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PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2004 2:02 pm 
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Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
The attached photo shows a cotton cross-stiched piece which is 188 cm long and 25 cm in height. I purchased it from a Miao textile dealer in Beijing. He said it was a skirt bottom, but didn't seem to know where it was from or much about it. Does anyone have any ideas where it might be from and its use?
Thanks,
Pam Najdowski


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Dirt Market Mystery.jpg
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2004 6:58 pm 
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Hi Pam
Just some quick thoughts on your skirt bottom. It looks to me like the work of aboriginal tribes from the island of Taiwan. The Rukai and Paiwan tribes of Taiwan are, like the other minority tribes of this island related to the peoples of Indonesia, and show certain costume influences from mainland China mixed with more indigenous elements. They use serpent motifs extensively in their costume decoration, often arranged in pairs with upward facing heads as in your example, and these are often used on skirt bottoms and long dark coloured tunics, where the work can be in beads or embroidery, yellow orange or green being prefered colours, at least in the examples I have seen.
A main reference source for Taiwainese aboriginal textiles, "Culture of clothing among Taiwan Aborigines: meanings-images" shows many fine examples of the serpent motif as used by the above tribes: - eg page 220 a female tunic like garment of the Paiwan embellished with pairs of serpents in predominantly yellow, orange and green beadwork, also a skirt of the Rukai people (page 266) with lower edgeing in beadwork displaying similar upward facing serpents and page 282 Rukai woman's skirt showing similar motifs, this time embroidered.
The selection of other garments of the Paiwan and Rukai illustrated in this volume show examples of a variety of woven patterns in addition to the beadwork and embroidery. Altogether a costume tradition which is both bold and vibrant.
I can't quite make out the rounded orange motifs between the serpent heads at the top, are they by any chance human heads? another widespread motif in Paiwan/Rukai decorative art and associated with head hunting, and this raises the question of whether these two motifs are symbolically related or simply put together to create an attractive pattern.
Anymore thoughts anyone eg serpent motifs and symbolism in Taiwan and island southeast Asia?


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 Post subject: Better photo
PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2004 11:53 am 
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Siriol, it was great to receive an extensive reply to my first post on this site. I wish I had access to the Taiwanese reference you mentioned. I'm attaching a better close-up photo of the piece. There are a total of 14 heads surrounded by serpents on each side.
Thanks,
Pam Najdowski


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taiwan_.jpg
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2004 6:08 pm 
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Hi Pam
Thanks for providing a close up of this textile, the designs on closer inspection are certainly very typical of Paiwan/Rukai work.
The book I mentioned is large and comprehensive and includes sections on all the main tribes of Taiwan, with colour photos of textiles and old field photos of the tribes themselves. (most of the text however is in Chinese)
You can find further info on my website which includes many other titles of relevance to this forum: -
http://www.siriolr.freeserve.co.uk/


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2004 9:19 pm 
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Pam

Thanks for your post - especially the enlargement. Very, very interesting and quite unlike any Miao embroidery I have seen. I had a look through my Miao 'bible' "Clothing and Ornaments of China's Miao people'" and nothing at all like this. Sounds like a case of a dealer seeing embroidery on a skirt hem and guessing that it was Miao - I suppose on the balance of probablilities he might have been right. However, the piece just does not have the 'feel' of Miao.

Many thanks, Siriol, for your very helpful information. I might even be galvanised to go for one of the books you have recommended in the past on the local Taiwan tribes after seeing this.

I am sure that you both will have noticed the frieze of tiny people across the top of the embroidery - echoes of the lines of boys or girls on Dong baby carriers whcih we saw on an earlier thread.

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 Post subject: Taiwanese textile?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2004 5:06 am 
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Hi all,

This textile is extremely interesting, but I doubt it is Taiwanese in origin. After years of coughing on dust for that hidden treasure, I have concluded that textiles simply don't travel very far. Since the "Formosan" (excuse the linguistic nomenclature) aboriginals are also related to the Li, there really should be more recognizable features in their textiles.

I simply cannot conceive how something from island SEAsia would make it to Beijing. And of course considering the great and well deserved popularity of Miao embroidery, it makes sense to sell anything as Miao handiwork.

Could you send on the back of the textile so I could have a better look at the stitching?

In structural terms, this piece could be in fact be attached to a skirt, or be used as a collar or trimming.

The top portion of little figures is also a motif used by the Khmer groups in Surin Province, Thailand, and in other provinces bordering Cambodia.

I'm not at all acquainted with Taiwanese textiles; the faces and serpents look very tribal to me, and my first impression was they may be Naga.

A wonderful mystery to start us on Pam!

Sandie


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 Post subject: Taiwanese Textile
PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2004 2:46 pm 
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Hi again, Now this is really fun getting feedback from all of you. I am attaching more close up pictures of this long strip of cross-stiching. To give an idea of size, the paper clip is a small one. I'm sorry the pictures are not better but I am not at home during the day when I could use natural light. The cross-stiching is quite fine. As a point of clarification the dealer I purchased the piece from is a Miao gentleman from Leishan, Guizhou. He does not speak English and my Chinese is extremely limited, but he said the piece was not Miao...I think.
I appreciate everyones input.
Pam


Attachments:
File comment: front of piece
serpents_face_004_.jpg
serpents_face_004_.jpg [ 54.83 KiB | Viewed 13485 times ]
File comment: back of piece
serpents_face_002_.jpg
serpents_face_002_.jpg [ 61.08 KiB | Viewed 13485 times ]
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2004 4:30 pm 
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I have to agree with Sandie that textiles usually do not travel that far to a tribal dealer tha thousand miles away. I would start to look at the non- miao groups in Guizou. The thought crosses my mind it could be from some Yao subgroup. Although I have never seen this iconography from them. Good mystery. I am sure someone will come up with something.

Bill Hornaday
www.hornadayart.com


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2004 6:09 pm 
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Couple of comments:

The indigo background looks as if it is hand spun and hand woven. I guess that the embroidery was probably done from the back of the piece as is usually the case (I always wonder how they can create the design this way.)

Having visited Kaili and met the dealers there and also knowing that much is traded into Beijing I could believe that this piece might come from Taiwan to Beijing as part of textiles traded. I think that people forget what a commodity minority textiles have become in China. Also, travelling in PRC you will meet so many business people from ROC (Taiwan) who have come into PRC to do business.

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http://www.tribaltextiles.info
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 Post subject: Taiwan in China?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2004 9:37 pm 
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Pamela, of course you and Sirol are probably right, since I've never seen anything with these unique faces. I simply feel that this textile has another story.

It certainly has age, since most recent Miao and Dong pieces are embroidered on commercial cloth. The colors are also interesting-would they be natural?

A Yao shamanistic cloth is always a possibility; Pam, is there any sign that this was taken from a larger textile? Frayed edges? cut edges? I still can't place the colors.

Sandie


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 Post subject: Taiwanese Textile ?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2004 2:27 pm 
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Sandie,
I'm not sure if the cloth is handwoven; my amature guess is that it is not. There is no sign of wear or that this piece was attached to a larger piece. It looks like it should be attached to the bottom of a skirt, but it is also long enough to be used as a sash. I do think the colors could be natural, but I do not know how the green dye is created. Curiously there is a tiny bit of embroidery on the bottom left corner, but it is done on the reverse.
Pam


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2004 10:27 pm 
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Well, I contacted Kathleen Johnson who lived in Taiwan for some time before moving to Thailand. Kathleen is a weaver and I know that she was interested in the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan. I asked her to have a look at this thread and let me know if she thought the embroidery was from Taiwan. Kathleen has come back to me with:

Quote:
Taiwan,Yes, probably Rukai.

This seems to support Siriol's identification. Kathleen has sent me various other pieces of information on the tribes in Taiwan with, to me, the most conclusive being a photo of a snake embroidery - although I don't think it is in cross-stitch. Kathleen sent a lovely old photo of Rukai warriors which I am posting although it has no visibly identifiable embroidery.

I broke off making this post to have my supper and turned on the TV - only to watch a documentary on the wildlife of Taiwan in the central mountains! As if that was not amazing enough there was also some film of about 3 of the tribes who came across a land bridge around 6000 years ago from Indonesia or Malaysia. The point of showing them was to highlight their effect on the wildlife. There were a few shots showing traditional clothing but the only woman with some embroidery on her clothing was shown too far away to identify design. What we did see lots of were snakes which abound!

Kathleen sent a paste into a word document of information on the web. I have just had a hunt on the web and came up with this link: http://www.tacp.gov.tw/english/intro/cul/dress.htm which is the source web page for Kathleen's document. There are some further links and I found the photo of the snakes that she sent as well as information on embroidery as follows:
Quote:
Embroidery: In this method a fine bamboo needle or metal embroidery needle was used to pull the thread and create decorative patterns in the cloth. Styles of embroidery included cross embroidery, lock chain embroidery, chain embroidery, straight-line embroidery, and selective embroidery. Virtually all of the tribal groups practiced embroidery, and the Amis, Puyuma, and Hengchun Amis in particular were able to embroider exquisite designs. The Paiwan and Rukai were skilled at satin embroidery, cross embroidery, lock chain embroidery, and sewn-on ornamentation.

I also found this link: http://www.ritual-and-identity.uni-hd.d ... olph/Sino/ - note the pair of snakes looking up to the face in a sun with the design very similar to the embroidery in Pam's photos. There are also links to other material on the Taiwan aboriginal tribes. The background gif for a page I found seems similar to the face in Pam's embroidery.

So, in many ways everything, for me, is pointing to Taiwan.....

Oh, Pam, from the close-up of the embroidery the background indigo weave really does look like hand-spun and hand-woven.


Attachments:
File comment: Hundred pacer snake motif
Hundred Pacer snake motif.jpg
Hundred Pacer snake motif.jpg [ 24.79 KiB | Viewed 13426 times ]
File comment: Rukai warriors
Rukai-warriors_.jpg
Rukai-warriors_.jpg [ 62.34 KiB | Viewed 13426 times ]
File comment: background gif from website on the culture of Taiwan aborigal tribes
artback.gif
artback.gif [ 7.11 KiB | Viewed 13426 times ]

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 5:01 pm 
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some more comments:
It was very interesting indeed to see the BBC "Natural World" programme on Taiwan at such an appropriate moment especially the footage of the tribes. There was a lovely shot of women (possibly Rukai) embroidering textiles with butterfly designs, a motif the use of which I had been previously unaware in Paiwan/Rukai art. I could'nt quite make out if the design was in thread or beads but the same bright yellows/oranges against a dark background were evident both in their tunics and the textiles on which they were working.
About the row of human figures on Pam's example: - these, in various forms are very common to both the Paiwan and Rukai peoples. Such anthropomorphic figures, together with the previously mentioned snakes and heads also appear in woodcarving, also shown briefly in the programme.
lastly the above photo of the warriors is very interesting. Their headdresses remind me of oceanic styles rather than anything seen in mainland China (Although the Nagas of Northeast India also spring to mind). I think I have seen this photo reproduced in "Culture and Clothing of Taiwan Aborigines" together with a number of other similar shots, where they are identified as Ami rather than Rukai. Their distinctive ceremonial costume, may not be worn any more since I only ever remember having seen it in old photographs. The Ami live more towards the east coast, rather than the mountains, and were mentioned briefly in the BBC programme as fishermen.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2004 10:41 am 
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Following on from my reference above to Kathleen Forance Johnson see her article 'Textures of Taiwan's "Original People"' for the September 1997 edition of Fibrearts with particular reference to weaving in Taiwan: http://www.feminista.com/archives/v3n8/johnson.html

[As so often happens with Kathleen's excellent articles found on-line the link above no longer works! I have a current - nov 09 - link to an article by Kathleen on Taiwanese aboriginal textiles, although not the one cited above http://www.aroundkaohsiung.freeservers. ... eaver.html ]

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Pamela

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Last edited by Pamela on Thu Nov 26, 2009 11:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: textile travels
PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2004 2:21 pm 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Am enjoying this opportunity to see a bit of the textiles from Taiwan and to learn more about them, as I've not been exposed before. Thanks to all for sharing their knowledge and many thanks to Pam for introducing us to a very interesting textile.

I would like to comment briefly about the idea that textiles don't travel so far from their origins, ie to Beijing from Taiwan. In this day and age, textiles are getting around quite far: dealers here have Indonesian textiles and Indonesian dealers are coming here for SE Asian pieces; I used to come here and to Indonesia and take them back to Saudi Arabia, and many, many made their way into that region with Hajiis who used them to finance their journey. Textiles have always been desirable commodities and have been traded for probably millenia. A recent example was shown on a television program about freeze-dried burials in Mongolia of people of Caucasian derivation; in addition to the mummies, their wrappings of early twill textiles also survived. These textiles were certainly far from home and had no resemblance to what was being woven locally at that time.

In my humble opinion I find it not reasonable to doubt attribution based on published data, by speculating about how a textile got somewhere. Or am I missing something?

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