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tribaltextiles.info • View topic - Li minority blanket from Hainan

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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 8:44 am 
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 Post subject: Li Blanket
PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 1:07 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri May 28, 2010 2:57 am 
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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 7:02 am 
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 Post subject: Mandaya Abaca Ikat Motif
PostPosted: Fri Jun 04, 2010 8:37 pm 
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Chris, Here is a photo of the Mandaya ikat motif that your textile reminds me of.
Best Regards, MAC


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2010 5:43 am 
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That is truly an amazing motif, as well as proof that aliens exist (kidding, but only just!)

Something like it is common on Li textiles, here is another from a skirt.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 06, 2010 8:56 pm 
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Hi Chris

I think I have you to blame for a serious hole in my pocket after a visit to The London Antique Textiles, Carpets, Vintage Costumes & Tribal Art Fair today! My first port of call was John Gillow who immediately said that he had some good things from Hainan. He delved in a box and produced ..... a Li blanket which is clearly a cousin to yours on this thread with a similar - although different - motif and in a very dark brown! Of course, I had immediately recognition of an 'old friend' and fell for it hook, line and sinker!

I show three images below taken quickly as I was eager to share. Mine also has four panels but I think they must be slightly wider than yours as each panel is 33cm or slightly more which gives a width of about 1.32 metres.

The double face of the cloth is quite usual on several Li fabrics. Yes, interesting to see the 'embossing' look which is the most you see of the pattern on the reverse.

Well, the hunt is on to ID the particular Li group and I shall be getting my various Li books out. I have a hunch but I am not saying until I have something more to base it on.

John said that he had brought two of these blankets from a dealer in Kaili (Guizhou) - think it must have been in December 2009. He was very chuffed at getting them and thought he had hit the dealers just when they were very keen to sell! John has visited Hainan himself twice and not managed to connect directly with any Li weavers or even dealers there so it was even sweeter for him to find them in Kaili. He said that he thought that the blanket definitely had my name on it and, I am afraid, he was right! I bought my very, very first Li piece in Kaili just bowled over by the quality of the weaving when I had no idea at all of the Li and therefore the ID of the skirt. (A Run Li mini skirt with some of the strips with a similar two-faced weave). I wonder if the dealer was the same! On that day the flat she shared had stacks of Run Li skirts and blouses and I also bought a Meifu Li head cloth - which I didn't realise then was related as it was so different. That was back in 2001. Big difference in prices then!!! Unfortunately I was at the end of a trip and my piggy bank was very low!

My blanket is soft and pretty heavy. To me it seems to be cotton but I could not say that definitively. I am interested that the Susan mentions that the indigo ones she has seen in Chiang Mai are thought to be ramie. It certainly could be ramie given that ramie can indeed become soft with use.

Looking at the selvedge (very fine) there are both brown and natural weft threads.


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Li-blanket-det1w.jpg
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 5:17 am 
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Hi Pamela

thanks for posting that blanket, it is fabulous! The weave structure looks identical to mine. The motifs different but clearly closely related. The density of patterning and overall effect is stunning. Not a thing that could be woven in a week or two I suspect.

Mine came from a Kaili dealer too. The same guy had three blankets. One I left behind because it looked rather newish, the other was old but had smaller patterning and was less "bold". I bought it about a month ago and had not seen anything like it previously, though the same trader showed me a photo of an indigo blue blanket like the one that Susan mentioned, though the shape and decoration was somewhat different to these. I think that all these brown-and-white blankets will have come from the same village or group of villages at the same time since they are so similar. I will be very interested to hear your thoughts on identification.

The basic motif on your blanket also occurs in embroidered form on a very old skirt that I bought fairly recently. Any ideas on what the motif is? Two frogs jumping over each other? On your blanket it has what looks like a head and arms on top, so perhaps is a human figure (who looks like she is holding out two flags). Any thoughts on motif meaning I would be very curious to know.

There seem to be at least 4 different plant fibers in use in Hainan, some of which age to a very floppy feel, others retaining a stiff texture for a very long time. They presumably include bark cloth, kapok, ramie and local cotton. I am not at all confident at present about identifying which is which. It also makes assessing age rather complicated with these textiles.

I have not been to Hainan yet, despite living in China for 15 years. I intend to make a trip there fairly soon, but my expectation of finding textiles (even new ones) is not very high. Given an interest in ikat I would love to see that. If anyone has any suggestions about who/where do let me know.

I rather missed out on the Run Li skirt thing. Amazing how fast those things came and went. Also a case (presumably) of a relatively small area that was cleared out of textiles in a year or two. But also exciting to see what will turn up next. I am often told that a certain area is "over", only to see new things arriving unexpectedly ... like these blankets.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:46 am 
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It might not be clear what I am on about regarding the motif in the previous post because the overall design is rather complex, so I have taken some liberties with Pam's picture, copied it and turned it around to make it clearer...

My blanket also has something closely related, though it is not so clear as in Pam's example and the connection had not occurred to me until I saw Pam's.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 10:08 am 
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The one you show on the skirt looks like a headless frog. If we were looking at Iban textiles I would say a headless torso. Were the Li head hunters originally also? So many of these cultures that run down the islands seem to have been so.

My own observations on Li textiles across many of the groups is that they seem to use similar motifs - which makes it more difficult to ID something like a blanket rather than clothing to an individual group. For one of the books (in Chinese) that I have Susan Stem organised a translation. However, it was a Han Chinese translating into English so the English needs 'translating' again for understanding. There are sections in that on motifs. As the translation is completely separate from the motifs it takes a careful session of cross referencing to understand the descriptions. It is quite a long time since I delved into the Li and I know I need to immerse myself and try and regain some of the knowledge I had accumulated. Unfortunately my memory constantly lets me down these days - much to my frustration.

I am afraid that I don't have the spare time just at this moment to do this as the much more mundane is crowding in on me.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 9:09 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:25 am 
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 3:53 am 
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:58 am 
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 3:21 pm 
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