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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2012 7:11 pm 
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I have browsed and treasured the forum for several years as a source of information about Asian textiles. As a new member, I hope someone can provide insight about a textile in my possession. I regret that my ineptitude prevents me from producing and posting a photo with the requisite small number of pixils.

The textile in question is 11" square, tabby weave, plain unbleached cotton with three sides machine hemmed. Aside from a 7" twisted cotton loop attached at one corner, the embellishment consists of black cotton embroidery forming single, written characters or circular groups of same. The embroidery stitches are small and tight; their surface effect looks like fine braiding. There is a 5 1/2" central circle with a single central character surrounded with 4 concentric rings of what look like additional characters. In each corner of the textile there is an additional 2 1/2" diameter circle of characters - 2 concentric rings around a central character. Additional, larger, single characters decorate the spaces between the central and corner circles.

I purchased the textile in Hanoi and was told by the seller it was a Dao wrap used to present family jewelry to a bride upon the occasion of her wedding. I was also told that textiles like this were no longer made because few, if any, Dao people could now read them. I sent a photo of the textile to a Chinese acquaintance and she could make nothing of the characters.

I have not gotten a loan of the Howards' books from the library, but I've found no descriptions of similar textiles in resources I have at hand. I'd be grateful for any information forum members can supply. Thanks!


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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2012 9:18 pm 
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Hi Nancy - Welcome to the forum!

It is rather difficult to identify your textile without seeing an image of it. However, your description sounded to me rather like a textile used by the Kim Mun Lantien Sha - found in Vietnam, Laos and China. Some of the women wear what is known as a 'celestial crown' - see http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... php?t=1258 for some information on these crowns. When not being worn the crowns are wrapped in cloths and your description sounds like one of these. Jess G Pourret's excellent book on the Yao (Dao) "The Yao: The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand" published by River Books, Bangkok, shows on page 167 a selection of these cloths. He has very kindly given us permission to post images from his book on the forum. I will scan the page and attach here. If one of them looks similar then let me know and I will try and enlarge the image and post. I also have one of the crown wrapping cloths in my collection and will look it out and photograph it to post.

The text accompanying the images is as follows:
Quote:
"432 A-H Eight different cotton cloths for wrapping silver crowns. Kim Mun Lantien Sha and Shanzi, Yunnan, Guangxi, northern Vietnam and Laos. When not in use the celestial crown is wrapped in such a cloth, which is always white, with various finely embroidered Chinese characters formulating auspicious thoughts.

Here can be seen both the simplest and the most elaborate ones. The embroidery is done without the use of any pattern, stencil or prior drawing showing that although the embroidery skills of Kim Mun women are not as frequently displayed as those of the Kim Mien they are in no way inferior."


Attachments:
File comment: Page 167 from "The Yao: The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand" by Jess G Pourret published by River Books, Bangkok
K-M-L-S-w-clothW.jpg
K-M-L-S-w-clothW.jpg [ 107.84 KiB | Viewed 6105 times ]

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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2012 11:12 am 
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Well, I hunted out my Kim Mun Lantien Sha 'celestial crown' and wrapping. I think that Jess Pourret would categorise it as 'simple'! Interesting that the placement of the characters seems to my eye to be pretty much random and not arranged in any circular layout although there is definitely a 'balance' in their layout. I attach a photo of the complete cloth - 38 cm square with a twisted tie of 42.5 cm - and also a few characters plus one close-up of the back of one the embroidery of one character (probably not any of the ones shown in 'face' view).

I have no idea where the Kim Mun Lantien Sha woman lived who made this cloth. It was sourced in S W China on one of Martin Conlan's buying trips. I am pretty sure he did not have any detail on where it was originally sourced but I will check with him to see if there is any more information. Given that the 'pickers' travel far and wide there is no saying that it even originated in China rather than, say, Vietnam.

I look forward, Nancy, to hearing if my 'guess' of the style of cloth as shown in Jess Pourret's book is correct.


Attachments:
File comment: Front of Kim Mun Lantien Sha 'celestial crown' wrapping cloth
IMGP0022w.jpg
IMGP0022w.jpg [ 96.4 KiB | Viewed 6092 times ]
File comment: character 1
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IMGP0024w.jpg [ 86.35 KiB | Viewed 6092 times ]
File comment: character 2
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IMGP0025w.jpg [ 82.88 KiB | Viewed 6092 times ]
File comment: character 3
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IMGP0026w.jpg [ 88.73 KiB | Viewed 6092 times ]
File comment: back of embroidery of one character
IMGP0029w.jpg
IMGP0029w.jpg [ 100.96 KiB | Viewed 6092 times ]

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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2012 2:40 pm 
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back again....!

I have been in touch with Martin Conlan:

Quote:
These Lantien cloths appear to be found in Guangxi and along the border areas of Yunnan, Vietnam & Laos.

Here are a couple I acquired some time ago that I believe to be from Guangxi: (See examples attached to this post).


On checking back with Martin to get his OK to post the images he came back with:
Quote:
Please post images.

My feelings about the cloths with Chinese characters are that they are from the Yunnan/Vietnam/Laos border areas. The same area also uses the white fringed headscarves with dark indigo detailed embroidery sometimes of poems in Chinese characters. You might have even bought one of these off me in the past. Recently you bought a narrow priest's embroidered headband of this style. (P.204, Jess' book).

I have scanned page 204 of Jess G Pourret's book on the Yao (Dao) "The Yao: The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand" published by River Books, Bangkok. And, yes, I have one of the 'head streamers' mentioned by Jess in the caption (which I will quote) below. Mine is very similar to the one in the photo which has an indigo background to very dark indigo embroidered characters on the head band and then natural white streamers which would be tied and hang down. I will try and photograph a detail - when my camera battery has recharged. However, the dark indigo embroidery thread on quite dark indigo woven cotton may not photograph well.

The caption to the image on page 204:
Quote:
562. Various belts and head band streamers for a Kim Mun Lantien Dao Gong priest. Each are covered by very fine Chinese characters always embroidered in dark blue on white [except the headband similar to mine which is dark blue on blue]. Average width: 20 cm and length: 60/70 cm. North Laos and Yunnan. Although contemporary, they are very traditional in style.

Note that Jess says 'contemporary'. His book was published by River Books in 2002[/quote]

See below for the two Lantien cloths which Martin was given to understand came from Guangxi. Both an immediate sense of the circular 'crown' which they were created to wrap.


Attachments:
File comment: Lantien wrapping cloth for a 'celestial crown' said to be from Guangxi
KMLS-SL1w.jpg
KMLS-SL1w.jpg [ 102.86 KiB | Viewed 6088 times ]
File comment: Lantien wrapping cloth for a 'celestial crown' said to be from Guangxi
KMLS-SL2w.jpg
KMLS-SL2w.jpg [ 88.8 KiB | Viewed 6088 times ]

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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2012 7:22 pm 
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See below for the scan of page 204 from Jess G Pourret's book on the Yao (Dao) "The Yao: The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand" published by River Books, Bangkok.

Quote:
"562. Various belts and head band streamers for a Kim Mun Lantien Dao Gong priest. Each are covered by very fine Chinese characters always embroidered in dark blue on white [except the headband similar to mine which is dark blue on blue]. Average width: 20 cm and length: 60/70 cm. North Laos and Yunnan. Although contemporary, they are very traditional in style."


Attachments:
File comment: Fig 562, page 204 from Jess G Pourret's book on the Yao (Dao) "The Yao: The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand" published by River Books, Bangkok
KMLS-JPp204w.jpg
KMLS-JPp204w.jpg [ 111.68 KiB | Viewed 6084 times ]

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PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2012 10:38 am 
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Here are a few photos of my head band streamer for a Kim Mun Lantien Dao Gong priest.

The textile, including tassels at each end is 147 cm long (centre embroidered band is 38 cm, one side has 92 cm of natural cloth then a 31 cm tassel, the other a 88 cm length of folded natural cloth and a 36 cm tassel).


Attachments:
File comment: head band streamer for a Kim Mun Lantien Dao Gong priest
IMGP0030w.jpg
IMGP0030w.jpg [ 100.03 KiB | Viewed 6063 times ]
File comment: length of indigo embroidery on indigo background of head band streamer for a Kim Mun Lantien Dao Gong priest
IMGP0032w.jpg
IMGP0032w.jpg [ 169.76 KiB | Viewed 6063 times ]
File comment: detail of head band streamer for a Kim Mun Lantien Dao Gong priest
IMGP0032c.jpg
IMGP0032c.jpg [ 96.98 KiB | Viewed 6063 times ]

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PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2012 9:15 pm 
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I have been in touch with Nancy by email and she has very kindly sent me a photo of her textile which I attach. As you will see, it is indeed a variation on the theme laid out in Jess Pourret's photo on page 167 from "The Yao: The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand". So that it is easy for us all to compare I am going to post the scan of that page here again - and what a splendid piece it is! Right up there at the most elaborate end of the scale!

Nancy has elaborated a little on the information that she has about the textile:
Quote:
"the woman from whom I purchased the textile in Hanoi in 2010 said that she and her husband went to Vietnamese villages and traded supplies the villagers needed for textiles. Thus I assumed that the piece was from Vietnam, but that's just an assumption on my part. Could the textile could have come from elsewhere - China? - and been traded into Vietnam?"

Given that we know that the Kim Mun Lantien Sha are found in Vietnam I think it is very likely that Nancy's textile is from this ethnic group living in Vietnam. We also know that historically these minority groups have moved across the modern national boundaries between China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand and these boundaries have little meaning for them.

In addition, in the old forum thread on the crowns http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... php?t=1258 I posted some excellent photos taken by Tristan Savatier in a market in Bảo Lạc, Vietnam, in 2005. I spotted Kim Mun Lantien Sha women wearing crowns covered for ordinary day wear by a different form of embroidered cloth also using indigo thread on a natural woven background. Looking at these photos again I see that there is one of a woman wearing her crown covered by this cloth and I think I can see some embroidery which is almost stylised script peeping out. I have made a minor edit to my post on this section of the old thread so that I can get a direct (I hope!) link to that specific post http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... =4086#4086

Nancy is very interested to know about the embroidered characters.
Quote:
"are the characters Chinese? (It was interesting that a Chinese speaker recognized none of them.) Are such textiles still made and used or was the woman from whom I purchased the piece correct in saying few people if any can still read what is written on them so they may no longer be made or used?

I am not qualified to identify the characters but we do have forum members who may be able to help. To my untutored eye it looks to me as if the characters in Nancy's textiles have a more 'decorative' feel than pure script compared to others that we can see on this thread - perhaps a little embroiderer's licence!

It will be interesting to see if we generate any comments from forum members which can shed some further light on Nancy's questions. My thanks to her for focusing on these cloths and I make no apologies for getting rather carried away with the topic! That is what this forum is all about!!!


Attachments:
File comment: Nancy's Dao textile
DAO.jpg
DAO.jpg [ 96.66 KiB | Viewed 6011 times ]
File comment: Page 167 from "The Yao: The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand" by Jess G Pourret published by River Books, Bangkok
K-M-L-S-w-clothW.jpg
K-M-L-S-w-clothW.jpg [ 107.84 KiB | Viewed 6011 times ]

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PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 8:32 pm 
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I agree that this may be termed a "simple" cloth - not only for the small number of embroidered characters (13) but for what appears to be poor character writing. I will attach a word file with the layout to describe each character best. It is quite understandable the difficulty in reading the characters as they appear to have been copied from traditional script (as still used in Taiwan in comparison to the simplified character taught in China). Why do I say poor character writing? Firstly it would appear that the individual who embroidered these was using handwritten examples and if you are not exactly aware of the strokes involved it is easy to make mistakes - as evident in several characters for example the top right hand character which I think should be mistakenly uses the character instead of .
The characters which Pamela has enlarged are as follows:

Character 1 (bottom right hand character). As such this character does not exist – however it may possibly be copied from the very old hand written character meaning indigo.

Character 2 (middle "row" extreme left). To be read correctly this character should be rotated 90 degrees clockwise. It is the character with possible meanings of to prance/leap; to soar/ to go up; to turn over/surrender.

Character 3 (fourth "row" left hand character) This is a poorly copied version of the character having several meanings including positive; male; the sun; north of a stream; south of a hill; and bright/brilliant.

The character photographed from the back is a poor copy of the character with possible meanings harmony/harmonious; peace/peaceful; to be affable; and the sum/aggregate.

I do think this cloth shows circular design due to the placement of characters in two concentric circles about the central character. I think this is the case due to the writing and positioning of the characters. The outer circle contains 8 characters whilst the inner circle contains 4.

The central character as written is non-existent character. It may possibly be a confused combination of words/incorrect copying of handwriting. The upper part is a poor copy of the character meaning rain. The lower part is a type of mythical bird similar to the roc.


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PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 8:53 pm 
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As mentioned previously these characters are almost indecipherable for most users of simplified Chinese characters. The possible characters are my suggestions. It should be noted that although in some cases use of a character is dircetly related to its meaning sometimes it may be employed to represent a similar sounding word in the embroider's own language thereby keeping the actual meaning hidden from outsiders. Actually interpreting the meaning of these character combinations is currently beyond me but the character placement and combinations usually have significance. Although this cloth I believe has two concentric circles around the central character it is easier to describe each character as appearing in 'rows'. Starting at the top as row 1 and reading from left to right. Numbers after the pinyin are the tones for speaking the character.
First row:
possibly huan3; possibly incorrect copying of feng4; zhi–

Second row:
he2; ??? indecipherable

Third row:
long2; ??? non-existent character - see comment above on possible central character interpretation; teng2

Fourth row:
yang2; 滿 man3

Fifth row:
?? non-existent character possibly a confused combination of words and copying of original writing (upper left part zhi3. The right hand part of this character is possibly a poor copying of 鳥 niao3 which combined with the lower left character to form ya- meaning crow/raven; hui4; ?? possibly an incorrect copying of a very old character meaning indigo


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PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 1:56 pm 
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Hi Iain

Thank you so very much for all your concentration on deciphering the script on my textile - amazing! I wonder if it was not only writing that was copied but previously embroidered characters and, over time, the copies of copies changed what was depicted. Rather like the (in)famous 'Chinese whispers'!

Interesting your comments about the depiction you could see in mine being based on traditional rather than simplified script - I had an 'ah yes' moment when I read that and, of course, would help explain why today's (mainland) Chinese cannot recognise the script.

Can you managed to link anything in Nancy's textile to Chinese script? These look even more overlaid with many reproductions of embroidery.

Thank you very, very much indeed for all your efforts which I very much appreciate. I have to admit that you were the forum member who particularly came to mind as being able to translate them - if they were translatable!

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 Post subject: Nancy's textile
PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 10:09 pm 
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I think that Nancy' textile possibly uses the embroider's interpretation of traditional characters. The inner circle and the four corner circles are beyond deciphering and here I would go with your suggestion that the embroidery reflects copied embroidery. This may explain the breakdown of the characters represented.

In the outer ring there are perhaps only two characters with variations on their deformity: yi4 and possibly feng-. The latter character has lost the distinctiveness of the radical and in some cases lost it entirely.

Furthermore, if the two characters are possibly alternated around the outer ring then there is also confusion as forms of the each embroidered character seems to blend these two and come up with something indecipherable further supporting the idea that older embroidery was copied instead of handwriting.

Like characters in the inner and corner circles the other 4 smaller inner circle characters are indecipherable. The one located bottom left reduced to a 'squiggle' has similarities to some embroidery of characters on Meifu Li textiles previously shown on the forum....

Sorry no further leads on why these characters are embroidered. yi4 standing alone can have meanings- easy; amicable; to change places; to exchange/barter
feng standing alone has a variety of meanings including abundant, plentiful and fruitful as well as a harvest.


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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2012 3:09 am 
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Not to give Iain more work, but to add more fuel to this fascinating fire I post here a similar piece in my collection. I am just curious to see if any characters on my crown cover are more literally transcribed. It is certainly a very graphic presentation and one cannot help but wonder if the maker took liberties with the language for the sake of aesthetics, or perhaps out of ignorance/unfamiliarity.


Attachments:
Mail-TAV223_Overall.jpg
Mail-TAV223_Overall.jpg [ 55.65 KiB | Viewed 5913 times ]

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 Post subject: traditional script
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2012 10:01 pm 
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Just a quick one, Susan - the embroiderer has definitely been using traditional Chinese script either to copy from embroidery or handwriting and yes, it does appear to have possible aesthetic embellishments. Heading out, but with time will be able to identify more particularly in the corners. For starters though - the central character fu4 can represent blessing, good fortune/luck. ... More in the future :)


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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2012 10:06 pm 
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:| The programme does not seem accept the old way of how is traditionally written which appears very similar to how the charcter is depicted on your textile mmmm will have to solve at a later date ??? photograph the paper version of the dictionary !!


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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2012 10:10 pm 
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示 in a more elongated form of the radical for shi is how the left hand part of the character should appear arrgh dictionary photograph will be better!


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