Miao Hmong Silver Jewelry Showcase

A saying of the Miao goes like this “The beauty of golden pheasant lies in its feather, and the beauty of Miao Hmong girl lies in her silver jewelries.” The sparkling and clanking silver jewelries are stunning and are highlights to the landscape of the Miao Hmong village.

Miao women love to dress in unique silver jewelries from head to toe. Here are just a few kinds.

 

Silver Headdress

 

Miao Hmong silver headdresses are quite a sight and are worn only on very special occasions, like weddings or significant festivals. They include five different parts: the horn, the crown, the comb, the flowers and the hairpin.

 

Silver Horn

 

Miao Hmong silver horns are crafted to mimic the horns of an ox. The two horns can be as much as three feet apart! And they’re quite tall, almost doubling the height of the wearer.

An image of two dragons playing with a pearl is often engraved, symbolizing wishes for an auspicious future. But each silver horn is unique. Some women adorn the horns with different kinds of silver pendants like phoenixes, birds, and butterflies. A pair of white feathers is usually put on the horns to make them even taller and more attractive. Miao silver jewelry

 

Silver Crown

 

A silver crown is the base of the headdress and can be a foot tall and quite heavy. There are three kinds of silver crown.

The first kind is a hat completely covered with silver flowers, birds, animals, bells, and tassels. There are twelve pieces of silver feathers hanging behind the hat and reaching to their waist. This type is popular in the Huangping area of Guizhou province. Miao silver jewelry

The second kind is usually seen in Leishan, Guizhou province, which has no top and a piece of 10-centimeter wide silver with three parts. The first part on the top features 29 silver flowers. The second part in the body has warriors riding horses. The silver fringes make up the last part. Miao silver jewelry

Another type is worn by Miao Hmong women in Shidong area of Guizhou. Miao silver jewelry

 

Silver Comb

 

Miao Hmong women wear silver combs on their heads as ornaments. Patterns of flowers, birds, dragons, or deer are carved on the silver ornaments. Some combs feature the image of a Bodhisattva, with several layers of silver chains dropping down. Miao silver jewelry

 

Silver Hairpin

 

The design of Miao Hmong silver hairpins varies, but they usually feature birds, butterflies, and flowers. The most striking designs feature 10 silver flowers which look like a Chinese fan. Some hairpins look like chopsticks decorated with silver bells or long tassels.

Miao silver jewelry

 

Silver Earring

 

Tiny Miao Hmong earrings are often shaped like flowers, birds, butterflies, dragons, or plants. Miao Hmong women usually wear 3 or 4 pieces of silver earrings at one time. In some areas a single silver earring can weigh 200 grams, and reach all the way down to their shoulders. But many small earrings have threads which are as thin as a piece of paper.

Miao silver jewelry

 

Silver Necklace

 

A Miao Hmong silver necklace is wide and heavy, and has many pendants hanging from it. Smaller silver necklaces are rarely worn.

There are many kinds of necklace popular in the Miao Hmong areas. One kind of dragon silver necklace is quite impressive. It features two dragons playing with a pearl and has 11 silver tassels dangling from the bottom. Another kind of necklace has 14 silver rings linked tightly together, while silver birds or butterflies hang down from each ring. Miao silver jewelry Miao silver jewelry

 

Silver Bracelet

 

The Miao Hmong silver bracelets are engraved with the images of flowers, fish, or dragons. Some bracelets feature wide band which is like the cuffs worn by warriors in ancient times. Miao Hmong women usually show off 4 or 5 silver bracelets at one time, sometimes more during festivals or holidays. Miao silver jewelry

 

Silver Ring

 

A Miao Hmong silver ring is usually quite small and has fine pieces of silver bent and shaped into flowers, birds, or plants. In some Miao Hmong areas, women have rings on all eight fingers except their thumbs. Some rings are big enough to cover half the length of their fingers!

Miao silver jewelry Miao silver jewelry

 

Silver Costume

 

A silver costume in Leishan area normally has 44 silver pieces sewn onto the fabric. Each silver piece has vivid patterns like flowers, butterflies, tigers, lions, and dragons engraved on them. Whereas in Shidong area, silver costume have as many as 380 silver pieces sewn onto the costume. When they walk and dance, the silver ornaments make beautiful sounds.

Miao silver jewelry Miao silver jewelry

 

Silver Waistband

 

A silver waistband displays tens or even hundreds of silver images of Bodhisattvas sewn on a piece of cloth. The Miao Hmong wrap it tightly around their waist, and they sparkle when the Miao Hmong dance.

One famous waistband displayed in a Miao Hmong museum features 105 unique silver Bodhisattvas images, each of which has different facial expression and gesture, reflecting the incredible imagination and creativity of the Miao Hmong artisan. Miao silver jewelry

 

Silver Anklet

 

Last but not least are small but sturdy silver anklets that clasp above the foot. Silver anklets are usually worn by children to drive away evil spirits and bring them a bright future.

Miao silver jewelry

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Miao Hmong Costume-A History Book Worn on Body

Miao costume If you are fortunate enough to visit a Miao Hmong village during festivals or wedding ceremonies, you will be dazzled by the varied and colorful costumes and silver ornaments of Miao Hmong women.

Miao Hmong clothes are appealing not only because of their unique styles and craftsmanship, but also because they reveal the rich Miao Hmong culture and its long history. Their costumes are an integral part of their culture.

 

Long History

 

Miao costume Mountains and rivers make Miao Hmong villages difficult to access, which reduce the impact of modern civilization and help them maintain old traditions. Some old costumes from Chinese history recorded in ancient books from the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220) have long since disappeared in many parts China, however, such costumes can still be found in the Miao Hmong community. Some foreigners who have visited the Miao Hmong call them “Living Terra Cotta Warriors.”

 

Great Artistry

 

Miao Hmong costumes are skillfully made with rich colors and great artistry. The crafts of embroidery, batik dyeing, appliqué quilting, weaving and silversmith technique have been handed down from generation to generation. Miao Hmong girls learn to embroider and do batik dyeing from the age of six or seven. Girls who live near water often use fish and shrimp as motifs, whilst those who live in the mountains use flowers and birds as motifs. The designs are symmetrical flowers, butterflies, birds, animals and geometric patterns. Many motifs used in Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan are similar to those used by the Yao people of Guang Xi and of the Golden Triangle of northern Thailand who are of the same ethnic origin. The designs used in south-eastern Guizhou are similar to the ancient Chinese Chu culture and other designs are similar to those used by the Han, Manchu, Yi, Buyi and Dong people of China, showing their ethnic relationship to those cultures. Miao costume

 

Strong Culture Message

 

The Miao people, whose religious beliefs are thought of as primitive, have a strong sense of nation. Without written script, they pass their cultural and traditions not just through oral literature, but also clothing.

The clothes bear strong culture message. Different patterns and designs on the clothes retain rich meaning and refer to legendary stories about such things as their origins, wars and religious beliefs. Therefore, historians view them as the “Wearable History Book”.

The patterns of The Butterfly Mother, which records the origin of human beings, and Jiangyang who shot the sun and the moon, narrate the heroic legend of their ancestors. Many theme patterns such as Yellow River, Yangtze River, the plain and the city portray the tragic immigration history of their ancestors. The Miao Hmong people look to these patterns as history books with which no nationality can compare. The patterns have been passed down through generations as a symbol of the Miao Hmong group to memorize their ancestors and ancient homes. The Miao Hmong costumes speak to the world: “We are the Miao Hmong people and we came from the Yellow River and out of the Yangtze River and through long journeys and rugged paths, we have developed our splendid culture.”

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Miao Hmong Silver and Tibet Silver vs. Sterling Silver and Pure Silver

 

Miao Hmong silver

 

Miao silver jewelry

Miao silver is not pure silver, but an alloy of silver, copper and nickel. It’s a traditional material for making jewelry by craftsmen of Miao Hmong ethnic tribe. The percentage of silver is about 60%. Miao Hmong silver jewelry is distinctive for its design, style and craftsmanship. Miao Hmong silver jewelry is completely handmade, carved with decorative patterns. It’s not easy to make and there is no pair exactly the same. Miao Hmong people think silver accessories have spirits. Wear it more, clean it more, it will reward you with more beautiful luster.

Miao silver gets oxidized,especially during summer when people sweat a lot. Less moisture and no chemicals will keep it shine longer. Polish it the same way as you do with your 925 silver accessories. Or just use cotton to polish it. Keep it in a sealed package when you don’t wear it.

 

Tibetan silver

 

Miao silver jewelry

The term “Tibetan silver” is applied to a variety of metal alloys used in jewelry, some of which have no silver content at all. Historically, Tibetan silver contained 30 percent of silver, but today this is rarely the case. Modern Tibetan silver is usually cast from a mixture of copper, nickel and a small amount of silver. Some Tibetan silver also contains zinc. Its overall appearance looks like aged silver, but it can be polished to give highlights on complex castings.

 

Sterling silver

 

Miao silver jewelry

Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925. Fine silver (99.9% pure) is generally too soft to produce functional objects. Therefore, the silver is usually alloyed with copper to give it strength, while at the same time preserving the ductility and beauty of the precious metal. Other metals can replace the copper, usually with the intent to improve various properties of the basic sterling alloy such as reducing casting porosity, eliminating firescale, and increasing resistance to tarnish. These replacement metals include germanium, zinc and platinum, as well as a variety of other additives, including silicon and boron.

 

Fine silver

 

Miao silver jewelry

Fine silver has a millesimal fineness of 999. Also called pure silver, or three nines fine, fine silver contains 99.9% silver, with the balance being trace amount of impurities. This grade of silver is used to make bullion bars for international commodities trading and investment in silver. In the modern world, fine silver is understood to be too soft for general use. Comparing with 92.5% sterling silver, 99.9% pure silver is much softer, whiter, brighter, and no signs of impure metals can be seen, but more difficult to craft into silver jewelry.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Distinguished Varieties of Miao Hmong Costume

The Miao Hmong has a large and widely distributed population, their clothes and accessories are regionally distinctive. The variation are expressed in the length, color, collar, button, silver ornaments and the hairstyle.

 

Five Major Styles

 

Miao Hmong costumes are divided into five major styles: Southeastern Guizhou style, Mid and Southern Guizhou style, Sichuan-Guizhou style, Western Hunan style and Hainan style. Among these, Western Hunan, and Southeastern Guizhou are typical and more distinguishable.

 

Men and Women Costume in Hunan

 

Miao Hmong living in the western part of Hunan province have kept close ties with the Han Chinese since ancient times. They wear a similar style of clothing to the Han Chinese. Men wear a short Chinese-style jacket with buttons on the front and wrap their head in a turban. Women used to wear red skirts, but now prefer pants with an embroidered apron over the top and a vest over a jacket. They usually decorate the cuffs of the sleeves, edges of pants, and jacket hems with lace. They like to wear a kerchief and silver ornaments on their head. Miao costume

 

Men and Women Costume in Guizhou

 

Miao Hmong women in southeastern Guizhou province have more choices in their dress. Some like to wear a Chinese-style jacket with buttons on the right, and some wear a half-length jacket with loose sleeves. Most wear either a pleated skirt or pants. Women in this area have long hair tied in a knot on the top of the head, which they tie with a cotton kerchief. Some also have their hair tied with a scarf into a bun, and then pin a silver ornament on the bun. Men wear a short Chinese-style jacket with buttons down the front or a long gown with buttons on the right side of the front. All men wrap a band around their head.

Miao costume

Miao Hmong women wear more colorful and decorative costumes in the central and southern parts of Guizhou province. They wear a long pleated skirt and V-style jacket with buttons down the front with ribbons and ornaments. Women wrap their head with a kerchief, or wear a hat in addition to a silver necklace, silver pins, and earrings. Men in these areas wear a long gown with buttons on the right of the front and long pants.

 

Costume Distinguished in Line with Ages

 

Miao clothing is distinguished in line with ages. Dresses are often in bright colors for unmarried women, and more subdued blue, black, and gray for married or older women. The older women have a distinct hairstyle and less silver ornaments on their hair.

Miao costume While there are variations in costumes between Miao Hmong villages, there is a predominant use of silver jewelry, embroidery, and batik in women’s costumes and the Miao Hmong culture embedded in the costumes is likewise complex and rich in tradition.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Dazzling Miao Festival Costumes

Miao Hmong festival costumes are worn at festivals and sacrificial rituals or at weddings. The wedding dresses are also called “floral dresses”.

 

Miao Festival Costume Full of National Flavors

 

Miao Costume Blazing with colors, Miao Hmong festival clothes are full of nation flavors. Red, blue, yellow, white, and black are the main colors used in Miao Hmong clothing. The Miao Hmong people normally use white gunny, cotton or silk as fabric. The making of the festival costume include dyeing, wax printing and ingenuous embroidery. In addition, bright and shining silver ornaments are embedded in the dresses. With extraordinary silver ornaments, like big silver headdress, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings to match these clothes, Miao Hmong women proudly claim they are the most beautiful women in the world.

 

Motifs on the Festival Costumes

 

Miao Costume The motifs on the festival costumes are mostly living creatures in real life. For example, the “Miao Hundred Bird Jacket”, originally worn on major ceremonies to worship ancestors, is now festival attire. The jacket is big and loose with no collar. Hundred of birds and dragons are embroidered on the jacket. It is made with 7 to 10 strips of bands of embroidered motifs of frogs, dragons, birds, butterflies and insects, symbols of the Miao’s mystic culture. These elaborate motifs are in a wide range of colors and have strong ideographic expression in nation, clan and language identification.

 

Festival Jacket and Skirt

 

During festivals, weddings and important ceremonies, Miao Hmong women usually wear a short jacket with beautifully embroidered patterns on the sleeves, shoulders, and collar. In some areas, they have silver ornaments and silver bells sewn onto the jacket and they call it a “silver jacket”.

Some Miao Hmong women wear long skirts which extend to their feet, and some wear short skirts which only arrive at their knees. Their beautiful pleated skirts have as many as 40 layers with over 500 pleats.

On top of the skirts, they wear embroidered apron dropping down to the knees or feet. At the edge of the apron, there are four or five long embroidered bands like a peacock’s plumage. Under the skirts, they wear leggings to match with their embroidered shoes.

Miao Costume Miao Costume Festival costumes of the Miao Hmong are a precious element of Chinese ethnic arts and crafts and have high artistic and cultural values. The exquisiteness of the Miao Hmong clothes has put the Miao Hmong at the top of the 56 ethnic groups of China in terms of artistic standards.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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A Poem Written On Silver

Miao silver jewelry Silver has unique significance in Miao Hmong culture. The Miao people have been deeply fascinated with silver since ancient times. The culture of silver was handed down since the Qin and Han Dynasties (221BC to 220 AD). The Miao’s silver jewelry are second to none in terms of quantity and varieties. The craft has developed into a unique art form.

The silver jewelry of Miao are in large varieties, which are particularly represented by that of Leishan County of Guizhou province and Fenghuang County of Hunan Province. Silver jewelries mainly include silver crown, horn, comb, earrings, necklace, bracelet and ring. These jewelry are mainly worn by women. The reason of wearing silver is primarily aesthetic, but also as amulets to ward off evil and as symbols of wealth.

 

Significance of Silver in Miao Culture

 

It is a tradition that when a girl is born, her parents will start saving money to make fancy silver jewelry that can weigh several kilograms. On the wedding day, the girl will be wearing these beautiful silver accessories all over her body, the more and heavier the better, showing her beauty and wealth of family and adding joyful atmosphere to the event. Miao silver jewelry

 

The Origin of Miao Silver

 

In history, the Miao people live in regions of no silver resources, they had to work hard and melt almost all the silver coins and ingots they earned. This led to different levels of silver purity as currencies differed from region to region. For instance, the southeastern area of Guizhou province is divided into two parts by Leishan Mountain. In the north area, people used Dayang (a kind of silver currency) to make jewelry, so the silver purity was high, while in the south area, Erhao (a kind of silver currency) was used, so the jewelry contained less silver. Since 1950s, the Chinese government has showed great respect to Miao people’s custom and allocated certain amount of silver to them at a low price every year. Miao silver jewelry

 

Traditional Craft

 

Today’s silver jewelry with basic fixed patterns and designs are the result of years of passing down and inheritance. Casting, beating, knitting, chiseling and carving are the common techniques for making silver ornaments. The patterns adopted are mostly dragon, phoenix, flower and bird, which are lifelike and exquisite. They are largely inspired by other art forms such as embroidery and wax printing. The silversmiths continuously improve and renovate the designs and patterns while keeping the traditional designs.

Miao Hmong silver jewelries are diversified, colorful, eternal and meaningful, just like beautiful poems written on the silver worth reading perpetually.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Elegant Miao Pleated Skirt

Miao costume Though made and worn by several China’s ethnic groups, the pleated skirt is most common in the Miao Hmong tribe. Difference in length of the skirt, number of the pleats and style of ornaments distinguish the skirts of one group from another.

Pleated skirt has hundreds or even thousands of pleats. There are colorful motifs and figures embroidered on it. Most Miao Hmong women wear it except women in western Hunan province, China. It is said that in ancient times, Miao Hmong women wore tubular skirts, but they changed to pleated skirts to differentiate from other nationalities.

 

A Legend about the Pleated Skirt

 

There’s a story about the pleated skirt in the central Guizhou province. In ancient times, Miao Hmong skirts and Han were of no difference. In order to distinguish them, a mother and daughter decided to make a special skirt to symbolize the Miao Hmong. They thought for a long time. Later they were inspired by the fungus, so they made a skirt based on the pleats of the fungus. The Miao girls saw it and all praised it. Then they all learned to sew pleated skirts. So pleated skirts spread all over the Miao Hmong villages and women in different groups of the Miao Hmong began to wear pleated skirts.

 

Kinds of Pleated Skirt

 

The Miao’s pleated skirts can be divided into three kinds by the length: long, medium and short. Long skirt reaches the instep, medium exceeds the knees and short reaches above the knees. The skirt worn by Miao Hmong women in Leishan is only 20 centimeters long and people call this group as Short Skirt Miao. Miao costume Miao costume

 

Making Process

 

Miao costume The pleated skirt is beautiful and artistic but complicated and time consuming to make. Fabric of 16 to 26 meters long is needed to make the skirt. The width of the fabric will dictate the length of the skirt. All skirts are “wrap around” style and have a narrow band that ties the skirt safely on the waist.

The fabric is first laid out on the grass or ground and sprayed with a sticky liquid of water thickened with rice paste. A board is placed under one end of the fabric to fasten the fabric. They then hand pleated the fabric. This pleating is very fast and only the skilled woman can keep the pleats even and identical.

The fabric is again sprayed with the water and rice paste mixture and the pleats are sewn together with thread to fix the patterns. This pleating process may take several days to complete. The fabric is then tied around a round wood to keep the pleats in place while the fabric is left to dry.

Next, the fabric is dyed, washed and dried. The process of dying, washing and drying is repeated many times to get the desired color. Dark purple and dark brown are popular colors.

Miao costume

After the dyeing process is complete, decorative strips are sewn to the bottom of the skirts, either embroidered band or handmade ribbons.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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