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 Post subject: Yao Taoist Robe
PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 4:28 pm 
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Hello. I recently acquired this Taoist robe from a dealer in Guizhou. It is listed as Yao, from Hunan, hemp with silk embroidery. It is estimated to be between 50 to 80 years old, but I think it could be older.

I will attempt to post my first photos to the Forum. Apologies if these do not come through.

I have not seen anything quite like this robe, and I would appreciate all comments on it. Thank you. Nina Williams


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 10:18 pm 
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Nina

What a simply stunning textile!

I think I have seen other Hunan Yao pieces with that solid gold silk embroidery but nothing 'pictorial' like that. The embroidery gives an almost 3-D impression. Makes one think that it must have been made for a very special shaman or for use at very special ceremonies. So often the Daoist pieces a bit like this are in a much looser style. This fine concentration of stitching really appeals to me. It looks in the photos as if some of the embroidery is almost like a bas relief and sculptured. I like the very dense indigo background which sets off the embroidery so very well.

How exciting for find such a special piece. I shall certainly hunt through my references. Thanks very much indeed for sharing this piece with us and I hope that we get some comments and further information.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 1:34 am 
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RE: YAO TAOIST ROBE

Dear Pamela,

Thanks so much for your very quick reply. I was excited to come upon this beautiful robe; I feel it is truly a soulful and inspired piece, although it is difficult to fathom its history!

You are correct that the embroidery has almost a sculptural quality, bold yet finely executed at the same time.

I apologize for the relatively poor quality of the photos. I am happy to provide better photos as any and all fine scholars on your fine Forum may request.

Best Regards, Nina


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 6:37 pm 
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Nina

I drew Martin Conlan's attention to your Taoist robe. He deals quite a lot and is interested in and attracted to Yao textiles.

He stresses that his thoughts are along the lines of intuitive comments rather than specific knowledge but I thought you might be interested as it gives you a sense of its unusualness in the marketplace:

Quote:
"The Hunan Yao Taoist robe doesn't look like any Yao robes I have seen before (I would just love to see it). If it is from Hunan Yao then it could be very different anyway. I know that the Hunan Yao Taoist ceremonial paintings are stylistically quite different than others. There are enough different Taoist priest styles in Jess Pourret's Yao book to indicate that this could well be the case.

The pair of dragons on the back is not unlike the Yao priest's robes elsewhere, although the size of the two individual figures set it apart from others. It "feels" more Han Chinese in influence and appears to have a cross breast fastening. The use of Chinese characters along the edge of the garment can be found in other Yao ritual clothing (re: Yao Priest's Dress thread). The indigo fabric looks fantastic. From the photos it looks genuinely old.

Overall I would say there are enough elements there to say the robe could well be what it purports to be. Not having seen one like this before makes it difficult to be more precise. It would be helpful if it had accompanying accessories, belts, hat etc."


Best

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 1:37 pm 
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Dear Pamela,

Please thank Martin for me for his wonderful comments. They are very helpful.
He is correct about the Han-like cross-breast closure of this robe.

I know next-to-nothing about Yao Taoist ceremonial paintings, but I did notice
some vague similarities to my robe in the blue robes pictured in paintings on pages 221 (590D) and 242 (606A) of Jess Pourret's Yao book.

I would appreciate it if you could let Martin know I plan to take much better more detailed photos of this robe, and I will post them as soon as I can. In the meantime, thank you so much, Pamela, for all that you do to further the knowledge about ALL these amazing tribal textiles.

Best, Nina


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 8:32 am 
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At my request Nina has sent me some more detailed images of her stunning robe which I am starting to add to this thread.

I have been consulting with a few people but so far drawn a blank on anyone having seen anything like it. There is quite a feeling that it might be Han. A suggestion that it might be a theatrical robe - but this does not find favour with three of us. The heavy background fabric rather than a satinised fabric seems to make this unlikely.

This is such a stunning piece - bas relief in embroidery and the images make such an impression and have so much 'presence'.

My hope is that, by increasing the images of the piece, if someone who does have the requiste knowledge sees it we may, in future, learn more about it. So do encourage people to check out the thread and I hope that the search engines that always seem to be crawling the forum will deliver an 'expert'!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 8:38 pm 
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more images from Nina...


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 Post subject: Query Li origin?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:20 am 
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Are there similarities between this piece and some purportedly Li dragon quilts? I am thinking of the Odon Wagner 2006 exhibition - "From symbols to ceremony" which showed a Li dragon quilt that uses the same emboridery style....
Iain


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 3:04 pm 
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In response to Iain's interesting observation: I looked up Odon Wagner's Li Dragon Blanket, and I agree there are some similarities in the use of very thick embroidery on the linen indigo ground; additionally, in the use of a relatively restrained color palette; in the presentation of dragons, and quilins too.

It has been suggested that the embroidery might be a newer addition on top of an older robe. I have to post some more pictures of the interior of the robe and details of the stitching to support or dispel this idea. Iain, please kindly check the postings from time to time, as I so appreciate your input on this knotty mystery!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 9:00 pm 
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Sorry, Nina, I have been a bit slow getting these five photos posted!

Some detail shots, still of the face of the garment plus another Taoist image.


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File comment: another Taoist image
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 9:15 pm 
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Iain and Nina

I don't think that Nina's robe is very similar to the Li Dragon hangings.

I have a Chinese book of the Li Dragon embroideries and the style of the images is quite different. There is some similarity in the basic embroidery stitch in that there are long stitches to cover the cloth but even here the style is not the same. The colour palette is different also with the Li embroideries having far more oranges and reds.

The book is 'Li Dragon Artists', a large pictorial book by Cai Yuliang. The photos document embroidered textiles sent as homage and tax to the emperor of China. ISBN 7-5443-0692-5

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 1:38 am 
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Thank you, Pamela, for the exhaustive photo posting. I agree with you that there is probably no direct link between this robe and the Li Dragon blankets, but it is fun to examine all the echoes back and forth between the "pure" Chinese designs and the tribal Chinese textiles, and then in between the tribes themselves. Your book on the Li pieces sounds great.

I'll try to shoot the interior of the robe this week as our treasure hunt continues!

Best, Nina


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 1:34 pm 
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Hello again. Concern has been expressed by some Hmong/ Miao scholars that this robe could be a duplicitous beauty (fake sounds so final).

I am planning to test the silk and the ground indigo fabric, and I will send in photos of the interior of the robe.

If the embroidery is new, what can we say about the time, effort, and creativity it took to make it? More chapters in this mystery to be read.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 2:44 pm 
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Nina

There are several reasons why this could be more recent embroidery on an older base.

As you know, as I shared the information with you, Michael Goh, collector of Yao shamanist artefacts based in Chiang Mai, when approached about this robe by Martin Conlan said - before many of the later images were posted - that:
Quote:
"the cloak looks like a Taoist shaman's jacket, Yao or otherwise, I can say only if I have a complete and full image of the front and back. Take a good look at the underside of the embroidery. If the silk knots are fresh and loose instead of tight and knobby, they are probably new. They make very good new pieces, sometimes on top of old used jackets. The image of the jacket shows very thick silk embroidered deity figures, clean details with no signs of age. Try to detect the whole jacket for signs of age or use. If this is a Yao jacket, it would be from Guangxi or Hunan".

Martin condensed what Michael Goh said somewhat but drew the implication that if the gown itself shows signs of age then the silk embroidery should as well. Martin's old Yao shaman's robes have lost some of their surface details in the silk embroidery right across the piece".

I hope that Michael and Martin will not mind me sharing these thoughts more publically on the forum.

The robe itself may well have been made for use by the Yao - valuable as a continuing tradition - and not to deceive. Possibly a later dealer may have been deceiving - or, to put it more kindly, may not have known! Regardless of the motive for making the robe there is no doubt about the skill of drawing out and embroidering of it! It certainly isn't mass produced as no one seems to have seen one like it!

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http://www.tribaltextiles.info
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Last edited by Pamela on Tue Jun 16, 2009 5:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 2:54 pm 
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Thank you, Pamela, this is well summarized. And all these questions and thoughts show how valuable the Forum is!

I think we'll all learn more on further examination.

Best,

Nina


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