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PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:52 am 
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I thought people would be interested at the frogman on this Sin Mi, which has alternating vertical bands of mut mi and supplimental weft. Has anyone seen similar frogmen? With Sin Mis it is rare to find such elaborate figuration.

Bill Hornaday


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 10:24 pm 
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Bill

What an amazing skirt! It looks 'more so' in every single respect! It really looks as if the maker was determined to show off the very best of technique in every aspect. It must have been made for a special occasion(s).

I have had a look through Patricia Cheesman's new book 'Lao-Tai Textiles: The Textiles of the Xam Nuea and Muang Phuan' and I cannot find any figures which are quite so ornate. A couple are still rather poor relations in comparison - page 141 figure 6.66 on a Xam Nuea sin khan made by Tai Nuea where the figures on the hem piece and p 196 figure 8.78 on a phaa phai shoulder cloth in Xam Nuea style.

I don't know if you would be interested in what Patricia has to say about Khon Buhaan (Ancestor Figures) on page 268 in the section in the book on 'Textile Motifs and their Sybolism':
Quote:
"Human forms in textiles apper in many textiles, including shamanic healing cloths, men's shoulder cloths, Buddhist women's shoulder cloths, curtains, women's head cloths and tube skirts. The shape is nearly always of a person standing with their arms held high on each side with three fingers extended. The fingers are reduced to three for practical reasons in weaving techniques, and sometimes only one or two fingers are shown. The figures standing in huea hong (flying boats) symbolise the shamans on their magical journeys to the after world while othr figures represent ancestors. To heal a fever call pen waa the shaman draws an image of the khon buhaan on the back of the sick person's shirt, which they wear until the fever goes away. The tube skirt called sin muk lai khon has ikat images of human figures between rows of supplementary warp and is favoured as one of the skirts for burial by women in Xam Nuea. They believe the ancestors will be encouraged to accompany them on their dangerous journey and their dress is crucial so that the ancestors will recognise and accept them into heaven. Dore has presented a convincing origin of the ancestor figures as frogs, a fertility symbol still revered by the Chuang in southwest China (Dore 1993 p244). Rock paintings in the Huashan mountains in the Zoujiang River near the Vietnamese border show humans with upraised arms riding animals and sexual scenes, leading to interpretation as fertility rites. Frogs in Lao-Tai culture symbolise rain as they herald rain with their calls, and kop (frog) is slang for female sexual organs. The human-like figure could be interpreted as a person lying down instead of standing, in which case it becomes a birth symbol. Is this an ancestor giving birth to the human race? We may never know the original meaning, but the general interpretation of the textile motif is known as khon buhaan."

I wonder if your striking and intricately worked skirt is a very special burial skirt?


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File comment: Figure 6.66, p141 (Xam Nuea style 'sin khan' made by Tai Nuea 140x96 cm) from Patricia Cheeseman's book 'LaoTai Textiles: The Textiles of Xam Nuea and Muang Phuan.
p141-6.66.jpg
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Last edited by Pamela on Sat Nov 20, 2004 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 11:26 pm 
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This type of skirt is usually a wedding skirt, but will be used for ceremonies throughout her life. With a piece like this she would likely want to be buried in it. I have seen old women in Sam Neua who wore three or four skirts at the same time at festivals. Never before have I wanted a strip tease more than then.

Patricia is right that Tai Daeng women seem to prefer these skirts as burial skirts. I wonder if Patricia has run into cases where a skirt is woven for burial and is used for no other purpose. Patricia's book looks great. I am just ordering it.

Bill


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 11:42 pm 
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Bill

Yes, I think the book is excellent. Where are you ordering it? I have just emailed Patricia tonight asking her how she is distributing it and also if we can post the odd photo from the book - with full attribution of course - if relevant to the thread. I will pass on the response if and when received.

I have read elsewhere - can't remember where - of some Tai brides making skirts for their mother-in-laws to be particularly for their funerals. I don't think this is a form of mother-in-law joke but a very special gift as the skirt would be very important as a special burial one.

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 Post subject: interesting question...
PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2004 4:30 am 
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Hi all,

Bill, your question regarding the use of textiles for burial exclusively, resonates throughout the T'ai world. Among the T'ai Dam (Black T'ai), who recently migrated to Nakon Pathom Province in Thailand, a woman weaves a coat which is greatly embellished only on the inside (including applicat designs and special symbols). This coat is quite simple, and usually dyed indigo. It is worn on the outside until her burial, when the elaborate lining is finally revealed just before her cremation.

I took some photos on our visit to a T'ai Dam Village some time ago and will post them when I find them. (That sojourn left me about B2,500 poorer when that would have been $US100. The episode illustrates one problem when buying textiles, or Kris in Southern Thailand-we lost $250 on that one. That is, if you see it buy it, but if you order something to be ready- say in one month, forget it- someone will always offer more for the finished article.) Has anyone had a similar experience?

In traditional weaving cultures, where the stages of ones life are marked by textiles, it is not uncommon for women to weave a whole set of textiles to be dressed in for her funeral. No such garments are made for the men. Often burial cloths will be presented to a woman by her daughter- in- law, and vice-versa.

And, remember, female mourners will reverse their pha sin at funerals-the less elaborate top is worn on the bottom, while the ornate hem will be worn at the top.

These comments possibly apply mainly to the T'ai groups that practice Buddhism.

Bill, I know this is a sore subject, but do you have any idea where the bottom segment of this sin mi would be? Usually something this ornate would have a sewn-on khit border at the bottom.

For more information regarding burial textiles, check out Patrica's earlier book
"Costume and Culture (1990). She illustrates several burial pha sin-check out caption 5, which discusses T'ai Daeng funerary practices, and caption 123, concerning T'ai Dam burial textiles. (Technically these are really not "burial textiles", since most T'ai are cremated, but for want of a better term...).

And still more. I thought this stunner was possibly woven for a bride, but there are no gold threads or specific designs which would indicate good fortune in marriage. Maybe we are seeing the first "divorce pha sin". Definetly an idea whose time has come.

Sandie


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2004 2:25 pm 
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Hi Sandie, nice to hear from you again after rather a 'pause'!

I wonder - and I am influenced here by my reading of Patricia's latest book where I have got to page 54 - if the skirt could be a shamanic skirt? Starting on page 53 she says:
Quote:
"The tube skirt used by shamans was a classic example of the Xam Nuea style. Shamans of all the groups from this area once used this design, made in alternating bands of red sik and indigo cotton ikat separated by supplementary weft design. In some cases where no other identifyiable items of clothing can be recognised as belonging to a certain style, this tube skirt is found among heirlooms as evidence of their previous shamanic beliefs. It was believed that after death, one of the souls searched for the ancestors in the after-life and should wear a dress that would be recognised by them. This tube skirt was one of the items most preferred for women's burial dress. The textiles of the shaman's dress account for an important group of textiles that are identifiable by their unusual large patterns of animals and mythical creatures on red or white ground weaves. White was considered by shamanic believer's to be the colour only suitable for the spirits. Shamans' textiles were exceptionally elaborate in order to separate them from the profane and place them in the realm of the ancestors. Female and male shamans wore tube skirts, distinctive head covers, blouses or coats, belts and shawls. They used healing cloths and altar cloths in their rituals."


Bill's tube skirt is very elaborate, in the red silk/indigo cotton ikat style, the ancestor/frog figure is ornate although with the supplementary weft threads in white rather than the ground.

Re the 'lack' of ornate hem - on page 53 Patricia refers to the Xam Nuea style skirts
Quote:
"usually had a very narrow indigo hem pieces, woven in various compound weaves, which served more as hem strengtheners than decoration. Decorative hem pieces were added in some of the sub-styles."
so Bill's tube skirt could be as originally planned and Sandie is also right about some skirts having very ornate woven hems. To me, in the case of this skirt, there is such complexity in the body that this is where the 'statement' is and an ornate hem would just be too much. However, that is western aestheics speaking not any awareness I have of Xam Nuea culture!

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 14, 2004 3:46 pm 
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Bill

Further thoughts on your tube skirt and whether it was woven as a skirt for a shaman. On page 268 of Patricia Cheesman's new book, figure 11.35 is a detail of a Xam Nuea style shaman's tube skirt showing very fine red silk weft ikat - red background with various coloured ikat - with ngueak (river dragons) and thiang haew (cemetery houses). In Patricia's skirt there is an ancestor figure in the ikat. (Shown immediately below this post)

Looking at your skirt (I have re-posted the detail here after turning it 90 degrees to see it the right way up for the ikat design) - a bit difficult as the design is rather truncated in the detail and smaller in the photo of the full skirt - I think you have both river dragons and cemetery houses. You have something under the arch of the cemetery house i.e. the bottom motive under the triangle but it does not immediately appear to me as an ancestor figure although it could be stylised rather than directly representational.

On page 139 Patricia talks quite a bit about 'Sin mii taa/sin mii puen (banded ikat tube skirts)
Quote:
"Banded ikat tube skrits were called sin mii taa in most areas, but the Tai Moei called them sin mii puen and the Phuan called the tube skirts with very wide ikat bands sin mii taa tuep. The ikat was separated into bands with continuous and or discontinuous supplementary weft designs and sometimes plain stripes of coloured yarns or twisted two-coloured yarns. Often the tube skirts had ikat in alternating red silk and and indigo cotton bands, similar to shaman's tube skirts or tube skirts for dressing the dead among the shamanic groups, but the ikat motifs were different. The latter textiles had funerary motifs such as the roof structures of the houses built at the cemetery over the graves, shaman's trees and/or complex river dragon motifs. However, the sin mii taa had more simplistic ikat motifs such as lozenge shapes called kaap khoam (lanterns) or simple river dragons rendered in profile. the taboo against using funerary motifs for sin mii taa was not explicitly maintained, especially as the shamanic beliefs started to fade and Buddhist re-interpretations of the images made them acceptable for ordinary use. The funerary roof structures were reinterpreted as phasaat phueng (wax castles), the shaman's trees as ton son (pine trees) or ton kalaphuek (Buddhist offering trees) and the river draggons became the naak in Buddhist iconography. At the same time, the sin mii taa were sometimes used in shamanic rituals as the sin mor phii (shaman's tube skirts) became rare."

Thank you very much Bill for posting this fascinating tube skirt at just the right time for me going through Patricia's book and after a few days in Chiang Mai with Susan Stem when quite a lot of what we did and saw had Lao-Tai resonances!


Attachments:
File comment: Fig 11.35 p268 ('Khon buhaan' (an ancestor figure) has been placed on this Xam Nuea style shaman's tube skirt with 'ngueak (river dragons) and 'thiang haew' (cemetery houses). From Patricia Cheesman's book 'Lao-Tai Textiles... details above.
p268-11.35.jpg
p268-11.35.jpg [ 54.34 KiB | Viewed 9117 times ]
File comment: detail Bill Hornaday's Xam Nuea style tube skirt rotated 90 degrees
sin_mi_1-_detail__.jpg
sin_mi_1-_detail__.jpg [ 55.75 KiB | Viewed 9154 times ]

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Last edited by Pamela on Sat Nov 20, 2004 7:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 7:42 pm 
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Just to let those of you watching this thread know, I have added in a couple of photos from Patricia Cheesman's book on Lao-Tai textiles to my posts above where I quoted specific examples from her book. I contacted Patricia to ask if I could use some photos from her book on the forum as long as there was full attribution. I am very pleased to say that she has given her permission. Especially in the post immediately above this one the proximity of the photos of the silk weft ikat in the two skirts provides an interesting comparison.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 7:59 pm 
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Pamela,

Looking at my sin mi close up, I think it is clear that the figure inside of the funeral house is a stylized ancestor figure. Patricia's piece is interesting as I have never seen an ancestor figure being used as the primary figure for the ikat section. The commonality of the primary use of the ancestor figure in both pieces lends itself to the conclusion that mine was used as a shamanic piece. Can't wait to see Patricia's book as it covers the bulk of my personal collection. It will also be interesting to see Patricia's approach to the textiles of an area that she had written several books in the late 80's and early 90's. How has her analysis changed?

Bill
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 8:45 pm 
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Bill

I have a couple of Patricia's earlier books ('Lan Na Textiles: Yuan Lue Lao' - 1987 and 'Costume and Culture: Vanishing textiles of some of the Tai groups in Laos PDR' - 1990). Looking back at them I would say that these were very much the starting point for the current volume. However, I think that in the new book Patricia has very much cleared the decks and very meticulously reviewed her ideas and very thoroughly researched her material. She has used her own collection as the basis of her research. She says: This book (Lao-Tai Textiles) is so much more extensive than my first, as I have been able to travel freely in the areas of research and my own knowledge of weaving has increased. I have required a minimum of five persons to confirm each piece of information and conducted hundreds of interviews.'

She has used the "indigenous names for the geographical spaces whose peoples produced the textiles targeted in this research: Muang Xam Nuea and Muang Phan". "I have maintained the indigenous word for these administrative entities as muang rather than attempt any equivalents, which are often adopted by researchers on Tai culture and history, such as 'states', feudal systems' or 'mandalas'. None of these satisfy the concept of muang, which was essentially concerned with the control over manpower, not the ownership of land, although muang were established in certain geographic regions and utilised land. These muang expanded and contracted continuously, overlapped and had multiple suzerainties, paying tribute to several overlords but at the same time maintaining their independence and receiving tribute themselves from less politically powerful muang within their region."

The point that Patricia makes very strongly - and which is really a new concept to me - is that "Clothing styles were outward signs fo allegiance to the chief, who in turn would wear appropriate clothing to show allegiance to his overlords. When people were relocated to different muang under a new chief, they changed their clothing and textiles accordingly. This adaptation was in some cases a gradual process and in others very sudden, and can be studied in both displaced groups and in intermarriage. While clothing styles changed, in all or some part, to the style of new homes by peoples that were relocated to different muang for various reasons, textiles made for household use generally maintained their original styles despite migrations and deportations."

This means that Patricia does not focus on attributing textiles to particular Lao-Tai groups i.e. Tai Daeng, Tai Dam, but rather locates them to particualar muang.

There is quite a big chunk of text on these ideas before she gets down to the different types of textiles - and then these are mainly detailed by useage. There are also sections on techniques of dyeing and weaving as well as on meanings of motifs.

Compared to the early fairly slim books this new one is a heavy weight - literally! I have been trying to work my way through it as bedtime reading but it gets rather heavy to keep upright!

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 Post subject: book look
PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2004 2:57 pm 
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Pamela- thank you for mentioning the revolutionary approach to attribution used in Patricia Cheesman's new book. It may not be specifically pertinent to other regions of the world, or it may, depending on the history and political systems. What it does however, is make us question the accepted ethnolinguistic method of attribution. It is a very complex subject and cannot be examined in the depth deserved in this context, but suffice it to say that challenges to the conventional wisdom should always be welcome as they add to our understanding and knowledge of people, history, and ultimately, ourselves.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2004 8:17 pm 
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A couple of comments:

1. I do have a T'ai Dam shaman skirt of some age. The mut mi panels are flanked by supplementary weft which is characterised by an uneven number of lozenges- varying between 5 and 9 in different panels. These motifs are very sinitic - more so then I've noticed in other textiles from the region. Its charming character includes small burn holes (from ritual candles, and other "fires"), although in fact, it is not particularly elaberate.

2. Susan, it does appear that our tampan-in common, may be the only textile where the "frogman" figure is woven with its fingers downward instead of raised.

3. Ethnolinguistics is a concept more used in anthropology than linguistics, but is still very useful for categorizing semantic domains. Most linguistic studies are based on binary bundles yielding distinguishing features. I still have nightmares about the paper I gave at the First Internation Conference on Khmer Studies, in 1996. The paper was translated into Khmer by my husband's former Cambodian student from Melbourne, who insists the interperting task was the worst experience in his life so far.

4. Having heard Patricia's lecture, I think she was moving into the linguistic domain of "areal features". This is a well established concept based not on genetic (in its very broad sense) or family relationships to explain similarities between languages. Rather, areal features explain similarities from a geographic perspective: thus, similarities in textiles in a particular area are explained by ethnic groups' proximity to one another, with features spread by diffusion, rather then emanating from a single ancestor.

5. Identifying textiles and their use is still a very valuable exercise- but once again, the use of a particular textile may prove elusive.

Sandie


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