Peonies & Co.: The Enchanting Power of the Chinese Flower

Written by Maria Giglio

Attention boyfriends of the world, I’m about to tell you the secret to a woman’s heart: if you love her, bring her flowers. That’s right, that’s it. Every woman in the world has a thing with flowers… unless she’s allergic, of course. In any case, no doubt she will fall in your arms. But why? Well, for starters it’s the simplest gesture to show appreciation to your other half. Plus, because there is a mystic, millennial symbolic connection between flowers and women.

Many cultures worship flowers as a universal image of feminine grace, beauty and prosperity. For example, in Christian tradition the Virgin Mary is often associated with the lily, symbol of purity or referred to as “Mystical Rose” without thorn to represent her sinless nature. In Buddhist culture, the lotus is worshipped as a symbol of perfection and fertility; resembling the woman’s uterus with its rounded shape, this flower is known for its incredible beauty and the capacity to stay clean despite flourishing in swamps and wet habitats. The energising power of flowers and spring are immortalised in Botticelli’s eternal masterpiece La Primavera.

In Botticelli’s La Primavera, Flora (3rd figure on the right) personifies the rebirth of Spring wearing a floral dress

Naturally, this charming love story between flowers and women reaches one of its highest peeks in Chinese culture, where it has been widely celebrated over millennia by a prosperous artistic tradition.

Chinese blossoms

Since ancient times, the Chinese have cultivated a true passion for flowers, by decorating their public and private spaces with beautiful gardens. Interestingly, the Chinese word for flower is “花” (huā) and visually represents the magic of a flower in bloom. In fact, the character is a compound, growing from the radical for grass “艹” under which the magic joyful metamorphosis of a plant when producing flowers is represented by a cheerful character.

On the twelfth day of the second month of each lunar year, as soon as nature awakens, a Spring Festival is held in honour of百花深 (Bǎihuā shēn), the White Goddess of Flowers, to celebrate fertility. As in other cultures, Chinese people too associate flowers with women and beauty very frequently, although the symbology related to flowers is much richer and varied, as evidenced by traditional and tribal art and poetry production.

Pink peonies

King of Flowers

Among the many flowers linked to Chinese culture, peony is certainly the most treasured by Chinese people. The equivalent of the Westerners’ beloved rose, the peony is also known as the king of flowers (花王, Huāwáng), existing in two main varieties, the tree and herbaceous peony. The original Chinese word for the herbaceous peony was 芍药 (sháo yào) to refer to the medical properties of the flower. Shao (芍) means in fact a spoonful (勺) of plant (艹), whereas yao (药) means medicine. After a while, both the tree and herbaceous varieties were known as 牡丹 (mudan). This word consists of two characters. The character 牡 (mu) is composed of the radicals for ox (牛) and and earth (土). The character 丹 (dan) means either pill, probably referring to the healing properties ascribed to the peony in Traditional Chinese Medicine, or the typical colour red, as a typical variety of the flower.

An ancient passion

Up until the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912 A.D.), the peony was renowned as the official national flower of China, as per appointment by Empress Dowager Cixi in 1903. As a matter of fact, Chinese passion for this flower sprang around 1,400 years ago. During the Tang Dynasty (around 600 A.D.) peonies started to be employed to decorate the imperial gardens and soon began to spread everywhere else in China. An imperial emblem of opulence and beauty, peonies were featured in paintings and textiles, as well as used in poetical allegories to celebrate the prosperity of the nation. Among the most valuable, the red ones represent wealth, while white peonies symbolize the beauty and cheerfulness of Chinese young girl.

Cultivating national pride

After the Cultural Revolution, the Peony is not recognised the official status of national flower anymore, though its fame and glorious reputation is unvaried in the heart of the Chinese people as it embodies the national hope for an ever-growing prosperity. Over the last twenty years people already expressed their willing twice by casting a ballot (one in 1994 and one 2003) for a renovated official acknowledgment by the Government of the peony as a national emblem. The proposal is still pending.

Although Chinese peonies can be found almost everywhere in the country, Luoyang (Henan Province, Eastern China) is certainly the best place to admire their beautiful blossoms. Renowned as the city of peonies, Luoyang offers a spectacular Peony garden showcasing over 500 varieties in full bloom. The garden is famous for hosting a peony high over 3 metres and as old as 1,600 years.

A view of Luoyang Peony Garden

Flowers in Chinese traditional fashion: take your pick!

The passion for flowers is vividly featured in the traditional apparel of Chinese people.

Back in the 60s Scott McKenzie used to sing “if you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair”. If you insteadwant to wear flowers everywhere, check out our exclusive florid collection of handmade Qipaos!

Amongst the 56 minorities in China, Miao people hold pomegranate blossoms 石榴花 (Shíliú huā) particularly at heart. A national cultural heritage as enlisted by UNESCO, Miao embroidery features pomegranate flowers to symbolise the wish for prosperity. If you want a taste of this true textile rarity, check out these handmade bags that our Miao artisan partners have created exclusively for our costumers!

If you smell a nice deal… Discover these and more products on!

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, 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, 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, we would love to hear from you! 


Tibetan Thangka Painting

The news that Chinese collector Liu Yiqian splashed around $45 million on a Thangka at a Christie’s sale in Hong Kong on Nov 26,2014 has overwhelmed social media. Then do you know what Thangka is and why it was sold at such a high price?

This imperial embroidered silk Thangka sold for 348 million HK dollars at Christie’s 2014 Hong Kong Autumn Auctions on Nov 26, 2014.
 Chinese Thangka

What is Thangka?

Thang in Tibetan means to display and ka means silk. Thangka is a kind of painting art– religious painting – that originated during the reign of Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo (AD 617-650) and prospered during the 18th and 19th centuries. A Thangka is a painting drawn on cotton or silk appliqué with vivid ethnic features and intense religious colors, which usually depicts the history, politics, culture and social life of the Tibetan people.

Thangka is often worshipped in temples, Buddha’s halls or even in Buddhist disciples’ homes in Tibet, which has been not only a pure handicraft, but more of a religious symbol.

It is mainly divided into two categories, painting Thangka and embroidered Thangka. The former one is directly painted on canvas using traditional pigments. The latter is embroidered on silk satin using precious mineral gems such as gold, silk, pearl, coral, agate, zinnober and plant pigments such as saffron crocus and indigo. Obviously, the latter one is of more artistic value, whose gorgeous colors can last for several centuries.

Photo taken on June 13 shows a Thangka painting on display during Tibet’s first selection of arts and crafts masters held in the Research Institute of Ethnic and Folk Arts in Lhasa from June 12 to 15, 2013.
 Chinese Thangka

How is it created?

The creation of a Thangka piece is like a journey of self-cultivation. Generally, the manufacturing process includes chanting sutras while preparing pigments, polishing canvas, grinding painting materials, sketching, designing, measuring, coloring, shading, delineating and the finishing touch.

The proportion of Buddha figures and the overall layout of the painting have to meet specific requirements, and the painter has to follow strict ritual procedures of Tibetan Buddhism in its creation.

The creation of a whole Thangka piece usually takes months or even years. During the long process, the artist, cherishing pious Buddhism beliefs, paints while chanting in accordance with the strict standards of composition, proportion and color inherited from ancestors. Therefore, Thangka is a kind of special art form which has irreplaceable artistic values.

Visitors take photos of Thangka during a Thangka art festival in Lhasa, Tibet autonomous region, Sept 25, 2014.
 Chinese Thangka
The Thangka on display in Maizhokunggar county in Lhasa on June 28, 2013 was recognized as the world’s largest Thangka.
 Chinese Thangka

The world’s largest Thangka:

An embroidered Thangka, 120 meters high and 85 meters wide, was on display in Maizhokunggar county in Lhasa on June 28, 2013. It had 19 painted Buddhas. The creation of the Thangka took 9 years and was recognized as the world’s largest Thangka, also the world’s largest handicraft.

The world’s most expensive Thangka:

The embroidered Thangka bought by Liu Yiqian for about $45 million is seen as the most expensive Thangka so far.

Thangka art by artist Niangben from Regong in Qinghai province. Photo provided to China Daily
 Chinese Thangka

The Thangka Liu bought was from the period during the reign of Emperor Yongle in the Ming Dynasty. It is the largest Tibetan embroidered Buddha Thangka from ancient times with a theme of driving out evil spirits. According to Christie’s, there are only three pieces of Yongle Thangkas existing and the other two are both in Jokhang Temple in Tibet.

by Xiao Xiao

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, 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, we would love to hear from you!

Tibetan Thangka Painting (II)

Most of the thangkas use flat white cotton cloth as the canvas for the painting. Some are painted on paper or leather. Others are embroidered, appliquéd, woven and patchwork thangkas.


Painted Thangka

Painted thangkas are most commonly seen. According to the color of the background, painted thangka are divided into four types.

(1) Multi-color background

Thangka Painting

(2) Yellow background

Thangka Painting

(3) Vermilion background

Thangka Painting

(4) Black background

Thangka Painting


Embroidered Thangka


Embroidered thangka uses colored silk threads to make landscapes, figures, flowers, plumes, and pavilions.

Thangka Painting

Thangka Painting


Brocade Thangka


Brocade thangka uses satin as the base and several colors of silk as the weft. Through jacquard weaving the design is “copied” onto the fabric.

Thangka Painting


Applique Thangka


Applique thangka use colored satin, cut into a variety of characters and graphics and pasted onto the fabric. The resulting work is also called “embossed embroidery.”

Thangka Painting Thangka Painting


Tapestry Thangka


Tapestry thanka is woven with the method of complete warps and broken wefts which applies the weft threads on the warp only where the picture or design needs. The hollowed out work produces a three dimensional effect. Tapestry thanka is thick, closely woven, delicately designed and gorgeously decorated with colored silk threads. Tapestry thangka utilizes the weft pass-through approach creating an intense decorative effect. Other colorful designs are decorated with precious stones and gems stitched together with gold threads that create an exceptionally dazzling combination.

Thangka Painting


Silk Tapestry Thangka


Silk tapestry is an art form unique to China whereby the drawing is transplanted onto silk. These Thangka fabric textures are generously thick and rigorously well knit. The designs are exquisite with magnificent coloring. Tibetan Thangka fabrics are specially designed in Mainland China, particularly in the Yong Le period (AD1402- AD1424), Ming Dynasty. Over the years, they spread to Tibet, where Tibetans were also able to produce fabrics from local embroidery and applique thangka methods.

Thangka Painting


Pearl Thangka


The pearl thangka is the most desirable of all. It is another kind of thanka in which beautifully designed colored fabrics decorated with pearls and precious stones are attached to the fabric with gold thread thereby creating a resplendent and dazzling effect. The pearl Thangka with the figure of Arya Avalokiteshvara is the treasure of Trundruk Monastery. This Thangka is 2 meters high and 1.2 meters wide. It is made of 2,9026 pearls, one diamond, two rubies, one sapphire, 0.55 liang (about 25g) purple gem, 185 kallaites, 15.5g gold and 4.1 liang (more than 200g). So many years have passed this priceless pearl thangka is still in good condition, making itself more valuable.

Thangka Painting


Printing Thangka


Thangka Painting Thangka Painting

There are two types of printing thangka. One type overlays color designs then prints is mounted. The other takes a carving of the design and dips it with ink to print it on thin silk or fine cloth, and then made color-mounted. This Thangka, thin-stroked, strong-bladed, with dyed ink colors is clearly structured and unique. This rich, elegant style possesses a three dimensional decorative effect.

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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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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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Miao Hmong Embroidery Myth and Legend

Miao Hmongembroidery use motifs of mountains, sun, butterflies, flowers, birds and creatures to express their history, religious belief, myths and lives. There are so many stories and history recorded in Miao Hmong embroidery.


Butterfly Mother


Miao Embroidery Miao Embroidery

Butterfly Mother by myth is Miao’s ancestor. She was born on the maple tree. She flew over the lake and fell in love with the water bubble. She laid 12 eggs. The bird helped to hatch the eggs and all the eggs grew into different animals except the largest one who was Miao Hmong ancestor. Butterfly Mother created not only Miao Hmong people but also other creatures hoping Miao Hmong would not feel alone. She believes Miao Hmong people and the creatures will help each other and live in harmony.


Jiwei Bird


Miao Embroidery Butterfly Mother laid 12 eggs and hatched by a bird. The bird is known as Jiwei. She spent 12 years hatching the 12 eggs, who become China’s twelve zodiac animals.


Heroine Wen Maoxi


Miao Embroidery By legend Wen Maoxi was born three years after a star fell on the roof of her house. She grew up and married a young man. In that time, Miao tribe was in war with Han Chinese who invaded their village. She went with her husband to the war and fought heroically.

Miao people respect butterfly, the Jiwei Bird and Heroine Wen Maoxi. Their images always appear in Miao embroidery.


Frog Queen


Miao Embroidery Many years ago in a Miao village one day when the villagers were working in the fields, an evil spirit came into the village and stole a baby. The frog saw it and ran to warn the villagers of the danger. The villagers came and chased the evil spirit away. But the evil spirit did not go far away. It was waiting for another chance. Then it stole anther baby again. The frog ran into the forest, stopped the evil spirit and brought the baby back. Everyone was very happy and grateful to the frog. Later, the frog’s face slowly began to change into a female human being’s face.


Village Life


Miao Embroidery

The images of village life are always embroidered. Men carry wood, woman carry water. Kids are playing. Spiders are considered as reincarnations of dead relatives watching over their families.


Hand in Hand


Miao Embroidery The image of people holding hands is commonly used baby carriers and baby blankets. It depicts the Miao following the ancestor’s words to stay together and help each other.

by Xiao Xiao @

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How Miao Hmong Batik Is Made

Miao batik is an ancient handcraft dated back to Qin and Han Dynasties. This technique had been lost among Han Chinese but being kept by the Miao ethnic group located in the remote mountainous Southwest China. Batik is the foundation of ancient Chinese civilization in dyeing and weaving technology. It involves drawing, waxing (with special wax knife using beeswax), dyeing and wax melting.

First a piece of white cloth is placed on a plain board or tabletop. Wax is put into a pottery bowl or metal pot and heated with charcoal until it melts. The wax won’t dissolve in water unless the temperature is very high. Different kinds and qualities of wax are used in batik. Common waxes used for batik consist of a mixture of beeswax, used for its malleability, and paraffin, used for its friability. Resins can be added to increase adhesiveness and animal fats create greater liquidity.




Miao Batik Miao Batik

Drawing the cloth is a delightful part. Usually, a basic outline is drawn before the various patterns are waxed on. They range from flowers, birds, fishes, paper cutout patterns, to folklore tales and assorted geometric shapes. Each ethnic group has its own style.




Miao Batik Once the design is drawn out onto the cloth it is then ready to be waxed. Wax is applied to the cloth over the areas of the design that the artisan wishes to remain the original color of the cloth. Normally this is white or cream.

Waxing is, if not an art, at least a craft which requires a high degree of skill, not least because the hot wax must be applied in small amounts, quickly – otherwise the wax will cool and not be properly absorbed into the fibers of the fabric – and often deftly, otherwise the image’s contours will lack sharpness. The batik artist, in applying the hot wax that will prevent the dye from penetrating the fibers of the fabric in the targeted areas, thus produces a negative image (think of the image of a face), in the sense that the areas where the wax is applied represent reflective surfaces (think of the cheeks) while the areas where the wax is not applied represents shadowy surfaces (think of the recessed areas around the eyes). This requires not only a good grasp of how to draw an object, but also of how to draw it “in reverse”.

Miao Batik The usual tools for applying wax are of copper and brass with bamboo handles. They are made from 2 small triangular pieces of metal, their apexes bound to a bamboo holder by copper wire. It’s slightly hollow in the middle with an offset angle edge to hold the melted wax. It is held like a pen either upright or at a slant to the cloth which is laid flat on a board. This tool lends itself to the drawing of straight or slightly curving lines. Different patterns require different shapes, for example semicircular, triangular and axe shaped.




Miao Batik Then the wax-covered cloth is dipped in the pigment vat. The oldest color that was used in traditional batik making was blue. The color was made from the leaves of the Indigo plant. Lighter blue was achieved by leaving the cloth in the dye bath for short periods of time. For darker colors, the cloth would be left in the dye bath for days and may have been submerged up to 8 – 10 times a day. The final hue depended on how long the cloth was soaked in the dye bath and how often it was dipped. Skilled artisans can create many variations of these traditional colors.

The wax on the cloth often cracks after it hardens. The cloth is then dyed and the dyes seep into the cracks making fine lines, called “ice veins”. These “ice veins” distinguish genuine batik cloth from imitations. The “ice veins” are thus deemed as the soul of batik art.




The cloth is then removed from the dye and put into boiling water to remove the wax. In the final stage, the cloth is rinsed with clean water and beautiful blue and white patterns appear on the cloth.

by Xiao Xiao @

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