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PostPosted: Sun Aug 08, 2004 7:03 pm 
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Location: Canterbury, UK
I was recently fascinated by a hat on Susan Stem's Tribal Trappings site. It arrived in Canterbury on Friday - and I am even more fascinated by it!

The workmanship is very fine - not only the visible embroidery and the edging but even parts of the cotton lining which are a finely woven diamond twill. The embroidered people, frogmen, animals, birds and insects have so much character. Sandie, I know you are interested in frog-men - you can just see in the top photo both a frog (from above) and a frog-man either side of the men carrying the palanquin. The hat seems completely alive with movement. I presume that all dipicted on it have a significance

Susan thought from other pieces attributed on the internet that the piece could be Ge Jia. It is so unlike any Ge Jia embroidery that I have seen or collected but that may be because all these pieces so far have been from the Kaili area in Guizhou province. Perhaps this hat may be from a Ge Jia group elsewhere.

Is it a baby's hat? Could it be a shaman's hat? Might it be used for a wedding? I would be so interested to know more about it. Can anyone shed any light?


Attachments:
File comment: the hat
AH117gejiahat.jpg
AH117gejiahat.jpg [ 25.63 KiB | Viewed 12755 times ]
File comment: the other side of the hat
AH117_Side_2.jpg
AH117_Side_2.jpg [ 24.31 KiB | Viewed 12755 times ]
File comment: top of the hat
AH117_Top.jpg
AH117_Top.jpg [ 23.26 KiB | Viewed 12755 times ]

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 Post subject: stranger than fiction!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 09, 2004 3:48 am 
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Hi Pamela,

What an incredible piece! If I only saw the section with the frogman, I would add it to my comments about frog-men in temples, not boats (see Bill's last posting), and think it is Indonesian from one area or another.

But the palaquin and other power symbols land it directly into the lap of the SEAsian/Sinitic nexus. Could it be Chuang? I just sent Pamela a photo of a new textile proportedly by the Miao, which has a palaquin similar to the one here-maybe it can be posted.

I don't know the dimensions so I can't really tell who or what it was meant for, but simply by the amount of heavy duty symbolism, it's clearly meant to be worn during a ceremony-probably by a shaman.

What a treasure! I wonder what everyone else has to say about this intriguing textile.

Susan, your wonderful taste and interest in unique textiles, never fails to impress. (Do you have another one?)

Sandie


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 09, 2004 8:36 pm 
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Sandie

Many thanks for your comments above. I too felt the symbolism strongly which was why I wondered about the hat for a Shaman. However, I know how important it is to protect a baby's head and that symbolism is used with auspicious signs in Han embroidery.

I am posting the photo of the Miao embroidery with palanquin to which Sandie refers and which is in her collection. Note that both the hat and Sandie's Miao embroidery also feature birds although I do not know if the same type of bird is represented in both. Looks like quite a menagerie of animals in Sandie's but no frogs. Some of the mice - or are they rats or rabbits - look a little like a Disney cartoon?


Attachments:
File comment: Miao embroidery in the collection of Sandie Shamis
Jul04-22a.jpg
Jul04-22a.jpg [ 56.5 KiB | Viewed 12730 times ]

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Last edited by Pamela on Fri Jan 21, 2005 11:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: onward palanquin!
PostPosted: Tue Aug 10, 2004 10:50 pm 
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Thanks, Pamela, for posting that very odd, but strangely charming, bit of Miao touristic art. Of course, any hints about THAT one, are also welcome.

Here are some random thoughts about the hat:

1. It is probably not a baby hat, since it does not completely cover the head. All the baby hats I've seen, and many are very weird, share the characteristic of fully covering a baby's head, often with pompoms added. Unless I'm not seeing the top accurately, I still would go with an adult hat. Does the size of the hat present a clue?

2. I was very interested in the frog man with talons, giving him the look rather of a garuda, a mythical bird with magical powers, that figures prominently in the iconography of both mainland and island SEAasia. I think I already mentioned the design reminded me of an Indonesian textile. It doesn't mean that I thought the heavy-duty geometric feel implied it was Indonesian, but rather the stylistic convergence is very interesting.

3. The frog seen from above is rare. I have one example already posted of an elephant with its face and tusks seen from above. Why this position "from above" is rare I don't know.

4. This last point is a bit of a leap, but do forgive me. Anyone who has seen a number of Hmong storycloths, and other realistic textiles found in SEAsia, notices the strong emphasis of action from right to left; even in the textile posted here, there is some balance on the top, of birds, and the bottom, of dragons, but the main thrust of the action in the center is of a parade of animals in a band accompanying a man being carried in a palanquin, moving from left to right. In Pamela's hat the action seems to go from right to left.

This point is important, since Thai and other alphabets derived from Indic writting systems, are written from right to left. I now assume that the hat comes from a region where the writing system may be up/down or favoring the right, but not the left.

The unanimous opinion of everyone who has seen my textile, after they stop laughing, is that the animals are mice. Cats are included, but are much smaller then the mice. The birds I'm assuming are phoenix, and the dragons point to a Sinitic influence. Despite the weirdness and opacity of the textile, the embroidery is of the highest quality, and the layout very effective. However, Pamela is correct, the animals point to a Disney East cartoon!

Sandie


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 Post subject: My thoughts
PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2004 3:10 am 
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Sorry for the delay. This time I was actually off in China and just returned to see a few posts on the board to which I can respond.

First, the original hat. I'm sooo glad to see that there are more of these circulating around. I have one of the same style, but different overall shape. I bought mine as a "Miao people's King hat" which I never believed, but am glad to see that it isn't a one time creation. The embroidery style is so strange though that there can be no mistake. Mine is shaped like a crown with the main focus being a pair of people on horseback. One male, one female from the headdresses and a central figure in the front at the highest point. I wonder if they aren't old wedding gear given the content.

The only textual reference I have for this style comes strangely from a new book on the TuJia Minority titled Tu Jia Zu Min Jian Mei Shu (Folk arts fo the TuJia Group) On pages 79 and 80 there are illustrations of the jackets which accompany these pieces. I was also shown one of the jackets in Kaili, but couldn't afford it. The jackets are labelled as old and from the Miao minority. This doesn't rule out the GeJia attribution as the two groups were until recently viewed as the same. I also see the similarity that you must be noting with the Gejia pieces, but don't know if the embroidery style is really the same. My initial reaction is that Gejia stitches are always parallel, but that that the stitches on the mystery pieces are used to show contours on the designs. This might be completely wrong though.

The content of the jackets in the book are still mostly of important festival events like bull fighting and more people in palanquins and daily events like people smoking in pavillions, hunting or fighting with bows, spinning, and farming. there are also a lot of animals visible, some like spiders and grasshoppers, some flying people that do look like garudas. There is a great density of images on the jackets pictured just like your hat.

The frogs from above are a traditional Chinese theme from Han areas like Shaanxi Province as is the beetle-like insect. In traditional Chinese embroidery from around Xian, these critters plus scorpions, lizards and centipedes are the "five poisonous or harmful things" (wu du). You sometimes see really touristy versions of these embroideries sold all over the country now. The original purpose of the poisonous things was to ward off evil spirits. Sideways frogs often appear on Shidong apron side panels as well.

Really nice hat and good to see another in existence.

I'm going to save my response to the second panel for a separate post.


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 Post subject: one mystery solved
PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 4:40 am 
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One of our neighbors, who is Han, explained my Miao mystery textile so:

This is a wedding scene. The birds near the sun are phoenixes, and represent
the female force in marriage. The dragons represent the male force, while the sun radiates its energy for a happy marriage.

Although the embroidery is Miao, the story itself is a common Chinese folk tale. The mouse in the palanqiun wears the white face make-up of a bride, being carried to her wedding by her male mouse relatives.

Whom is she marrying? Why, the cat king of course- the most powerful force in the world to a mouse. Unlike the sun, shut off by a cloud, a cloud blown away by the wind, the cat is the only permant force over a mouse.

The tragedy of this pairing is yet to be revealed...

Thanks Liang!


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 Post subject: Ureka!!!!
PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2005 10:59 pm 
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Ureka!!!

Siriol and I got together today to wallow in textiles and books. We duly examined and discussed the hat that I posted above and which I have never accepted is a Gejia hat.

I showed Siriol a beautifully executed calendered indigo and red silk satin-stitch embroidered Shidong jacket. I hunted out my copy of 'Silver and Silk: textiles and jewelry of Guizhou, China, a selection from Mingei International Museum's Collection' which was published to coincide with an exhibition of the same name in 2002. I knew that the book had some excellent photos of fine quality Shidong pieces.

As we looked through the book we came to pages 40 and 41. On these two pages were photos of the front and back of an incredible "Shidong Miao Wedding Jacket, Shidong, Taijiang County, more than 100 years old. Cotton 'brown shiny cloth' with silk satin stitch embroidery. Gift of Tracy Brown!" The jacket is indigo background and is covered in embroidered people, animals, insects all in the style of those on my hat. There are palanquins as on my hat. Frog men. The colours of the embroidery silks are all shades of gold, beige, cream and browns.

It so makes sense to be Shidong Miao as they are so expert at satin-stitch and creating a range of animal and insect life in their embroidery plus wimsical faces. The only difference is that my hat is on untreated indigo not the 'brown shiny cloth' of the jacket.

I can only assume that my hat is also to be worn at a wedding. There is nothing to say if the jacket is to be worn by a man or a woman. It is a similar 'cut' to a more modern Shidong Miao woman's jacket. I do not know if my hat is for a man or a woman.

I am going to contact the Mingei International Museum to see if I can post the photos here to share with you all. (This is info on the exhibition but unfortunately no photos of my 'ureka' jacket! http://www.mingei.org/prevexsilver_silk.html and an excerpt from the book http://www.mingei.org/brsilver_silk.html - still no photo of my ureka jacket! )

[2nd March 05 - I have emailed the Mingei International Museum on 21 Jan but haven't even received an acknowledgement of my enquiry. Meanwhile.... http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Gallerie ... jacket.htm ]

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 Post subject: Miao hat
PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2006 3:52 am 
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All the symbols on this hat are very typical Miao. I do not think it is Ge Jia.

This is a man's hat and may be a shamans hat. I will check for you.

In the first picture the front symbol is about the bride being carried about possibly either to her wedding or to be hidden away from evil spirits on her wedding day.

The second picture, which appears to be the rear of the hat, is the Frog Queen. Keep checking my web site www.asianethnicartifacts.com follow link to page on myths legends and symbols. I promise to add this legend next.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 10:57 am 
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Dear Susan

Many thanks for your comments. On another thread http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... .php?t=590 with information about the exhibition of your textiles at the Birmingham (Alhabama) Museum of Art "Amongst the Clouds: Textiles of the Miao People from Southwest China From the collection of Susan Weitzman Conway" I draw forum members' attention to the bottom two photos on the press release, especially the bottom (of 4) photos. This depicts a more elaborate hat with embroidery in a very similar style to that which is on my hat on this thread. (See photo from the site posted below).

I have discussed with you separately the origin of your textiles. The Museum information suggests that the source of the hat is Miao in the Anshun area of Guizhou. You have sought further information from your sources in Guizhou. Your hat is one of three items - long coat/jacket, trousers and hat - from a Miao spiritual leader. The textiles are embroidered cotton and more than 100 years old. I gather that the village voted in favour of the costume being sold. It was worn by the spiritual leader for the dragon boat races traditionally held every 4 or 7 years depending on the group or village. I understand that you now know that your group of textiles were bought from Qin Song, in the Jianhe (also known as Liuchuan) area of Guizhou. My map - see detail posted below - shows Jianhe (which is both a city and a county) to be in the Leigong Shan mountains further east than Taijiang and all to the east of Kaili. The area is all part of the Qiandongnan Miao-Dong Autonomous Prefecture of which Kaili is the capital. Jianhe seems to be linked by river valleys to Shidong. It could well be part of the same Miao group as that referred to in 'Silver and Silk: textiles and jewelry of Guizhou, China, a selection from Mingei International Museum's Collection' described as "Shidong Miao Wedding Jacket, Shidong, Taijiang County, more than 100 years old..." since related groups are likely to live along the same river valley. An old edition of the Lonely Planet Guide to South-West China (regretably now out of print and not updated) says of Shidong that it is
Quote:
'a small Miao village on the banks of the Qingshui River, famous for its festivals. The two biggest are the Dragon Boat Festival held from the 24th to the 27th of the fifth lunar month and the Sisters' Meal Festival on the 15th of the third lunar month'.

I am getting a better sense of the origin of these fascinating textiles. Very many thanks, Susan, for your help. I will look forward to seeing further information about the cultural myths on which the embroidery motifs are based. I know that this is very much your personal interest.

Best wishes,


Attachments:
File comment: detail from Nelles Maps Southern China, 2005 edition.
map-1200-kl.jpg
map-1200-kl.jpg [ 69.74 KiB | Viewed 11328 times ]
File comment: Hat from the Susan W Conway collection on view at the Birmingham Museum of Art see links in text of post where a link to enlargment of the photo can be found.
pr_060411_chitxt_04-hat.jpg
pr_060411_chitxt_04-hat.jpg [ 9.49 KiB | Viewed 11331 times ]

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 Post subject: Hat locality
PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2007 1:41 am 
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Greetings Pamela
I had been wondering why this piece has been niggling -thinking that I had seen something similar similar. Yesterday I was visiting a friend and fellow textile collector and going through some of their collar collection. Eureka! The collar that bears very similar designs to your hat! Unfortunately no camera! :x This piece was collected by them in 1995 from Cen Song, Jianhe. On the map above you will see that this is closely associated with Shidong areas.
My friend also pointed out a link to Marla Mallet's website: http://www.marlamallett.com/e-4058.htm where a collar piece of almost identical design is found. The similarities of the embroidery to those of your hat are quite striking. Here the piece is described as a 'Miao Festival Musician's Collar, Qin Song, Jianhe, Guizhou, China.'
Regards
Iain


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2007 10:20 am 
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Iain

Many thanks for reinforcing the likely origin of my hat as the area near to Jianhe. Once seen these lively, graphic, embroidered people and scenes are unforgettable.

best,

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2007 11:40 pm 
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Hi all,

A Miao friend of mine saw the tall hat with the embroidery identical to Pamela's example and insisted it was from near Zhenyuan. Zhenyuan is almost directly north of Jianhe, so Iain may be on the right track. I looked through the thick, Taiwanese Qiandongnan Miao Textiles Illustrated research guide and found nothing.

The exhibition in Birmingham last year was beautiful. The Conway collection has some stunning pieces. Birmingham probably made the attribution of Anshun based on the illustration on p.37, illustration 8 from the Richly Woven Traditions catalog. The exhibition had a wedding blanket identical in style to the embroidery on the hat. Mistakes are easy to make, especially in light of the fact that sw Chinese textiles are such an underresearched area. There are styles and objects unillustrated in the available literature. I would like to hunt through my library, but life is a little hectic here lately.

Be careful when looking at maps of sw China and thinking two seemingly geographically close places are related. A single mountain can seperate two villages who were traditionally enemies, particularly when the two villages were different ethnic groups and did not share a common language. What looks close on a map can actually be deceptively far in terms of required travel time due to mountains and winding (endlessly winding) roads.

Steven


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 4:47 am 
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It's so good to see more information about these mysterious hats. My original attribution was actually from Marla's site, but she has since changed hers as more information has become available.

I do think that Steven's point about relative distance on a map being deceptive is an important one, and a topographic map, like Pamela's is especially useful to see just what the terrain is between locales. It is this very topography that has kept these individual villages' culture intact over the generations. Now, that is all changing as roads are built and people can come and go more easily. We see it all over this region. Of course, those very roads allow their material culture to also leave and be shared with the world.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 9:14 pm 
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I agree with Steven that geographic proximity can be deceptive. However, river valleys have been important communication and transport lines and I originally identified that "Jianhe seems to be linked by river valleys to Shidong".

What is not clear in one of my posts above is that I had an exchange of emails with Susan W Conway about the origins of the hat and other items in the Birmingham exhibit. She was not sure where the Museum got their Anshun ID from. She said that:
Quote:
The hat is part of a 3 piece outfit which went with the office of the "spiritual leader". Considerable efforts were made to obtain the full outfit for me...Hat, Robe and Pants. At the time, I taped the discussion about the signifigance, history etc regarding the outfit and the office of the "spiritual leader".....


She very kindly went back to the source that she bought them from to check the geographic origin. As she explained to me, she herself was not interested in these details as she was "much more interested in the Why and the How with regard to culture" but she realised that for most collectors, the where from is very important..

The results of her subsequent enquiries for me were:
Quote:
My "spiritual leaders outfit ...hat, robe, and pants "This set comes from Qin Song, in Jianhe area" Jian he would be the city Qin Song would be the particular village or area of cluster of villages (sometimes a group of villages will have one "spiritual leader").

Thanks for all the help with the ID of this hat and interest in it.

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Pamela

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 Post subject: Bib collection
PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 12:23 am 
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I see that the bib on Marla's site appears to come from Christi Lan Lin's collection. This bib (number 22-1) appears on page 52 of the book describing her collection of children's bibs. Here the bib is attributed simply to the Miao.


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