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PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 9:44 pm 
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Forum member Susan Stem and myself are very interested in the textiles created by the various Li tribes of Hainan Island, China. We are fascinated by the very fine quality and complexity of their weaving and embroidery and are keen to learn more about them.

Both of us have small personal collections of Li textiles and Susan has had several Li textiles pass through her hands via her Tribal Trappings business.

I pulled together some information on the Li back in the spring of 2003 and posted it on the tribaltextiles.info website - http://www.tribaltextiles.info/forum/Li_links.htm - this is now sorely in need of updating and in some cases amending in the light of of our somewhat enhanced but still scanty knowledge today. On this forum there has been a long running thread originated back in June 2002 by Olivier Tallec http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... c.php?t=13

Susan and I are planning to create a gallery, or series of galleries, on the web featuring photos of Li textiles as a record and resource for others to share. We would be very grateful indeed if anyone who has Li textiles in their collection would share photos of these textiles (and any information linked to them) with us. All photos shown on the website would be copyrighted either to the photo provider/textile owner by name or as a 'private collector' which ever is preferred. Ideally we would like a photo of the overall textile and some individual details.

Please send me either an email or message to let me know if you are able to join us in what we feel is an exciting project.

Many thanks,

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 02, 2004 11:02 pm 
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The last place that I expected to receive a response to my plea for photos of Li textiles was from Rachel in hurricane destroyed Cayman! However, Rachel had finally mananged to touch down on the forum and my Li textile request had reminded her of her trip to south west China just before the hurricane. Luckily she had not even opened the textiles which she bought on the trip! I wonder what could have distracted her? (See http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... .php?t=212 ) As she said: 'it's actually nice to think about textiles instead of the hurricane............ I must remember to check the website more often.'

On her trip Rachel visited Kaili and was surprised to see a considerable number of Li textiles for sale, some looking very new, and where the dealers refused to lower their prices preferring not to lose a sale rather than go down in price. Rachel eventually bought 3 long tube skirts and one short one. She has managed to email me 4 photos by getting a friend to photograph them for us as her digital camera did not survive the hurricane intact.

Rachel was keen to share them with forum members and I am very happy to post them for her and perhaps encourage others to share their photos.

I pointed Rachel at Susan Stem's website - the search engine is now working much better and if you put in 'Li' and tick 'match whole word only' it now only delivers Li! From there Rachel was able to broaden her identification:

Quote:
I looked on Susan's website and identified two of the Li pieces that I bought in Kali...........I definitely have a Li wedding tube skirt and as I said before it has some small patches of wear so I think it may be an older piece...............the embroidery is very fine and in excellent condition..................I seem to have more of the larger abstract figures on the one I bought with a band of smaller abstract figures to the top and one to the bottom...............the bottom of the skirt consists of alternating bands of tiny abstract figures and bands of graphic designs..........I also have one of the Ba Sa Dung mini tube skirts.............I had seen one in Bangkok before so I knew for sure that it was Li...............Song Yi Wu the woman at the Yunnan Nationalities Museum who showed me her private collection had a Ba Sa Dung outfit skirt and jacket together ............she also had some of the long tube skirts that Susan had pictures of like the Meifu Li skirts...........I do have one rather different long tube skirt and the reason I bought it was that it was different from all the others..........my Yao woman [whom Rachel bought from] said that it was also Li but I am not sure..............it's definitely a newer piece and I will see if I can't take some pictures of it.............I got the feeling when I was in Kali that somewhere................ due to all the increased interest in Li textiles.................that somewhere pieces were being almost mass produced because a lot of the pieces looked too new and too perfect.............could this be a possibility.................and the price for the wedding skirts started at $500- $700...............the women of course claiming that they were hundreds of years old.............after spending whole afternoons in their house with textiles laid out before me it was hard for me to decide what to buy .............what was really old and what was genuine..............anyway I am happy with my wedding skirt and Ba Sa Dung mini tube skirt...........and the mystery skirt I am sure you all will be able to figure out............I wish I had a scanner because I could send you a dozen or so pictures I took while I was in one woman's home.............she had older pieces I thought and a good collection of jackets while most of the other woman just had skirts...............you have no idea how much I need this outlet at the moment..............thank you again for creating the website.............I'll send you some pictures as soon as I can

I am posting the photos with the one which is harder to identify first. I agree that this is a Li skirt. I have seen a couple of photos of some which have similar motifs and, when the photo is rotated 180 degrees so that the solid figured band comes on the hips, the identification is even more sure. Any comments welcomed.......! The wedding skirt photos are next followed by the Ba sa dung skirt.

Many thanks, Rachel. I am glad that focusing the mind on textiles is helping to lift your spirits!


Attachments:
File comment: the 'mystery' Li skirt
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File comment: wedding skirt
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File comment: detail of wedding skirt embroidery
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File comment: the Ba-sa-dung skirt
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Oct04-0007_.jpg [ 54.02 KiB | Viewed 14306 times ]

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http://www.tribaltextiles.info
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 06, 2004 7:20 am 
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Dear friends,
I just got a book from China about Li textile and culture, "Traditional Culture of Li Ethnic Group" published in 2001, Xinhua Publishing House, 310 pages, very large size with about 400 pictures. I found some of the pictures that look similar to the skirt you posted. They are claimed to be Luohuo group, Ledong county. It's harder to tell from the pictures after I scaled the images down to get smaller file size as required for posting. But from the photos in the book. they really look similar to yours.
Beside, the only other group also design their skirt with square motif is Baohuai from the same area, Ledong county, Hainan provice. And it's the style of the skirt I posted on the previous discussion about Li textile.
I hope this will help a bit to identify your skirt.
Bests,
Bang


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luo_huo1.jpg
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 Post subject: Li Pieces
PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 4:58 am 
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Li things aren't a major focus of my collecting, but I've picked up a few and took some snapshots for the forum.

James


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 Post subject: Some More Li Things
PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:03 am 
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Some more...


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 Post subject: and some more...
PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:04 am 
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and some more...


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 Post subject: some more...
PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:06 am 
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some more...


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 Post subject: One more...
PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:07 am 
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one more...


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 Post subject: One Last Outfit
PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:09 am 
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Last one I promise...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 6:33 pm 
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James, Your Li textiles are quite extraordinary. I have been trying to find information on these and other aspects of Li culture for some time now. (My copy of the Li book is at present somewhere in the slow post from China, and I can't wait to receive it, now even more so on seeing these examples)
Some Comments: -
There appears to be quite a variety of patterns and colours employed: - No two skirts appear the same. Having said this, however, I detect something of a common thread running through them all - An ancient Tai thread perhaps? (The Li are cited in the literature as an ancient Tai people) The distinctive motif appearing in one of the panels in textile Li 4c is especially interesting, and appears unlike work from any mainland Tai peoples. (Unless or course, as may well be the case there are Tai textile traditions I am unaware of) It bears a certain resemblance to some motifs I have seen from Indonesia (I think) although I can't quite remember where.
About the differences between the textiles: - Do these correspond to different tribes or villages and are they of different ages? How many different Li tribes or communities are there? As yet I am very much in the dark over this!

Very many thanks for sharing these magnificent textiles with us


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2004 12:18 am 
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James

You are an absolute STAR! Very, very many thanks for so very kindly sharing your Li textiles with the forum. More particularly my thanks to you for posting them to the (larger) size as agreed so that I have a better quality image to work on for our Li web pages. I have now reduced them all to a more manageable forum size of 50/60K - although it is still a real challenge to get all the photos to appear over a so-called 56K modem running at 30-38Kbps

I can see that you were attracted to the skirts of the Ba-sa-dung (or 'Run' dialect) which the 'Traditional Li Culture' book indicates mainly live in Baisha. I find them fascinating. What is also interesting is how similar motifs appear across the various Li groups. I am intrigued to see a couple of skirts that I don't seem to have seen so far either for real or in the books.

Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to indulge me and other forum members.

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http://www.tribaltextiles.info
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 6:13 am 
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Thank you Pamela and Susan, for bringing the intricate and intriguing textiles of the Li people to our attention. Following are some comments regarding the Li of Hainan.

1. The Li are distant relations of the T'ai, who were also pushed further south by the Han expansion-in this case to Hainan.

First came the Austro-Tai groups and languages.

The initial split was into Tai-Kadai and Austronesian. Austronesian itself had one branch (among others) which includes the aboriginal people of Taiwan, known as "Formosan", to distinguish them from the Sinitic languages also spoken there.

Tai-Kadai languages formed two branches, Tai languages of Mainland Southeast Asia, and the Kadai branch which includes the Li speakers of Hainan. I misspoke myself in claiming that the aboriginal groups of Taiwan had a closer relationship with the Li, which they don't.

2. Li textiles share the narrow weft and backstrap loom of the Tai, and one can easily link their patterns, and structural elements (ie "sin") to their mainland cousins--but with a number of differences. The Li are non-buddhist--not like the T'ai Daeng or T'ai Dam, who have incorporated Buddhist rituals and motifs into their textiles, and are in close proximitry with their Buddhist relatives.

More later,

Sandie


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2004 5:41 am 
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Apparently, the Li arrived on Hainan around 100 B.C., far earlier than the Tai mainland groups moved into SEAsia. Some experts claim a stronger lthematic link between the Formosan aborigines and the Li; the one mystery textile (solved-attributed to an Formosan group) posted here resembled nothing I would associate with the Tai.

3. The Li tube skirt (sin) is seen as proto-Tai in structure. Also, the narrow weft, and back-strap loom match those found throughout the T'ai world. But how are the Li diffferent from their T'ai cousins?

It's difficult for me to make any generalities since the corpus consists of tube skirts. I'm not familiar enough with the Li to gauge what their other textiles look like. But on the mainland, pha chet (wiping cloths), pillows, and other household textiles were woven with care, as were presentation cloths. I would be very interested if any of the new books on the Li illustrate any other textiles.

4. The Li textiles are almost three dimensional compared to the T'ai. Reusing treasured pieces is not in itself uknown; it is how these pieces are re-used that make the sin so intriguing. And as I pointed our earlier, these are textiles woven without any reference to Buddhism. They are specimens shedding light on the very earliest techniques and patterns of the T'ai of Southeast Asia, and as such present a fascinating perspective on T'ai weaving.

5. Perhaps the most distinct characterstic of these textiles is the use of anthroporphic/humanoid motifs in all manner of weaving. They are fantastic-incredibly imagined and executed. A number of them share the South Sumatran tampan style with fingers pointing downward; I'm not sure what to make of that, since there is such strong use of the "frogman" fingers up througout SEAsia. Any theories?

I agree with Sirol re: Li 3c looking very Indonesian; it reminds me of Pamela's hat, and my textile posted along with hers.

Hope I helped.

Sandie


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2004 7:03 pm 
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Sandie

When I was in Chiang Mai in October this year I saw a couple of Li blankets and these seemed to me to be much closer to what I associate with Tai blanket textiles.

I am going to be very cheeky and post a photo from a Japanese book on 'Costume of the Minority Peoples of China' in the Arts Collection series published by Kyoto Shoin Co., Ltd in 1996 ISBN 4-7636-1511-4. I think that this little book is now out of print. It has very many photos of Li textiles and people. Page 58 shows three Li women examining a piece of weaving which may well be half of a blanket. It has similarity also with Chin textiles in that it is a two-faced weave with none of the supplementary weft showing on the back of the fabric.

One of the things that I have found fascinating with the Li clothing is that there is something very strongly characteristic which comes through when you see 'Li' in what may be the textiles of many different Li groups. I find it an interesting challenge looking through galleries and homing in on different textiles to see if my identification is correct or not. Somehow with Li textiles they say 'Li' even when it is not something so obvious as the same symbol. The weaving in particular seems to have this characteristic.

What is undoubtedly true of textiles from the Tai of mainland southeast Asia and of the Li of Hainan is that that both have very highly developed skills in weaving although the styles and motifs may not be very similar. We should not be surprised if designs have developed in different directions when there has been no link for many centuries (even millenia). We find that many different tribal groups do not develop their own woven patterning in textiles but either focus on embroidery or trade more complex textiles from neighbours or both. As far as I am concerned mainland Tai and Hainan Daic groups both have the 'wow factor' when it comes to weaving and have both attracted me for this reason first, before I have come to identify the ethnic group responsible.


Attachments:
File comment: Three Li women shown on page 58 of 'Costumes of the Minority Peoples of China'
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 8:15 pm 
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Sandra's observations, re: a stylistic connection between Li and South Sumatran textiles, succeeded in jogging my memory as to where in Indonesia I had seen something similar.
The textiles of the Paminggir people of south Sumatra have a somewhat similar "feel" to that of certain Li examples: - Some of their moitifs, which tend to be highly complex, with animal and various almost organic designs being a little reminiscent of the motif I mentioned above. The colour schemes are also similar with subtle shades in brown and orange tones.
Whether this is of any real significance, I really don't know. However in her book "Textiles of Southeast Asia " Robyn Maxwell states, in a slightly different context:
"The supplementary weft weavings of the Tai Nuea of north Laos bear a striking similarity to the ship cloth weavings of Southern Sumatra"

Secondly, in response to Sandra's remarks regarding the place of Taiwan native textiles, I must add that the Rukai example previously discussed belongs to a group of textiles of a kind also produced by the neighbouring Paiwan which, as has been pointed out, represent a highly individual expression of tribal identity. Other tribes of Taiwan eg the Atayal and Amis etc produce textiles which are less easy to place: - ie one can see similarities with other islands or indeed the mainland. But this needs more looking into.

Lastly, back to the Li: -
(The ear ornaments of the Ha Li are also "wow" ! unlike anything worn elsewhere. A rare photograph in "Chinese National Costume Culture" by Yang Yuan 1998, shows them being worn possibly as late as the 1980's).


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