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 Post subject: Dai Blankets
PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2008 10:03 am 
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Posts: 54
Hello All,

I was wondering if any of you can provide me with some information on Dai minority blankets from Dehong, southwest Yunnan. I am simply fascinated by the combination of colors and patterns in these blankets, especially the mirroring of images in the medallions.

Unfortunately there seems to be very little information out there. The only reference I have come across in regards to these blankets is one picture giving an age of over 100 years (which I find hard to believe), and a short blurb that talks about how "the acute angles and rhomboid shapes give these blankets an intense rhythm". Not very helpful . . . .

About the only thing I have been able to make out in these blankets are the peacocks, and another type of bird, and the temple structure.

Perhaps someone with knowledge of Thai or Burmese textiles will be able to shed more light on these blankets, as the Dai are a Thai people, and this region shares a long and porous border with Burma.


Attachments:
Dai Blanket 1.jpg
Dai Blanket 1.jpg [ 81.81 KiB | Viewed 9306 times ]
Dai Blanket 2.jpg
Dai Blanket 2.jpg [ 74.97 KiB | Viewed 9306 times ]
Dai Blanket 2a.jpg
Dai Blanket 2a.jpg [ 98.5 KiB | Viewed 9306 times ]
Dai Blanket 2b.jpg
Dai Blanket 2b.jpg [ 88 KiB | Viewed 9306 times ]


Last edited by JT_BJ on Wed Apr 02, 2008 10:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2008 10:06 am 
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One more blanket . . . .


Attachments:
Dai Blanket 3.jpg
Dai Blanket 3.jpg [ 72.19 KiB | Viewed 9296 times ]
Dai Blanket 3a.jpg
Dai Blanket 3a.jpg [ 97.54 KiB | Viewed 9296 times ]
Dai Blanket 3b.jpg
Dai Blanket 3b.jpg [ 90.59 KiB | Viewed 9295 times ]
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 Post subject: Blankets to Dai For...
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 4:13 pm 
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Posts: 393
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hello JT_BJ-
Many thanks for posting some of these lovely blankets! You have some very nice examples. I have also been trying to learn more about these, but information is not forthcoming- some of the Chinese dealers say they're from Yunnan and some say Guangxi. You have come the closest to pinning down a specific location. These are most unusual in the weaving structure and the motifs used. These have a curious similarity in weave to that of the long funeral banners woven by the Tai people in NW Vietnam, near Laos, but the motifs are not at all alike. I no longer have either piece to compare side by side or to take closer photos, but it would be interesting to do so.


Attachments:
Mail-Tai Banner-TAL214.jpg
Mail-Tai Banner-TAL214.jpg [ 55.29 KiB | Viewed 9232 times ]
Mail-Tai Banner Detail-TAL214_Detail_2.jpg
Mail-Tai Banner Detail-TAL214_Detail_2.jpg [ 74.93 KiB | Viewed 9232 times ]
Mail-Dai Blanket-TACH329.jpg
Mail-Dai Blanket-TACH329.jpg [ 57.09 KiB | Viewed 9232 times ]
Mail-Dai Blanket-TACH329_Detail_1.jpg
Mail-Dai Blanket-TACH329_Detail_1.jpg [ 124.2 KiB | Viewed 9232 times ]
Mail-Dai Blnkt.-TACH329_Detail_2.jpg
Mail-Dai Blnkt.-TACH329_Detail_2.jpg [ 120.39 KiB | Viewed 9232 times ]

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Susan Stem

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:37 am 
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Posts: 54
Susan,

Thank you for posting those pictures of the Tai funeral banner. There does seem to be a resemblance between this piece and the Dai blankets in the geometric shape of the medallions, as well as they symmetry they display.

I agree that the weaving of these blankets is highly unusual. It is a strange combination of a very rough and loose weave for the backing, and a rather sophisticated weave for the motifs.

I was able to find out just a bit more about the origin of these blankets after talking to a few dealers over the weekend. They are most definitely from Dehong, near the Burmese border. The region is now opening up because of the completion of the new highway passing through that links Kunming to Bangkok, and more of these blankets are finding their way out.

I also got a quick education on the imagery of the blankets as well, though I'm not sure how much was based on fact, and how much was just a sales pitch.
- The larger medallion represents the water, the smaller ones the land
- The reflections are representations of earth/sky or earth/heaven
- There are indeed two different types of birds represented - one is a peacock, the other a duck.

Some of the images are apparently up for debate:
- The "dots" in the large medallions are either cowrie shells or fish
- The "temple" in the small medallion is either a temple, a mountain, a spirit, or a person (in some of the newer blankets the figure is most definitely human-like)

And no one was able to tell me what the other image in the small medallion is.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 5:06 pm 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
JT_BJ- Thank you for doing some more sleuthing- the information about motifs is interesting. Initially I was taken by the resemblance overall of the design to that of tribal rugs with their heirarchy of medallion motifs; those of the Turkmen especially come to mind. But then, the wonderful design element of the seam and linear alignment of the pattern is not an issue in rugs, as it is with these, and other textiles woven in several panels.

As I said before, the weaving structure is especially curious and I have just found a reference to the structure of the Tai banner that might be pertinent (from Gittinger & Lefferts' Textiles and the Tai Experience in Southeast Asia; p.134, fig. 3.47):

Quote:
The long narrow textiles are singular in the Southeast Asian scene because of their structure. Three different color wefts, usually cream, orange, and blue, are inserted into each shed; that color needed for the design is brought to the surface where it is secured by a separate binding warp, usually indigo blue, which is in addition to the blue foundation warp. No other wefts are employed. Because of the complexity of this structure and the limited range in design and color it is possbile all were woven in a single location, possibly by a single weaver. This would be termed a weft-faced compound weave (my emphasis). Such structures were known in both China and India.


(My banner was a bit different in that it did not incorporate the cream in the main design; more recent versions use black instead of indigo (blue).)

What you describe as "backing" is part of the complex structure of two levels of warp threads. Not that I really understand it, but you do get a sense of it if you study the detailed photos.

I don't know about the claim that perhaps a single weaver made this style of banner in Vietnam; I have seen numerous examples utilizing different materials, colors and weaving skill. But I do think it very interesting that they say that this structure is known in China. Perhaps we're seeing an example with this genre of blanket.

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http://www.tribaltrappings.com
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Last edited by susan stem on Tue Apr 15, 2008 7:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 1:13 pm 
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Susan,

Thank you for shedding some illumination on a very curious weaving technique. I must admit I do not quite understand it fully either, but it does sound like a wonderfully complex style of weaving, and adds yet another dimension to these truly wonderful blankets.

I am attaching photos which may illustrate the idea of the dual warp layers. The first photo shows an area which has suffered some wear. The weft was woven with silk, parts of which have since worn away. You can clearly see loose strands of warp hanging. The second picture is of the same area, but taken from the back of the blanket. The structure looks to be completely intact.

And just for fun, I am also attaching pictures of another type of Dai blanket. The central motif is an elephant's foot/footprint, surrounded by a border of stylized tusks.


Attachments:
Dai Blanket 3 detail front.jpg
Dai Blanket 3 detail front.jpg [ 61.79 KiB | Viewed 9129 times ]
Dai Blanket 3 detail back.jpg
Dai Blanket 3 detail back.jpg [ 61.06 KiB | Viewed 9129 times ]
Dai Blanket 4.jpg
Dai Blanket 4.jpg [ 60.85 KiB | Viewed 9129 times ]
Dai Blanket 4a.jpg
Dai Blanket 4a.jpg [ 57.25 KiB | Viewed 9129 times ]
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 5:24 pm 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
JT_BJ-
Wow! Great photos of the threads- they really show the depth/layers of warp threads. But what really knocks me out is your last blanket photo... the motifs and pattern is blatantly 'Turkic'! I'll look thru my books and see what I can compare it to and will post some photos. I did do a little search to see if there are any Turkic speaking people in the Dehong area and cannot find any evidence of any; the predominant peoples are Dai and Jingpaw.

...to be continued.

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Susan Stem

http://www.tribaltrappings.com
http://tribaltrappings.blogspot.com/


Last edited by susan stem on Tue Apr 15, 2008 7:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 3:25 am 
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Susan,

I'm glad you like the last blanket. It does indeed feel much more Central Asian than Southeast Asian. Since a major section of the Southwestern Silk Road passed through the Dehong region, it is quite reasonable to think that the people there were exposed to Turkic goods and/or people at some point, perhaps even continuously for an extended period.

I don't know if you've had a chance to read the wonderful article Horses, Silver, and Cowries: Yunnan in Global Perspective by Bin Yang. In it, he discusses the importance of the region not only to global trade, but also in terms of religious and cultural exchange. You can read it online at: http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jwh/15.3/yang.html

I also remember reading somewhere about a possible Central Asian influence on the bronzes of the Dian Kingdom (4th century BCE - 109 BCE). I am not suggesting that the design influence for this blanket dates back that far, but it is interesting to note that there was already a possible connection between the regions over 2000 years ago.

I can't wait to see what you come up with as comparisons!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 4:52 pm 
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I am so enjoying this thread - many thanks to Jon (JT_BJ) and Susan for sharing these wonderful textiles with us and also their information and ideas.

I was looking for a map of where the Dehong region is in Yunnan and came across this language website http://www.omniglot.com/writing/tainua.htm and some (to me) interesting information which linguistically reinforces the link between the weaving of the Dai blankets and the Tai banner:
Quote:
"Dehong Dai script
Origins
The Dehong Dai script developed from a script known as Old Dai, which developed from a script called Baiyi. The Dehong script is used mainly by the Tai Ne/Le people in the Dehong region in southwestern Yunnan province. It has also been used on occasion by the Jingpo people.

Notable features:
Each consonant has an inherent vowel /a/. Other vowels are indicated by separate letters.
Words are not separated by spaces. Instead spaces appear between clauses and sentences.
Used to write:
Dehong Dai, a Tai language with about 443,000 speakers mainly in Dehong Prefecture of Yunnan province in the southwest of China. It is also spoken in northern Vietnam, France, Laos, Myanmar, Switzerland, Thailand. The language has many names, including Tai Nua, Tai Neua, Tai Le, Chinese Shan and Chinese Tai.

The Wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dehong_Dai ... Prefecture gives an idea of Dehong location.

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Pamela

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 19, 2008 4:33 pm 
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Susan's last post led me on quite an interesting search for other groups who use the same motif. It turns out to be quite pervasive in various forms among the minorities of SW China.

The Jingpo, who live in the same vicinity refer to this pattern as a buffalo horn design. To the Tujia, it represents the braced arms of people. The Dong use it to symbolize a dragon. (Incidentally, this is also what the motif represents in Turkic design)

Despite the different interpretations regarding the imagery, the groups all seem to associate this motif with the same meaning - strength and protection.

Perhaps we are looking at an archetypal motif here?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 4:33 pm 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
JT_BJ et al-
Apologies for 'breaking this thread' so to speak... I too have been on a bit of a textilian odyssey in search of information regarding various possible connections and influences on the textiles of this area. The first stop was at the exhibition WOVEN SPLENDOR FROM TIMBUKTU TO TIBET: EXOTIC RUGS AND TEXTILES FROM NEW YORK COLLECTORS at the New York History Society showing a Karakalpak bag face https://www.nyhistory.org/web/images/Exhibits_Collections/Exhibits/woven/ex_102_panel_karakalpak_tribe.jpg. That brought to mind the excellent research done on the Karakalpaks by David and Sue Richardson, so I contacted them. David replied with a very thoughtful essay showing similar motifs all over SE Asia and into Indonesia, and pointed out that without the archaeological evidence for a possible source and continuity of the motif it would be very difficult to pin down to a given place/people. I'll try to paraphrase below his well-conceived essay for the sake of space and hope that I do not do it an injustice.

As David points out, this 'latch hook' motif (as it is called in rug books) used with a diamond becomes a "hooked diamond"and "is a complex motif ... and it's distribution points to some historical process of cultural dispersal, which might or might not have involved human migration." He also states that "it seems likely that these motifs are of nomadic rather than urban origin and are much more ancient, certainly pre-dating the formation of the current Turkic confederations such as the Uzbeks, Kazakhs and Karakalpaks in the 15th and 16th centuries and possibly pre-dating the formation of earlier confederations like the Turkmen and Kyrgyz." (In my own library I found numerous examples of latch hooks and hooked diamonds from the Caucasus, on Shahsavan and Kazak kilims and carpets, especially in Ian Bennett's Oriental Rugs, Volume 1, Caucasian, as well as on a few Turkish kilims.)

A similar motif to the latch hook shows up on pottery from an archaeological site of the Andronovo culture in southern Siberia and dates from the early 2nd millenium BC. But the problem is continuity of the motif; it does not appear in a succeeding Scythian/Saka culture of the 1st millenium BC. He states that "the geometric hooked motifs of the Andronovo appear to have completely gone out of fashion. Have they become temporarily extinct only to be recreated at a later date or have they survived in some other neighboring culture that we have yet to identify?" He also notes that the problem in tracking the motifs is due to "the limited quantity of artefacts that have survived from the earlier periods, especially those relating to nomadic societies."

Regarding southeast Asia and southwestern China, he thinks a connection could be made IF continuity of the motifs could be found into the 1st millenium BC when the various Silk Road trade routes came into being and the Tai-speaking peoples who had migrated south would have been exposed to them. The Dai are Tai-speakers, as are Tai Lue, Lao-Tai and others who have made use of this motif or those very similar.

I haven't fully digested your very interesting article about the Southwestern Silk Road to which you referred, but find it interesting that there is so much controversy about the routes and the chronology. Bin Yang says that even the name of the southwest route(s) has yet to be agreed upon. He also states that there were four main branches and numerous sub-branches. As you mentioned, the Dehong area was near or on at least two of these main routes. Another branch went from Yunnan to Vietnam and that makes me wonder about the similarity in the weaving structure, tho it is probably a huge leap from 19th/20th century textile structure to 1st or 2nd century trade routes.

I have some thoughts about motifs deriving from technical circumstances, but will save that for later.

Wouldn't this be a great topic for some graduate student...?

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Susan Stem

http://www.tribaltrappings.com
http://tribaltrappings.blogspot.com/


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 6:16 am 
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Susan,

First of all, a big thanks to both you and David Richardson for your investigative work into the origins and subsequent use of this motif. I would love to read the full response if he doesn't mind you forwarding it along.

I agree that establishing a continuous time line to connect the geographic and temporal dots of this motif would be quite problematic.

It would be interesting to see if this motif appears on any Chinese neolithic pottery, bringing the issue closer to home, so to speak.


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