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PostPosted: Mon May 28, 2012 10:57 am 
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Joined: Wed Dec 29, 2004 7:45 am
Posts: 142
Since antiquity the Chinese text itself has been considered to have spiritual and political power. For non- literate people living on the periphery of the Chinese empire, text was a symbol of both spiritual power (because Daoist texts were hand copied in Chinese characters and priests use writing as a means to communicate with the gods) and political power (as written characters were the lingua franca of those with political and economic power).

Since the "meaning" of the characters is non- existent when read together and many of them are not "characters" at all, I think we can assume a spiritual and decorative function.

Beautiful pieces!

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steven frost-arts of southwest china
www.stevenqfrost.net/gallery


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PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2012 9:49 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2003 6:34 pm
Posts: 393
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thank you so much Iain for giving my piece a look and sharing your insight. And thank you, too Steven for your thoughts. They seem to indicate a similar use of language as here, with yantra cloths (mentioned on another thread about non-use of the mother tongue). I love the idea of written text imparting power when used on textiles. It also conveys mystery and gives power to the priest who uses it to communicate with the gods. It might be relevant to note here that of all the so-called hill tribes in Thailand, and this area, the Yao (Mien and Mun) are the only ones who use written text in their rituals. The others (Hmong, Akha, Lahu, Lisu, Karen and Lawa) are verbal in their communications with the gods; all do use music/percussion as well, as documented in 'Songs of Memory'.

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 Post subject: Further to character use
PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2012 3:14 pm 
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Susan, I attach the character previously mentioned. This appears in the centre of the textile where it can be seen to have 'morphed' ever so slightly.


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File comment: Character appearing in center of Susan's cloth. Associated with this character is another giving the meaning - fortunate protection.
DSCN4816.JPG
DSCN4816.JPG [ 14.02 KiB | Viewed 1703 times ]
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2012 4:57 pm 
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Following up Steven's post perhaps linking to an earlier thread http://www.tribaltextiles.info/community/viewtopic.php?t=2322 may better draw things together.

Although I go along with Steven's observation that because
Quote:
text was a symbol of both spiritual power (because Daoist texts were hand copied in Chinese characters and priests use writing as a means to communicate with the gods) and political power (as written characters were the lingua franca of those with political and economic power).
his conclusion (possibly addressed to Susan's textile alone) may need expanding.
Quote:
Since the "meaning" of the characters is non- existent when read together and many of them are not "characters" at all, I think we can assume a spiritual and decorative function.


Although I do agree that decorative inclusions do seem to appear, I disagree that the meaning of characters/character combinations is necessarily “non-existent” on textiles. As outlined in the linked post it is possible that certain incorporated characters are used to represent similar sounding mother tongue words or, indeed, a link, to commonly used longer phrases. To outsiders unaware of commonly used phrases, the appearance of these characters may appear as a completely random and meaningless combination.

Furthermore, the idea that “many of them are not ‘characters’ at all” can sometimes be addressed by a taking more flexible approach to reading characters. Taking into account the possible/probable illiteracy of the embroiderer it is possible that the ‘non-character’ reflects an embroiderer’s difficulty in interpreting handwriting – something many will have come across in trying to decipher writing in our own language. Incorrect character formation, this ‘non-character’, may still be fully comprehended by both the embroiderer and other insiders.

Expanding on embroidery having possible political power – work undertaken by researchers in Taiwan has unearthed a vast number of embroidered examples incorporating elements of Sun Yat-Sen’s writings . As outsiders I am not sure that we can simply give the direct translation of 五權憲法 as ‘Five Powers Constitution’ or 三民主義 as ‘Three Principles of the People’ and believe without question that this is all that is possibly meant. When these characters are included - what do they mean? As outsiders could it we interpret this as the embroiderer's support for Sun Yat-Sen's policies/principles? Could it reflect an embroiderer’s family member being in the army? Could it be a desire to be seen as politically correct for the time?

As outsiders we are somewhat in the dark, but it is quite possible that there is more to meaning than simply a spiritual and/or decorative function in using these embroidered characters. The use of Ge'ez in my collection of manuscripts and a couple of textiles is indeed similar to the idea of serving simply a religious function as many Ethiopians are unable to read Ge'ez. Inclusion of certain 'incorrectly' written words in Zulu beadwork (another resting passion of mine) was used to make a stand against 'outsiders' who could neither correctly interpret the word or it's intended meaning. This illustrated a political standpoint against the government of the time. The quest for understanding continues!!


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