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 Post subject: Shan/Tai Yai in China
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:13 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2003 6:34 pm
Posts: 393
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Here are some interesting panels (blankets?) from China, and supposedly made by Shan/Tai Yai people. Before finding these, I didn't realize there were Shan/Tai Yai people in China, but Yunnan Province borders Shan State in Burma, so it shouldn't be surprising.

Of the three pieces, the first one appears to be the oldest, the second one more recent, and the last the most recent. I base this on condition, colors, and materials used. I have seen quite a few like the last one, in China, and was told they were Buyi or Miao, and usually they were brighter (read 'gaudy') and with black backgrounds, not indigo like this one. I have not seen any quite like the first two before. The oldest one is done in a twill weave, and has several repairs and small holes, also hinting to its age.

Michael Howard shows some similar examples in Volume II of his Textiles of the Highland Peoples of Burma, p.345 #170 and p.346, #171-3. I showed these to him recently and he thought they could be blankets, tho they're fairly small with each panel 12-14" in width. I find it interesting to compare the textiles of a group, but in different locales to see similarities and variations in style, technique and materials, and to be reminded that national boundaries do not define many of these peoples.

Does anyone on the forum have any of these in their collection? It would be fun to see more.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:15 am 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Here's a detail of the last one (tho it's too blue...).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:50 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:33 am
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Location: Beijing
Thanks for posting these Susan, I am glad you did because I am curious about them too.

I've seen a few similar pieces with Kaili traders recently and bought a couple. I was told that they were "Dai" and from Yunnan, but could not get any more specific information than that. I think the Shan attribution is probably right.

I have volume one of Michael Howard's book "The Textiles of the Hill Tribes of Burma" but not volume 2 (doh!). There are a couple of broadly similar pieces of cloth, also sewn together in 2 lengths, on pages 126 and 127, and they are labelled as "Shan, cloth for skirt". There are also a couple of skirts illustrated that contain small pieces cut out of textiles like these.

They don't look much like blankets to me, though I suppose that some might conceivably have been used as baby blankets. If blankets I would expect some to turn up with borders, which I have not seen so far. If I had to guess I would say that these cloths were woven mainly for use in skirts but some were never used and were simply stored.

There are many Shan people living on the China side of the border in Yunnan, though getting a precise estimate of how many is tough because distinctions between different kinds of "Dai" peoples are not paid much attention to in the PRC. In the mid-'90s I lived in Guangzhou in south China and Shan items used to turn up in the markets fairly often, especially the characteristic Shan bronze Buddhas with their child-like features.

Susan Conway has written a good book on Shan artifacts, though I think it focuses mostly on court items. I don't have a copy to hand unfortunately. Their lacquer work is lovely.

Both Susan Conway and Michael Howard point out the extensive trading links that the Shan peoples maintained in the 19th century, both with China and with Europe, and that Chinese silk thread and European synthetic dyes were readily available in Burmese markets around 1900, for those that could afford them at least (perhaps not including the people from the more remote villages).

So here are photos of three more pieces of the same general type. The first is indigo cotton ground with silk, the second black cotton ground with silk. The dyes used are mainly synthetics The third is made entirely from silk and possibly from a different Dai/Tai group, probably including some natural dyes(?)


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File comment: silk on indigo cotton cloth, probably Shan
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File comment: detail of above
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File comment: silk on cotton cloth, probably Shan
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File comment: silk cloth, Dai/Tai
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 5:11 am 
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Chris-
Many thanks for your comments and images! It's great to see more of these pieces- I find them very attractive and "visually arresting", with fine weaving and rich colors. Re the possible use as panels on a skirt: that is possible, tho all the photos of skirts show one panel only, not two. I agree that I've not seen any with a border either, so I am not sure that they are used for blankets. The good condition also makes one wonder if their use was not utilitarian, but more ceremonial. I'll keep asking and looking around, as there are many Shan people here.

The Michael Howard book you have is actually the predecessor to the two volumes which were more recently published and are intended as an update. They include some of the same images, including the ones you mentioned. I don't have the Susan Conway book either, but will find one to check and see if anything is applicable.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 11:21 am 
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Location: Canterbury, UK
Martin Conlan sourced two or three Dai/Tai narrow woven textiles in Yunnan just before Christmas. Perhaps the 'pickers' are bringing them out from a particular area. The ones he has are, he believes, for headcloths, with supplementary weft end pieces Despite my best efforts I couldn't resist one of them which seems to be pretty new/unused and, as it has some of my favourite colours, I am going to wear it (as a scarf) - so it goes in my scarf drawer rather than collection boxes! It seems to be 'related' although not identical to those posted above.


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File comment: 165 cm long x 20 cm wide
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 10:59 am 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
What a lovely scarf Pamela! I would keep it to wear too.

Here's yet another pair of panels that asked to be taken home- how could I resist? These are twill weave with silk supplementary weft motifs.


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Susan Stem

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 11:15 am 
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Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
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Location: Canterbury, UK
...scrumptious! I love the idea of the twill weave as well as the supplementary weft (and complementary weft as well, I think).

When I failed to resist the temptation to buy my Dai headcloth/scarf I actually had you in mind and had a strong feeling that it would have appealed to you - and you would look great in it!

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