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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 8:44 am 
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Location: Beijing
Here is something I had not seen before, wondering if other forum members are familiar with this kind of thing and can share similar pieces?

It's a Li blanket, 1.1m wide, made from a fairly stiff and heavyweight fabric, presumably one of the local plant fibers. The light background is probably the natural color (give or take some dirt!) and the design is dyed brown. Woven in 4 identical strips and then sewn together.

The weave structure is such that the light background is the warp, while the brown design is weft (horizontal in these pictures). The weft is not visible from the back, but the design can be seen as a faint "embossed" effect. It is cunningly done so that despite the warp covering up the weft in places the top surface is quite smooth.

Unlike mainland blankets it never seems to have had a border or any kind of padding behind it, as far as I can tell.

I am not sure which Li subgroup it is from, but intend to quiz the trader to try to find out.

I am wondering whether to try rinsing it ... ha! famous last words...


Attachments:
File comment: Li minority blanket from Hainan
CET241-1t.jpg
CET241-1t.jpg [ 102.14 KiB | Viewed 13241 times ]
CET241-2t.jpg
CET241-2t.jpg [ 118.73 KiB | Viewed 13241 times ]
CET241-2det.jpg
CET241-2det.jpg [ 98.58 KiB | Viewed 13241 times ]

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 Post subject: Li Blanket
PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 1:07 pm 
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Nice textile and an interesting weave. Are all of the brown threads ,that produce the patterns, weft threads? It is hard to tell from the photos but could there be a brown warp as well? What does the back look like?

The figure reminds me of ikat figures seen on Mandaya skirts and blankets from Mindanao, southern Philippines. Look forward to learning more about this textile. Best regards, MAC


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PostPosted: Fri May 28, 2010 2:57 am 
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Hi Chris-
What a nice Li blanket! I've seen numerous ones of a similar design, but usually in indigo on natural. I've been told that the natural-colored fiber is ramie- it has a sheen and can be made into finer threads than hemp or other bast fibers. The Li seem to use it a lot. It can be fairly stiff, but when washed numerous times will soften. You can probably wash your blanket, but if the brown bleeds, don't blame me! The only information I've seen that may deal with the imagery is in Chinese. Often Li textiles do not show patterning on the back; the Run mini-tubeskirts are an example.

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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 7:02 am 
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thanks for your comments Susan and MAC!

I have not seen an indigo one but will look out for that. I imagine indigo on white looks very good indeed (care to post one?). The trader that sold me this one had another with black on white but that looked more recently made. Think I will skip washing this one for now. Don't want to wash away the character ;-)

To MAC's question, the warp is all white, but there seem to be two kinds of weft, one is white and difficult to see, the other is the brown one. Both seem to go the whole width of each strip. Here is a photo of the back. Maybe the embossed effect comes about because of the relative thickness and stiffness of the fiber, compared with Run skirts for example.

The trader that sold me this one could not offer any provenance, but another trader said "Bai Sha area", which is Run Li country I think.

Chris


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File comment: back of the blanket
CET241rev.jpg
CET241rev.jpg [ 94.88 KiB | Viewed 13196 times ]

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 Post subject: Mandaya Abaca Ikat Motif
PostPosted: Fri Jun 04, 2010 8:37 pm 
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Chris, Here is a photo of the Mandaya ikat motif that your textile reminds me of.
Best Regards, MAC


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2010_05 30 # 0012 Mandaya Abaca Ikat UP-1.JPG
2010_05 30 # 0012 Mandaya Abaca Ikat UP-1.JPG [ 193.08 KiB | Viewed 13140 times ]
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2010 5:43 am 
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That is truly an amazing motif, as well as proof that aliens exist (kidding, but only just!)

Something like it is common on Li textiles, here is another from a skirt.


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LiMotif.jpg
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 06, 2010 8:56 pm 
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Hi Chris

I think I have you to blame for a serious hole in my pocket after a visit to The London Antique Textiles, Carpets, Vintage Costumes & Tribal Art Fair today! My first port of call was John Gillow who immediately said that he had some good things from Hainan. He delved in a box and produced ..... a Li blanket which is clearly a cousin to yours on this thread with a similar - although different - motif and in a very dark brown! Of course, I had immediately recognition of an 'old friend' and fell for it hook, line and sinker!

I show three images below taken quickly as I was eager to share. Mine also has four panels but I think they must be slightly wider than yours as each panel is 33cm or slightly more which gives a width of about 1.32 metres.

The double face of the cloth is quite usual on several Li fabrics. Yes, interesting to see the 'embossing' look which is the most you see of the pattern on the reverse.

Well, the hunt is on to ID the particular Li group and I shall be getting my various Li books out. I have a hunch but I am not saying until I have something more to base it on.

John said that he had brought two of these blankets from a dealer in Kaili (Guizhou) - think it must have been in December 2009. He was very chuffed at getting them and thought he had hit the dealers just when they were very keen to sell! John has visited Hainan himself twice and not managed to connect directly with any Li weavers or even dealers there so it was even sweeter for him to find them in Kaili. He said that he thought that the blanket definitely had my name on it and, I am afraid, he was right! I bought my very, very first Li piece in Kaili just bowled over by the quality of the weaving when I had no idea at all of the Li and therefore the ID of the skirt. (A Run Li mini skirt with some of the strips with a similar two-faced weave). I wonder if the dealer was the same! On that day the flat she shared had stacks of Run Li skirts and blouses and I also bought a Meifu Li head cloth - which I didn't realise then was related as it was so different. That was back in 2001. Big difference in prices then!!! Unfortunately I was at the end of a trip and my piggy bank was very low!

My blanket is soft and pretty heavy. To me it seems to be cotton but I could not say that definitively. I am interested that the Susan mentions that the indigo ones she has seen in Chiang Mai are thought to be ramie. It certainly could be ramie given that ramie can indeed become soft with use.

Looking at the selvedge (very fine) there are both brown and natural weft threads.


Attachments:
Li-blanket.jpg
Li-blanket.jpg [ 76.48 KiB | Viewed 13103 times ]
Li-blanket-det2w.jpg
Li-blanket-det2w.jpg [ 84.09 KiB | Viewed 13103 times ]
Li-blanket-det1w.jpg
Li-blanket-det1w.jpg [ 83.97 KiB | Viewed 13103 times ]

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 5:17 am 
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Hi Pamela

thanks for posting that blanket, it is fabulous! The weave structure looks identical to mine. The motifs different but clearly closely related. The density of patterning and overall effect is stunning. Not a thing that could be woven in a week or two I suspect.

Mine came from a Kaili dealer too. The same guy had three blankets. One I left behind because it looked rather newish, the other was old but had smaller patterning and was less "bold". I bought it about a month ago and had not seen anything like it previously, though the same trader showed me a photo of an indigo blue blanket like the one that Susan mentioned, though the shape and decoration was somewhat different to these. I think that all these brown-and-white blankets will have come from the same village or group of villages at the same time since they are so similar. I will be very interested to hear your thoughts on identification.

The basic motif on your blanket also occurs in embroidered form on a very old skirt that I bought fairly recently. Any ideas on what the motif is? Two frogs jumping over each other? On your blanket it has what looks like a head and arms on top, so perhaps is a human figure (who looks like she is holding out two flags). Any thoughts on motif meaning I would be very curious to know.

There seem to be at least 4 different plant fibers in use in Hainan, some of which age to a very floppy feel, others retaining a stiff texture for a very long time. They presumably include bark cloth, kapok, ramie and local cotton. I am not at all confident at present about identifying which is which. It also makes assessing age rather complicated with these textiles.

I have not been to Hainan yet, despite living in China for 15 years. I intend to make a trip there fairly soon, but my expectation of finding textiles (even new ones) is not very high. Given an interest in ikat I would love to see that. If anyone has any suggestions about who/where do let me know.

I rather missed out on the Run Li skirt thing. Amazing how fast those things came and went. Also a case (presumably) of a relatively small area that was cleared out of textiles in a year or two. But also exciting to see what will turn up next. I am often told that a certain area is "over", only to see new things arriving unexpectedly ... like these blankets.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:46 am 
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It might not be clear what I am on about regarding the motif in the previous post because the overall design is rather complex, so I have taken some liberties with Pam's picture, copied it and turned it around to make it clearer...

My blanket also has something closely related, though it is not so clear as in Pam's example and the connection had not occurred to me until I saw Pam's.


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File comment: motif from Pam's Li blanket
PamBlanketMotif.jpg
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 10:08 am 
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The one you show on the skirt looks like a headless frog. If we were looking at Iban textiles I would say a headless torso. Were the Li head hunters originally also? So many of these cultures that run down the islands seem to have been so.

My own observations on Li textiles across many of the groups is that they seem to use similar motifs - which makes it more difficult to ID something like a blanket rather than clothing to an individual group. For one of the books (in Chinese) that I have Susan Stem organised a translation. However, it was a Han Chinese translating into English so the English needs 'translating' again for understanding. There are sections in that on motifs. As the translation is completely separate from the motifs it takes a careful session of cross referencing to understand the descriptions. It is quite a long time since I delved into the Li and I know I need to immerse myself and try and regain some of the knowledge I had accumulated. Unfortunately my memory constantly lets me down these days - much to my frustration.

I am afraid that I don't have the spare time just at this moment to do this as the much more mundane is crowding in on me.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 9:09 pm 
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I still haven't managed to get to my books - although I am not very hopeful of a good ID from them. What I did do was contact Andrew Wang. I gather from Andrew that he has been 'watching' the forum for about five years (do come and join us Andrew)! I was 'virtually' introduced to Andrew by Sandra Niessen - they met when she attended the New York 'Arts of Pacific Asia' show earlier this year. Andrew and his family have been working to support outstanding artisans in China. An example of this is sponsorship of two participants at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market 9-11 July 2010 http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... php?t=1532 If you check out that post you will see that one of people attending is a master weaver from a Meifu Li dialect area in Xi Fang village in Hainan Province.

I asked Andrew if he would look at this thread and share any ideas with me - and the forum! See below for his thoughtful and helpful response:

Quote:
Dear Pamela,

Glad to hear from you!

I have seen several Li blankets that are similar to the examples provided in your email. Those blankets that I have seen were made in "Ha" Li dialect areas in Hainan. However, no systematic data available indicate that it is a Ha dialect exclusive style in history. Overall, published information (even in Chinese) on this type of blankets is extremely limited.

The blankets were traditionally made of cotton (bombax ceiba or regular), hemp, and with or without silk (the ones with silk are lighter in weight and softer based on my experiences) Depending on the motifs (including “frog like” human figures, e.g.) the blankets were used to in different situations including ritual ceremonies, for example, used as coffin covers, and those with a simple design were used daily in regular household. Unfortunately, I was able to make any photo images of the examples that I have seen during my previous local visits.

Recently, some of the blankets are made by the locals using nylon or other synthetic commercial materials. The quality of those newly made blankets available at local market is NOT comparable with that of the blankets made with nature materials in the past. They tend to be harder, stiff and the artistic/technical components of these products also appear to be poor.

I hope this helps a little,

All the best,

Andrew

Thank you very much Andrew!

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:25 am 
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I just dug out one of my Li books: Traditional Brocade of Li Ethnic Group, edited by Fu Guihua and published under the auspices of the Hainan Provincial Preservation Programme of the National and Folk Culture, Hainan Provincial Mass Art Center. It is in both Chinese and English, tho the English does leave something to be desired. Pertinent to our discussion of these blankets is a section about cotton on Hainan. It says that:

Quote:
Hainan Island is teamed with two kinds of ceiba, one is commonly called Common Bombax. It blooms in early March with a deep red and brilliant color, like the red clouds in the sky. Fibers of such ceiba are quite short with soft cotton, which may be used to make pillow, quilt and mattress; the other one is Asiatic tree cotton, usually called Zhong Mian, in Li language Ji Bei. It is a kind of wild plant, belonging to Mallow family in tropics. Its flower turns to be yellow, white, and pink. The fiber of Ji Bei is long and thin, about 19 to 23cm long with high consistency, smooth with silk brightness, having the characteristics of absorbing water, drying fast and scattering hotness easily, etc. which has become the main raw materials for spinning and weaving. The Li women draw fibres from Ji Bei, make them into threads with feet and hands, and weave the Hui Garment and Guang Fu Cloth with rich colors.


Perhaps the second type of cotton might be what we're seeing used on some of these blankets. Unfortunately, this book does not feature any blankets.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 3:53 am 
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Location: New Jersey, USA
Dear Pamela,

Thank you very much for the posting and for introducing me to the forum.

Following your introduction, I would like to provide a brief introduction of myself regarding my experiences in ethnological arts in China.

I am currently located in central New Jersey with my family, which is approximately 10 miles from Princeton University, about 1.5 hours driving distance from NYC, and 45 minutes from Philadelphia.

I am a physician (internist) and have been working as a medical director in patient safety for the global pharmaceutical industry for a number of years. I was a professional fine art artist in painting while living in multiple places in southwestern/southern China including Guangxi, and Guangdong Provinces prior moving to the US in 1988. Two of my drawings of Dong women are attached as an example of sketches of ethnic minority people in the late 80’s.

In addition to our ties to Chinese contemporary arts, we have collected ethnographic arts and textiles for over fifteen years. Examples of our collections include antique Asian bronze drums (Heger classification IV), Chinese Nuo masks and related artifacts, Nuosu (Yi) lacquer wares including armor and arms, shields, etc., and, of course, ethnic/tribal textiles.

In the past five years, I have also made efforts in helping ethnic artisans to sustain/preserve their local cultural tradition in a rapidly changing living environment.

I am glad to have this opportunity to share my experiences with you in the forum. Since I could not follow up frequently with all the updates in the forum as I wish so please feel free to contact me via the forum links when you have posted.

Thank you!

Pamela wrote:
I still haven't managed to get to my books - although I am not very hopeful of a good ID from them. What I did do was contact Andrew Wang. I gather from Andrew that he has been 'watching' the forum for about five years (do come and join us Andrew)! I was 'virtually' introduced to Andrew by Sandra Niessen - they met when she attended the New York 'Arts of Pacific Asia' show earlier this year. Andrew and his family have been working to support outstanding artisans in China. An example of this is sponsorship of two participants at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market 9-11 July 2010 http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... php?t=1532 If you check out that post you will see that one of people attending is a master weaver from a Meifu Li dialect area in Xi Fang village in Hainan Province.

I asked Andrew if he would look at this thread and share any ideas with me - and the forum! See below for his thoughtful and helpful response:

Quote:
Dear Pamela,

Glad to hear from you!

I have seen several Li blankets that are similar to the examples provided in your email. Those blankets that I have seen were made in "Ha" Li dialect areas in Hainan. However, no systematic data available indicate that it is a Ha dialect exclusive style in history. Overall, published information (even in Chinese) on this type of blankets is extremely limited.

The blankets were traditionally made of cotton (bombax ceiba or regular), hemp, and with or without silk (the ones with silk are lighter in weight and softer based on my experiences) Depending on the motifs (including “frog like” human figures, e.g.) the blankets were used to in different situations including ritual ceremonies, for example, used as coffin covers, and those with a simple design were used daily in regular household. Unfortunately, I was able to make any photo images of the examples that I have seen during my previous local visits.

Recently, some of the blankets are made by the locals using nylon or other synthetic commercial materials. The quality of those newly made blankets available at local market is NOT comparable with that of the blankets made with nature materials in the past. They tend to be harder, stiff and the artistic/technical components of these products also appear to be poor.

I hope this helps a little,

All the best,

Andrew

Thank you very much Andrew!


Attachments:
Dong woman drawing web.jpg
Dong woman drawing web.jpg [ 49.7 KiB | Viewed 12856 times ]
Drawing of a Dong woman web.jpg
Drawing of a Dong woman web.jpg [ 21.25 KiB | Viewed 12856 times ]

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:58 am 
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Dear Andrew

thanks for a fascinating contribution to the forum, and thanks also for contributing your charcoal sketches of Dong women - they are wonderful.

I am a former PhD chemist, now based in Beijing, with an interest in natural dyeing. In 2006 I led a project to interview older Tibetan weavers in the Lhasa area to record traditional dye methods and plants, which eventually led to a dye manual in Tibetan language which we now use to train Tibetan weavers (I have a small weaving workshop in near to Lhasa). This included a local variant on the indigo fermentation dyeing process.

Recently I have been getting interested in indigo ikat, and I am fond of MeiFu Li work, so I was very excited to see your web page on Fu Ma Ding that Pamela provided a link to. I had wondered if there was anyone left at all on Hainan who is able to make indigo ikat, it seems there is and that is wonderful news.

I plan to go to Hainan fairly soon. The plan is to go with a camera and with a folder of pictures of ikat designs (culled from skirts I own and other sources) and ask some weavers to comment on what the designs mean to them. I would also like to look at the indigo ikat process if possible. Could you suggest places to go to or people I should contact? I will of course post some photos and comments on the forum if I can find useful information.

As I mentioned in another post on the forum I also have a trip to Flores planned for August-Sept and hope to see some ikat there too. With luck, it will be an interesting comparison.

Thank you!

Chris Buckley

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 3:21 pm 
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A few things to add to this thread.

Forum members hunting on the internet have located a blanket, not dissimilar to those that Chris and I have posted, on the website of a textile dealer based in San Francisco. I have tried to be in contact with her asking for permission to post the image and information here but I have been unable to get any response. Since the website is a public gallery 'shop window' I am posting the link http://www.sftribal.com/Wenhua-Liu/deta ... lanket.htm Note that the identification gives a similar attribution as that given by Andrew Wang of Li speaking the Ha dialect and states that it as a funeral blanket - which could mean a coffin cover used at a funeral. Note that this blanket seems to have three panels rather than the four in the two blankets shown on this thread.

I have looked in 'Traditional Culture of Li Ethnic Group', still my favourite reference for the Li, for information on the Dress for women speaking the Ha dialect. (page 64). I extract here some of the information:
Quote:
"The population of the Li people speaking the Ha dialect ranks first in size among the Li ethnic group that speak different dialects, and the amount of area they inhabit also ranks first in size.

They chiefly scatter over the cities and counties of Ledong, Dongfang, Lingshui, Sanya, Changjiang, and they could be seen in small numbers in the cities and counties of Baisha, Baoting, Qiongzhou and Danzhou.

There are many expressions used by people speaking the dialect to describe themselves, which mainly include "Louhou, "Baohuai" and "Haying". People speaking Louhuo live in the Ledong Basin and its surrounding area near the place inhabited by people speaking other varieties of the Ha dialect............................"


The only hint I can find of possible location for our blankets is in the skirt motifs similar to those shown by Chris above which are on one or two skirts of women noted as Luohuo in Ledong. Other Luohou women - but not noted as in Ledong - seem to have different skirt motifs and, even in Ledong, it does not seem to be ubiquitous - although that might be my eyesight as some of the motifs are very small in the photos. Just to confuse matters I would also say that the motif Chris shows also appears on women's skirts of Li speaking the Qi dialect in Tongza. I thus do not think we can read too much into the motif to pin down location.

My own experience with the Li has always suggested to me that so many of the motifs appear again and again across the dialect groups.

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