center stage is invariably occupied by the principal personage, while all acolytes and attendants are greatly reduced in size to further emphasize the majesty and enormity of the central figure.




Thangka Painting

Painters apply pigments on the sketch, with black, green, red, yellow, and white as the basic colors. All the colors are mixed with animal glue and ox bile to keep them bright.

Color is more than a visual proposition in sacred Buddhist painting. The five basic colors white, yellow, red, black and green have different symbolic meanings. Black symbolizes killing and anger, white denotes rest and repose, yellow stands for restraint and nourishment, red is indicative of subjugation while green is the known hue of exorcising practices. The palette of the thangka painters has been classified into ‘seven father colors’ and one ‘mother color’. The seven father colors are deep blue, green, vermilion, minimum orange, maroon, yellow and indigo. The mother color is white which interacts perfectly with all these hues. The lighter shades resulting from the mixture of ‘father’ and ‘mother’ were referred to as their sons. Written evidence from the eighteenth century identifies fourteen such ‘sons’.

Thangka Painting

For any large project, the master painter first visualizes the final color scheme and indicates them on the sketch with an abbreviated notation system. While applying the colors the painter proceeds from the distant parts to those parts stationed near him.


Color Gradation


Thangka Painting

After laying the initial coats of flat color the painter proceeds to apply thin coats of dyes diluted in water. Shading in Tibetan Thangkas is always done to add effects of volume and dimension to the form be it a human figure, an anthropomorphic image of some deity or clouds, water, flames, rocks, flowers, curtains, seats, etc. Cast shadows and highlights are unknown aspects of the pictorial imagery of the Thangka. Very often the empty green field of the foreground is shown fading gradually into the horizon and such effects are obtained with ‘wet shading’, a technique of gradual blending of two adjoining areas of wet paint.




Thangka Painting

In an essentially linear pictorial expression like the Thangka, the art of outlining plays a significant role. To set off objects from the background or to demarcate subdivisions of a certain form, or to emphasize a swirling mass of flames, painters select the indigo and lac dyes for perfect results.


Finish Details


Thangka Painting

At this final stage the facial features are finished and the eyes of the deities are painted. For this ‘eye opening’ an elaborate consecration ritual on an auspicious full moon day is fixed and only after the vivification ritual does the painter complete the eyes in swift sure strokes. The whites of the eyes are softened with orange and red at the corner ends, eyelid edges are darkened and then the iris is added according to the required stance of the deity. The two most commonly fashioned varieties of eyes are ‘bow eyes’ and grain eyes’ besides a few fearsome looking ones for the wrathful deities.

After the artist finishes the details, the canvas is removed from the frame and mounted on a piece of brocaded silk. The wooden sticks are attached to the top and bottom of the silk. After a dust cover of gossamer silk is attached, the thangka is ready to be hung up.

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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

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Chinese Mei Tai Baby Carrier

Baby Carrier also known as Mei Tai or Baby Sling is a device which allows an infant to be carried on a person’s back or chest.

Traditionally, baby carrier is used so a mother can continue to do her house work or farming work without leaving the baby alone on bed or crawl around the house. Baby carriers are ideal for busy parents and for babies love to be close with their parents.


What is a mei tai or baby carrier

In its simplest form it is merely a wide strap or belt of fabric which wraps around both the wearer’s upper body and the baby’s body, thus supporting the baby against the wearer’s body with moderate pressure horizontally and from below.

Baby Carrier Baby Carrier

In rural areas of southern China, baby carriers typically consist of a panel of decorated fabric which is attached to two or more belts. The baby rests between the panel and the wearer’s body, with the belts wrapping around both of them, holding the baby in place.

The panel is generally the aesthetic and symbolic locus of the whole baby carrier. Baby carriers are customarily embellished with designs and decorations through the use of a broad range of embroidery techniques. Silk, often hand spun, is usually used for the fine embroidery. The foundation materials can be silk, cotton, hemp or flax. Besides embroidery, certain weaving styles and types of fabric dyeing are also used.


Varieties of mei tai or baby carrier


There are distinctive differences in style, technique and material which are identifiable to different regions and various ethnic tribes in China. Many baby carriers are T-shaped with the tops attached to a foundation material and to long ties which are typically crossed in front of the chest and then to the back where they secure the child under his or her bottom.

Some are one piece carrier and others have two pieces with one separate piece attached and used as the baby’s head covering. The baby carrier straps also vary from styles to styles.

 Baby Carrier Pictured here is a Hmong / Miao mother and her baby in a baby carrier with one pair of very long straps attached at the top. These straps are wound over the mothers’ shoulders, down and cross over the chest, then back around the baby’s bottom and back around to the front being tied at the mother’s waist. Many groups use this type strap arrangement. Other groups make carriers with a second set of straps at the bottom.

Generally speaking, in China the farther south one goes to the ethnic tribes, the smaller the baby carriers become. A baby is held firmer in a small carrier, and is therefore more secure against the mother’s body while she is climbing the steep mountains in the south.

Hmong Miao Tribe Mei Tai Baby Carrier
 Baby Carrier
Bai Tribe Mei Tai Baby Carrier
 Baby Carrier
Guangdong Canton Han People Mei Tai Baby Carrier
 Baby Carrier

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Mothers’ Love in Baby Carrier

Monogamous families have been the basic social cells of the Bais, with a very few people who practiced polygamy. Parents live with their unmarried children, but only in big landlord families did four generations live together.

Bai Ethnic
Bai children are given a lot of attention when they are young. You can see many contented babies in beautiful carriers in Bai Tribe. The carriers are padded with a layer of horse hair and quilted felt. The ties are crisscrossed in front and tied around the mother’s waist to secure the baby.


Bai embroidered baby-carrier


Bai Ethnic Bai women hope for a daughter to help with domestic work. Before she gives birth, a woman’s parents will send “delivery-hastening” food to her, which always includes a boiled egg with a needle in it. When eating the egg, the women will first see whether the needle is pointing up or down. An upward-pointing needle heralds the arrival of a boy, while the converse hints to the birth of a girl. If the first born baby is a girl, she is thought to bring happiness to her parents and the whole family.

Bai Ethnic If the first born baby is a girl, she is carried in an embroidered baby carrier called a guobei, which is unique to the Bai nationality. The epaulet of the guobei is usually made of black flannel with embroidered peony flowers in the center and plum blossom and chrysanthemum on both sides, all surrounded by dancing butterflies and a phoenix above and lotus with green leaves, magpies, animals, and flowers at the bottom.

Bai Ethnic The lower part is usually made of white cloth with patterns of balls pieced together from cloth strips. The tie braces are embroidered to match the entire bright color of the guobei. This guobei is said to not only protect the women’s waist and belly, but also make the baby free and comfortable on the adult’s back, where she cannot interrupt the work of her mother. Bai Ethnic The Bai people believe that flowers are symbol of happiness and auspiciousness and hope girls are as pure and pretty as flowers, so many names are connected with flowers. Jinhua (golden flower) means the girl is as precious as gold. Today, the name Jinhua is recognized as a Bai name, because it has come to symbolize the good nature of Bai women. The life of Bai women is a struggle to create a life as beautiful as flowers.

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Tie-Dyeing of Bai Ethnic

Tie dyeing is the traditional handicraft of the Bai. The tie-dyes are not merely daily attire of the Bai people , they are art pieces, considered as precious relics in Chinese art.




Bai Ethnic
Tie-dyeing has a very long history, dating back to over 1,000 years ago. Tie-dyeing skill, known as “skein tie” in the ancient time, is a kind of old textile dyeing workmanship in China. Tie-dye craft of Bai nationality in Dali is introduced from the central plains of China and now is mainly spread around Dali city, Dacang and Miaojie street of Weishang county. And the industry of tie-dyeing in Zhoucheng Village in Dali City of Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture is most famous so it is awarded the title of “The Hometown of National Tie-Dyeing”.




Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic There is a vast repertoire of tie-dye patterns, including flowers, plants, birds, mammals, fish, insects, folk characters and symbols, most of which are wishes for auspiciousness and good luck. The 1,000 or more tie-dye designs also reflect Bai history, culture, customs and aesthetic preferences. Having both decorative and practical applications, tie-dyed fabric is fashioned into both clothing and items of interior décor.


Dying Material


Bai EthnicBai tie-dyeing alone uses Radix isatidis, a Chinese medicinal herb used to dissipate heat, remove toxic substances and diminish inflammation and detumescence, as a dyeing agent. It once grew in wild profusion, but high demand of tie-dye articles has depleted the herb, and the Bai people now cultivate Radix isatidis in mountainous areas.
Tie-dyed fabrics are in more muted shades than those that have been through a chemical process. They are also less apt to fade and more hardwearing. The medicinal qualities of the Radix isatidis dye make Bai tie-dyed garments and bedding comfortable to wear and soothing to the skin, especially in hot weather.


Tie-dyeing Technique





Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic Tie, was originally named knotting, means that after the selection of cloth material, according to the requirement of the motif and pattern, the craftsmen take methods such as pinching & crimpling, folding, turning & rolling, squeezing & pulling to make the clothe become certain shapes and then stitch and bind, and tighten them, so strings of “knots” appear on the material.




Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic Dip-dyeing means that the makers dip and wash the well-made “knots” with clean water and then put them in the dye vat. It can be soaked and dyed in cold, and it can also be dyed with hot water; after a certain period of time, it is taken out and air dried, and then the cloth is put in the dye vat again, and the actions aforesaid should be repeated for several times. After each time, the cloth will become more “blue”. The parts which have been stitched become nice-looking patterns naturally, as the dyes fail to reach them; the stitches are not the same, the dyeing degrees are not the same, so many arbitrations are presented on the cloth, thus the artist flavor come out.


Maintenance and cleaning of tie-dyed cloth


Soak with cold saltwater before the first cleaning. Because using pure natural wood indigo as the dyestuff. Do not exposure in the sun or wash with other products which are easy to fade.

Dali Bai tie-dyeing cloth displays an artistic style of strong national flavors. It is the epitome of the thousand-year history of the Bai people, and it reflects Bai people’s national customs and aesthetical interest, so the tie-dyeing skill and other craftsmanship constitute the unique and charming weaving and dyeing culture of the Bai nationality.

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Miao Hmong Batik- Nature, Totem and Myth

Miao Hmong Batik is plain, aboriginal and powerful. The traditional designs are geometric. With the influence of the Han Chinese, more figurative designs like flowers, birds, and fish have been introduced over the centuries.

These pictures, not confining themselves to exact details of natural images, are boldly different and exaggeratedly drawn. Miao Hmong love nature. They enjoy expressing their joy with nature and their own aesthetic feelings in the way of Batik art. As they do not have written transcripts, you may also find abstract symbols or geometric patterns in their artworks, which could be their totems or myths.


Butterfly and Whirlpool


Miao Batik Local artists have developed a diversity of batik motifs, including those based on images of butterflies, whirlpools, centipedes, fish, birds, dragons and pear blossoms. Every motif conveys special meaning. Among these, butterfly and whirl pattern are most popular. Miao regard butterfly as the god for reproduction and beauty. Therefore, it has become a popular subject in Miao batik. The whirlpool motifs inspired from rivers embody union and auspiciousness in Miao culture.




Miao Batik Simple, traditional patterns such as the bronze drum are the oldest forms found on quilt covers dated before the 20th century. The bronze drum is a powerful symbol relating to the spirits of the ancestors, and is a traditional pattern found in many Miao’s embroidery and batik.


Crab and Pomegranate


Miao Batik

Crabs and pomegranates both relating to birth of many kids are often found in batik designs.


White Tiger


Miao Batik This handmade batik table cloth features the image of the White Tiger, a mythological guardian according to Chinese legend. Legend had it that when a tiger reached 500 years old, its tail would turn white. In this way, the white tiger became a kind of mythological creature. It was said that the white tiger would only appear when the emperor ruled with absolute virtue, or if there was peace throughout the world.


Vermilion Bird


Miao Batik The Vermilion Bird is an elegant and noble bird in both appearance and behavior. It is very selective in what it eats and where it perches. The Vermilion Bird is often associated with the mythical Phoenix due to their associations with fire.


Water Buffalo


Miao Batik

The horns of the water buffalo, symbolizing Miao ancestor’s life and death.


Modern Batik


Miao Batik Although there are thousands of different batik designs, particular designs have traditionally been associated with traditional festivals and specific religious ceremonies. Previously, it was thought that certain cloth had mystical powers to ward off bad luck, while other pieces could bring good luck. Today, a large number of artists apply the traditional batik in their modern art. They bring in new themes and include more cultural and social messages adding modern concept in line with batik.

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