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Bailing Miao - indigo wax resist coverlets, November 2001

Ecerpt from my travel diary for 03 Nov 2001:

We then went up the pathway to a Miao village - Ma Guang village, Ji Chang township, Duyun city, Guizhou province. The elderly woman whom we had come to see demonstrate wax resist for us was not at home. However, whilst we waited for her, two men of the household produced some beautiful wax resist for us to see, including one long piece in a formal design which was still in the process of being waxed. The wax was very dark and it was applied on what looked like a raw cotton which it was clear had been treated with something to give it a very smooth surface and to keep it flat and taut - although the men were unaware of this and denied it. They told us that this and other, more free style indigo dyed lengths with designs of flowers, fish and birds of wax resist were used in funeral ceremonies although it was very difficult to feel certain that this was, in fact the case. They might also have been used for bed covers. Whatever their eventual use the pieces were waxed and dyed as two similar mirror image lengths and then sewn together. Before we left Gina bought a finished two-piece cover in the formal design similar to the one strip we had previously seen partly waxed. top

We also saw a couple of pieces of waxed indigo, yellow and pink dyed fabric for the sleeves of a woman's jacket and a piece of what looked like commercially dyed bright blue/turquoise cloth which had been waxed and then over-dyed with indigo. The material would be cut up into strips to be used as part of a woman's head-dress. There were some lengths of hand woven, unbleached cotton hanging in the house probably having been washed waiting to be used for waxing.

Eventually the old woman who lived in the house returned - dragged back from market by our guide, Miss Mong. The woman was 85 years old and one of only three women in the village, all over 70 years old, who still did wax resist. The woman agreed to demonstrate some waxing for us. She seemed worried to use a piece of woven unbleached cotton cloth which was rather crumpled. When asked she told us that the fabric was usually rinsed before waxing in water which had been used to rinse the rice - the smooth surface which we had previously observed was thus the result of rice starch. Her wax - which she said was bees wax - was heated in a bowl resting on a small fire in a bowl creating embers.


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