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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 6:20 am 
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Here are two pieces done in "bianxiu" (pleated stitch). This is one of my favorite stitches, as it gives the embroidery a wonderful textured effect.

The first piece is made up of two sleeve panels, and features two dragons chasing the flaming pearl of wisdom, surrounded by fish and butterflies. What i particularly like about this piece is the rendering of the dragons. In addition to the general attributes of a dragon, it also incorporates aspects of the centipede (legs) and bird/phoenix (tail).

The second piece is comprised of three panels, possibly from a baby carrier, or a baby blanket. It features dragons, birds, butterflies, monkeys, and some sort of insect or fish figure, all surrounding a home in which a mother cradles her child (so I've been told).

The borders on these two pieces seem to have been added at a later date. The style seems familiar, but I can't place it. Are they consistent with the area these pieces would have come from? Or were they added by a dealer to make the pieces more visually appealing?


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Miao bianxiu 1.jpg
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Miao bianxiu 1 detail.jpg
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Miao bianxiu 1 dragon.jpg
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Miao bianxiu 2.jpg
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Miao bianxiu 2 detail.jpg
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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 11:25 am 
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Hi Jon
I am wondering if whether both these pieces are not made up from jacket sleeve panels? I think that your possible location of Leishan/Taijiang is probably correct - I have many jackets from this area which use similar iconography and you find a fellow admirer in the extensive use of pleated, coiled and otherwise couched braids on textiles from this area! The fact that there are three very similar panels making up the second item does not exclude the possibility that the panels came from the same area - I can't recall seeing this particular combination of three paired dragon morphs anywhere in the literature or in Taiwanese collections (which, of course, does not mean they don't exist!). The fact that they are so similar may reflect localised paper cutout patterns being employed as has been described variously on the forum and in the literature.
I was interested to read that your source described the central figure under a roof/dragon/pearl ombination as
Quote:
all surrounding a home in which a mother cradles her child
which would indicate another interpretation and possible adaption by the Miao of what this sheltered figure represents. I have several examples in my collection of where this figure under a shelter is combined with paired dragons and pearl, and where the figure was said to represent an ancestor located inside a temple. Bearing in mind the prevalence of the paired dragons and pearl on temple rooftops located above enshrined deities (and not excluding ancestors) there is room for this interpretation too.
Regarding the border: I agree that this is probably an added feature especially as the first piece in particular appears to have certainly been made from two separate jacket sleeve panels. There are many examples of this particular border, used to finish off a piece of intricate embroidery, to be found for sale here in Taiwan. That said I do have this particular border pattern appearing on several skirts originating from Huangping County located to the north of Leishan and Taijiang Counties. The simple white line detail found on the skirts from Huangping Co. is also found on skirts I have originating in Zhenfeng Co.. However, this is located a serious distance from the previous three counties and it is unlikely that the piece was made up there! I include a couple of images to illustrate the border from two skirts in my collection - the first an adult woman's skirt from Zhenfeng and the second from a child's skirt originating in Huangping Co.. In the latter the colored pattern work adjacent to the simple white cotton lines bear similarities to those appearing on your textile.
There are also a couple of similar items on Marla Mallet's website http://www.marlamallett.com/e-7872.htm and http://www.marlamallett.com/e-7873.htm which appear to be two bands sewn together placed within a black border. Here she attributes these to the Miao in Huangping Co..


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File comment: Zhenfeng skirt detail
Zhenfeng skirt.jpg
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File comment: Huangping skirt detail
Huangping skirt.jpg
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 Post subject: Baby carrier example
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 11:41 am 
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For the sake of comparison - here is a modern baby carrier made up of numerous strips very similar to those surrounding your jacket sleeve panel combination.


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Miao baby carrier.jpg
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Miao baby carrier detail.jpg
Miao baby carrier detail.jpg [ 128.83 KiB | Viewed 10172 times ]
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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 5:03 pm 
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Iain,

Thank you for posting the pictures of the skirts and baby carrier. I knew I had seen those designs somewhere before. Once again, your visual acuity and in-depth knowledge have proved invaluable.

The dealer I bought these pieces from is actually a Geyi woman who just happens to have a penchant for "bianxiu". She was the one who originally gave me the mother and child in the house interpretation, and I have since heard it from other dealers as well. I have seen (and used to have) other pieces in this style which do incorporate ancestor figures, but they were always outside the home/temple structure, acting as guardian spirits.

The three paneled piece could very well be made up of jacket panels as well, though they are quite a bit smaller than the ones on the other textile (28cm x 19cm, vs. 37cm x 23cm). Upon closer inspection, the top and middle panels seem to be a match, while the bottom panel shows a bit more age.

Attached are photos of another three paneled piece, with the middle panel featuring a completely different design, suggesting perhaps that it came from a different source.

The central figure in this panel seems to fit in more with the description you give of an enshrined deity. This one quite resembles a fertility goddess. I was also quite taken by the depiction of the fish-dragons on top.


Attachments:
Miao bianxiu 3.jpg
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Miao bianxiu 3 detail.jpg
Miao bianxiu 3 detail.jpg [ 62.47 KiB | Viewed 10158 times ]
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 6:05 pm 
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I am not surprised that Huangping fabric is used to frame the (lovely) braid pieces. When you are in Kaili you find many women from Huangping who are frequently the dealers (they have a good commercial sense) and also they themselves, or they have access back home, to women who are fine needlewomen and it is often they who work on remaking the pieces for sale. When you think of the embroidery on their own costumes you can image the good training that they have! Kaili is very much the centre of this work and for women from Geyi, Taijiang, Leishan and Huangping it is very much their hub.

Lovely whimsy in these pieces, Jon. Quite brings on a smile.

I love this braidwork and so admire all the workmanship - originally in making the braid itself and then in working it into these images. Jon, have you seen the book 'Chinese Braid Embroidery' by Jacqui Clarey http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... php?t=1065 If you need any help to get a copy let me know. I found that in reading it I so much more appreciated the wonderful workmanship. The 3-D dragon/centipedes are just wonderful, bursting with vitality.

By the way, when is a jacket Taijiang and when is it Leishan as far as style is concerned? I find it hard to differentiate.

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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 2:24 pm 
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I have been looking at a Taijiang jacket of mine and the style of image created by the braiding is really quite different from yours, Jon. I wonder if yours is a different period or is not Taijiang. Perhaps the Huangping framing is more of a clue than I thought.

I was planning to share my jacket with you. I know that Iain has shown us several of his lovely Taijiang jackets. What is a bit special about mine is that I know something of its history, original location and approximate age.

When I had some thoughts about buying the jacket and asked for some information about it from the dealer she came back saying that she was actually selling it on behalf of a Miao friend of hers who didn’t want to sell it but was very hard up and that it was this friend’s grandmother’s jacket. Scenting the possiblility of finding out a bit more information I sent back some questions and was quite lucky in getting answers to several of them although some details were frustratingly vague. Of course there is always the chance that what I have been told is not true but I feel that it is.

I was given the name of the woman who was selling it and her grandmother’s name. The jacket was made by the seller’s grandmother's mother (they didn’t know her name) when her grandmother was still a teenage girl. It was made for her grandmother's wedding ceremony. They pointed out to me the many motifs of centipedes and pomegranates meaning to have more children.

The family lived in Da Hong Zhai (Big Red) Village, Taigong County, Taijiang Area, South-east of Guizhou Province.

The Miao friend is 45 (Feb 2008). Her grandmother died 6 years ago. Her great-grandmother passed away nearly 30 years ago. She was not clear about her grandmother's exact wedding date but gave the somewhat vague info that her grand-mother got married in the early 1950's.

The colours and execution of the braid embroidery is very similar to two sleeve pieces which have been joined into a panel (framed by plain indigo cloth) which was already in my collection sourced in London (with no history but an attribution of the 1950s.

We are always trying to date the textiles in our collections so it is useful to have one which has been pretty much tied down to a narrow age range as well as having its location.


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File comment: front of jacket
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File comment: shoulder detail
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File comment: front of sleeve panel
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File comment: back of sleeve panel
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File comment: jacket sleeve detail
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 3:44 pm 
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Pamela,

Thank you for posting images of your beautiful jacket. The embroidery is quite stunning, and the design is absolutely delightful. The history behind it makes for an even more exciting piece.

It seems to utilize the technique of "zhouxiu". There is a very similar example in "Clothing and Ornaments of China's Miao People" on page 40, with an example of "bianxiu" for comparison on page 41. I only have the Chinese version, so I'm not sure if the text is the same in English, but it describes "zhouxiu" as being when the braid is laid on it's side to create the design, and "bianxiu" as when the braid is laid flat.

Your earlier point about Kali being the hub of trade for this region seems to be a logical explanation as to why a Taijiang/Leishan piece would end up with border material from Haungping.

I also have found it hard to tell the difference between Taijiang and Leishan pieces, hence the title of my original post. It is very frustrating when asking a dealers whether a piece is from Taijiang or Leishan and just getting "Yes" for an answer.

I have been doing more research into the dragon images on these pieces. It seems that the dragons in the 2nd and 3rd pieces are "water dragons", which most resemble the Han dragons. They have the head of a dragon, the body of a snake, and fish scales.

The dragon in the first piece seems to be a strange amalgamation of the "bird head dragon" and the "centipede dragon". The literature I have does not include any mention of this particular combination.

Unfortunately I do not have any specific ages for these pieces, although I was told by several dealers who saw it that the first piece was quite old, perhaps 80+ years.


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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 8:53 pm 
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Jon

What is interesting on your pieces is that they seem to have both "zhouxiu" and "bianxiu" because at least what might be thought to be the 'backbone' of the dragon is in "zhouxiu" - you can see the extra texture from the pleating of the braid. I see that on page 40 of "Clothing and Ornaments of China's Miao People" (this always seems to end up as my 'bible' for Miao clothing) that the 'pleat embroidery' or presumably "zhouxiu" is 'popular in Guading area of Kaili county and Xijiang of Leishan county besides Taigong of Taijiang county' - so there we are with the 'challenge' of differentiation of location! On page 44 it says: 'Women' dress in Xijiang of Leishan county is gorgeous in colour and exquisite in workmanship. The coat is the same as that in Taigong area.' So, no hope then to tell by looking where the jacket has come from!

These embroidered sleeve pieces are quite special in that they take on a new life when they are preserved, put together and framed with fabric. When part of a jacket it is difficult to see the whole of the 'scene' of a panel because it goes over the arm. I think that it is a tribute to the workmanship of the makers and the way it was accorded value by their families, especially in your older and more faded pieces, that they have been carefully kept for so long before being sold to the pickers in the last few years.

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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 3:58 am 
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What a great 'thread' (pun intended)! Jon's panels are really artful and as Pamela pointed out, it is great to see the designs flat and not as on a jacket where the entire design cannot be seen properly. It's also really helpful to have provenance, as with Pamela's jacket, when discussing age and location. I especially love the colors on Jon's panels, that seem to have come with age. Jon, do you have any sense of the original palette on your panels? Have the colors faded a lot, or changed much with time? Sometimes little edges that were originally hidden can show original color. The colors seem quite different from Pamela's lovely jacket. Color palettes as defined by materials available and what is 'fashionable' can be a clue to age also.

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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 3:00 pm 
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Pamela,

I'm not sure that the raised portion of the dragons are actually "zhouxiu". Looking very closely at the areas in question, the braids seem to be twisted, not folded. I think this could still be considered "bianxiu", as the flat side of the braid still faces out.

Alternately, on page 37 of "Clothing and Ornaments of China's Miao People", there is a brief, tantalizing mention of "chanxiu" (which roughly translates to "twisted stitch") that was often used in the Taigong region before "bianxiu" became fashionable in the 20's - 30's.

Maybe the textured parts of these pieces are an example of this "chanxiu"?


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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 3:19 pm 
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Susan,

As far as I can tell, these pieces are heavily faded. Looking at some of the loose braids, and under some of the tightly twisted sections, it appears that there were quite a few different colors employed, and they were once VERY bright and vibrant. There are traces of turquoise, blue, magenta, and purple, which seem to keep in context with the overall color scheme of Pamela's gorgeous jacket.


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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 8:39 pm 
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Jon

I have looked at my jacket sleeve panels and your sleeve panels. I think that all of them, in the 'backbone' of the dragons/centipedes have what Jacqui Carey in her book calls 'coiled' braids - which I think would be your 'twisted' as translated from "chanxiu". When the coiled braids are squashed up tightly they can give the impression of pleating. She shows on pages 120 and 121 this coiling of the braids and it really is twisting or coiling a braid around a needle. She has a photo of a Miao sleeve panel with this stitch - including a very good close-up - and then step-by-step photos of the process with a braid that she has woven. She also, earlier, shows the pleating of the braid which is quite different. Her diagrams and close-up photo shots really are excellent. It was this that absolutely brought the technique(s) to life for me and made me determined to get a fine example on a jacket.

I looked at page 37 of "Clothing and Ornaments of China's Miao People" and it was less clear in the English translation than you can see in the Chinese and then translate.
Quote:
"The blouses are usually made of black, whorl-figured cloth with embroidered flowery designs on collars, sleeves and shoulders. Formerly, the winding technique was mainly used in embroidering the ornamental designs. Since the 1920s plaiting technique of embroidery has come into fashion and become the unique embroidery skill in Taigong area. The colour tones of the designs is chiefly green, sometimes alternating with red......"
Does this, I wonder, mean when referring to to 'plaiting' the creation of the braids themselves? This could mean that the use of braid which is then sewn/embroidered into the designs started in the 1920s rather than the coiling/twisting of the braids. All such nuances of meaning and so much lost or gained in translation!!

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PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 7:05 am 
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I'm confused... reference to both 'Taigong' and 'Taijiang' have been made and it is not clear if they are individual towns, or counties, or different spellings for the same place. I checked a map in LP South-west China and it shows Taijiang as a town east of Kaili and south of Shidong. Taigong is not shown on the map, but is mentioned in the Clothing and Ornaments book, as well as on several websites such as that for CITS. Can anyone clarify this, please?

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PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 8:16 am 
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Susan,

A web search turned up a few things. Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qiandongna ... Prefecture
Quote:
:"Subdivisions
The prefecture is subdivided into 16 county-level divisions: 1 county-level city and 15 counties

county level city: Kaili city
county: Shibing County, Congjiang county, Jinping County, Zhenyuan County, Majiang County, Taijiang County Taigong, Tianzhu County, Huangping County, Rongjiang County, Jianhe county, Sansui County, Leishan county, Liping county, Cengong County, Danzhai County. "

More of an explanation can be found at http://spot.colorado.edu/~toakes/Dragonheads.htm and I quote a section:
Quote:
"Taijiang county was established, in 1733, as a result of Ortai’s pacification campaign. As noted in the Taijiang Gazetteer, this was the beginning of the end of the region’s self-sufficient economy. Taigong garrison was established in 1728 at the northern base of Leigongshan, a winding 50 li march from the Qingshui and the older Chinese port town of Shidong. In Taijiang, then, we find both urban systems represented in one county: Taigong was a military outpost of imperial state control, while Shidong was a trade center linked by the river to the “civilized” world of downstream China. Today, there are many reminders of the distinction between these two urban systems that developed during the Qing. Taigong has lost its walls, and an unremarkable collection of cement-block and white-tile buildings has spread onto much of the small plain where the town is situated. It has all the accouterments of a county seat in socialist China: an upper middle school, a hospital, a theater, several department stores, repair shops and other services, restaurants, a few nightclubs, and a bus station. The nearest train station is a slow two-hour bus ride away. While its administrative function as a county seat meant that Taigong would inevitably emerge as the economic center of Taijiang, the displacing of river transport by railroads and highways added to the gradual decline and isolation of Shidong as a center of commercial activity........"
This article, 'Dragonheads and Needlework: textile work and cultural heritage in a Guizhou county' by Tim Oakes, looks interesting in general.

sorry, must dash.....................

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PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 2:30 pm 
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Hi Pamela- Many thanks for those quotes! I had found the Wikipedia one and was even more confused with the use of "Taijiang" and "Taigong" together with "County", but the Oakes article with a bit of historical explanation helps. Actually, I found that article fascinating and very enlightening in its discussion of the commercial use of what we like to think are "traditional" crafts, including the festivals. I have been to Shidong and can vouch for its being quite literally off the beaten commercial track- the road approaching it went from being paved to being a muddy lane paralleling the river, tho the paving began again thru the town. It was sleepy and quiet with little entrepreneurial activity in evidence. We did visit several silversmiths and saw some of the elaborate festival headdresses and silver accoutrements for which the area is famous. And, I even found a photo of one of the embroidery ladies with a quilt of Huangping bits(!) such as are being used for the border of Jon's embroidered panels. I also found a photo of an apron similar to the one in an earlier query by Bill Hornaday, which I'll add to that thread. This particular apron was shown to me as an heirloom, along with the silver shown here. I was told that the silver was assembled in pieces as the family was able to afford, and that it could also be sold off the same way, if the need arose.


Attachments:
File comment: Embroidery vendor with quilt of bits from Huangping
Mail-Shidong-Embroidery-ven.jpg
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File comment: Shidong's river - famous for dragon boat races
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File comment: road out of town, away from Taijiang- love that truck!
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File comment: heirloom silver
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File comment: headdress
Mail-Shidong-1Miao-heirloom.jpg
Mail-Shidong-1Miao-heirloom.jpg [ 75.23 KiB | Viewed 9983 times ]

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