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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2004 2:35 pm 
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Dear All

I attach some photos of a small weaving which I purchased recently at the Decorative Antiques & Textile Fair in Battersea Park, London. I was attracted by the fine weaving. It was sold as a 'Miao headcloth'. I have started to look through my library to see if I can attribute it to a particular Miao group (or, indeed, non Miao group if appropriate).

The weaving, ignoring the fringes, measures 35 x 33 cm (14 x 13 inches) with the first measurement being the warp. I think that both threads are cotton but not hand spun as they are very regular. The dark colour is possibly indigo but I don't know if it is natural or synthetic. The textile has no discernible odour at all - I tend to think that natural indigo has a characteristic smell.

Looking at 'Clothings and Ornaments of China's Miao People' there is no headcloth which is so short. P88 has 'Pingyong area of Rongjiang county' in Guizhou where there is a woven headcloth but it is longer and a different style of weaving. Pages 210 and 211 show headcloths of the Miao of Hainan Island but, again, the headcloths are much longer.

Can anyone shed any light on the piece? Perhaps it is not a headcloth at all! (The dealer I bought it from was not showing spot on accuracy for other southeast asian tribal pieces on display.)


Attachments:
miao-headcloth01.jpg
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miao-headcloth07.jpg
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miao-headcloth03.jpg
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miao-headcloth02.jpg
miao-headcloth02.jpg [ 59.88 KiB | Viewed 13585 times ]

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Last edited by Pamela on Sun Jan 02, 2005 5:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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 Post subject: Wudang piece?
PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2004 9:17 pm 
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I think it is a Wudang piece from Guiyang County in Guizou. I attach a picture from Miao Textile Design Page 194. ( Fu Jen Catholic University Press Ltd 1993). My first thought would be that it was from Danzai County, but their pieces are almost always based upon expanding diamond patterns with each subsequent diamond having a different design. Just a note that I have always found the Danzai pieces to be the finest and tightest weaving in the Miao group. I attach a picture of a Danzi piece( 6" by 36").

Just a thought.

Bill


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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2004 10:03 pm 
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Bill

For some reason your photo has not loaded correctly.

I have had a look at page 194 of Miao Textile Design. The caption says
Quote:
'Design of consecutive geometric pattern in cross-stitch on the lower back part of a woman's upper garment'.
My piece is not stitched but woven. I admit that the photo in the book makes it difficult to see if it is woven or stitched. I have used a magnifying glass and I think it is indeed stitched.

So, back to the drawing board - or reference library - I am afraid!

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PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2004 12:38 am 
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My mistake. It did say cross-stitch and I just didn't notice. From the other pictures of this group it does seem they use stitches rather than weaving their designs. Very nice piece whereever it's from.



Bill


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 Post subject: !s it Miao?
PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2004 1:30 am 
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Hi Pamela,

A very beautiful piece, although the weaving appears grayish brown in the photo. I have a textile which is also called Miao, but which I think may be Dong, which I'll send on for comparison.

Remember when every mysterious textile was considered "Karen"? I think times have changed, and now all mysteries are "Miao".

I'm wondering if the piece is some sort of presentation or courting cloth made by a young woman for a boyfriend. The only other thing I can think of is that the cloth would be worn on the head of a "naak" or young man about to be ordained as a Buddhist monk, thereby putting it more in the realm of SEAsian Buddhism, and a T'ai-related group.

It will be interesting to see what everyone else comes up with.

Sandie


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PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2004 8:15 am 
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Sandie

I think that your idea of a 'gift' cloth either for boyfriend or monk has some resonance. It somehow has that sort of feel to it when you handle it - as something very carefully woven to be given either for merit or love token. The weaving seems to me to have more of a 'Miao' or possibly Dong look about it than T'ai but this is no more than a sense.

The dark colour is a very, very dark blue/very dark grey-almost black but no hint of brown.

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PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2004 6:41 pm 
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I would just like to draw your attention to another textile photograph in "Miao Textile Design" (Fu Jen Catholic Univeristy) which I think may be of interest.
On page 248/249 are two views of a baby carrier belt from Zhenfeng county, Guizhou Province. Although this textile appears to serve a different purpose to Pamela's example, the overall effect has a certain similarity: - very dark woven designs appearing black in the photograph, against a light cream/white background. The important point to consider is that this piece is described as woven rather than stitched. The part of the textile in the photograph (page 249) shows a band containing an elaborate pattern above which is another zone containing what look like human figures. Above this is a more extensive region of diamond designs enclosing flower like motifs. In the other view page 248 this larger section is somewhat different but with a similar "flavour". The caption isn't entirely clear if this is another part of the same textile sample as that on the opposite page.
The Miaos of Zhenfeng are described as wearing mainly black fabrics and have thus earned the nickname "Black Miao".


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PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2004 8:20 pm 
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Siriol

I agree that the photos of weaving on pages 248/249 (Belt of a baby carrier and front apron) seem similar weaving to my piece. However, I am familiar with the Black Miao of Zhenfeng area - see http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Galleries/Zuo_Qi.htm and have visited a village in this area - and I do not think that my piece is from the same group - and also a Black Miao elsewhere in Guizhou see http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Galleries/Dai_Lo.htm which is even less like my piece of weaving. I have a (very beautiful) baby carrier from the first group and also a couple of the embroidered triangular head pieces worn under the long indigo turban. There is weaving in the baby carrier but not, I think, like my mystery piece - these Black Miao most definitely weave. I must go climbing to find the box with this baby carrier stored away to look again especially at the belt ties see http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Gallerie ... /ZQE20.htm

thanks for the contribution but, still a mystery I feel......

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 Post subject: Pamela's 'headcloth'
PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2004 5:19 am 
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First- it's a very handsome piece Pamela! Lovely condition, very skillful weaving and striking design.
Second- I was immediately hit by similarities to T'ai weavings (Hi! Sandie): the overall patterning on a large central field recalls many types of T'ai textiles- headcloths, meditation cloths, shoulder cloths, blankets...; the pattern itself is a star motif which is not uncommon in many areas of the world, but can be readily found in T'ai pieces (see Susan Conway's Thai Textiles, p.133).
Third- Re it being a headcloth or not: Gittinger&Lefferts, in Textiles and the Tai Experience in Southeast Asia, show numerous similar small square textiles, starting with a phaa mon, or head cloth, of the Phu Tai people in Thailand (p.77, #2.24 and p/224-5, #5.27-5.30). These are multi-colored and of a different design, but have clear similarities. I cannot find them referenced specifically in the text, but in the context of the chapter they would be part of gift exchanges at New Year's/Songkran or weddings.
Another square textile is used for about-to-be-ordained boys, as Sandie mentioned, and is called phaa pok hua. The ones shown on p106-7 are a bit different than yours tho, with an open white square in the center, which makes an interesting design device where the center band of patterning is at right angles to that on either side of it.
Yet another square textile is that used for meditation and three examples are shown on p112-13. These differ greatly from yours with the Buddhist motif of the 'third eye', or concentric diamonds in the centers.
I mention all these not to show off, but to shed light on the possible use of such a square-shaped cloth. It could indeed be a headcloth.
Being entirely cotton makes me wonder about Dong provenance, as I cannot recall any Dong textiles I've seen in cotton; usually they are silk. The fineness of weave and geometric patterning do suggest Dong, tho the material does not. The Dong live nearby to Miao and it is often difficult to be sure of exact origin- ie a baby carrier in Bonding Via Baby Carriers (p.112, #33) which is shown as Miao, but here they are called Dong (I've enclosed a photo of an example). Personally, I would love to know more about the Dong people as I am very much drawn to their textiles.
As to origin, many T'ai people originated in SipSongPanna/Land of a Thousand Rice Fields, or the area now known as Yunnan Province in the south of China, and migrated into what is now Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. The T'ai Lu people still live in this area and are known as 'Dai' in China. Miao people are non-T'ai, but often live in close proximity. The only book I have with good Miao information is Clothings and Ornaments of China's Miao People and on p.58 there are an apron and a waistband from Zhenfeng which have overtones of T'ai weaving, and show the star pattern on your headscarf, tho not as an overall pattern, but as one of several forming a concentric diamond.
I guess the question is- Have the T'ai influenced the Miao? And where specifically? Dissertation time...


Attachments:
forum-dong-tach155.jpg
forum-dong-tach155.jpg [ 58.73 KiB | Viewed 13599 times ]

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 Post subject: Ooops!
PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2004 5:22 am 
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I just remembered some Dong baby carriers I have which are woven cotton, tho nothing like Pamela's piece. Sorry.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2004 9:40 pm 
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Susan

Thank you very much indeed for your very thoughtful collection of references - and the time you spent assembling and describing them. It had been very interesting going through them all with the books - almost justfies (does one need justification?) having bought all the books! Bit like talking in code ...

The Gittinger & Lefferts, 'Textiles and the Tai Experience in Southeast Asia reference' is especially interesting with the headcloths. Pages 224/5 also show how many different weavng designs are used so perhaps to find an almost identical one to mine is a challenge indeed! Your focus here is reinforced by an comment I received today in an email from Sandie
Quote:
By the way, your textile is absolutely stunning, but for some reason doesn't appear indigo. I'm leaning toward a Buddhistic culture for its origin, because so few textiles are actually almost square, that this must something special, and is woven on narrow weft loom.
Her comment (again) about the colour is interesting.

I attach below some photos of a Black Miao (from Zhenfeng area http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Galleries/Zuo_Qi.htm as referred to in my earlier post) baby carrier ends of woven ties including 3 photos of my mystery headcloth next to the Black Miao weaving. The similarities in weaving may just show that you get similar patterns when weaving.....or it may be more than that - infact, in the first photo shown below the text there are very close similarities indeed? However, the costume does NOT include this type of headcloth - or, at least, not as I saw or as in the books I have seen (so far).

The colour difference is also interesting - especially see the 3rd photo below. The baby carrier is almost certainly indigo. Of course you get lots of shades of indigo depending on how often you dip and oxidise. However, the shade is different. It is possible that the dark thread in the headcloth is not cotton but silk. It catches on the skin as silk and next to the Black Miao indigo cotton does not seem like cotton. I was torn in identifying the thread and 'pushed' away from silk by the thought of indigo.

To be honest I don't know if I am clearer or more confused (but I do enjoy the hunt!) Oh, whilst looking for the baby carrier I found a couple of oldish pieces which I bought at a little shop in Kunming and supposedly 'Yao'. Beautifully fine work. I will try this w/e to photograph to share with the forum - and see if you can help to pin them down.

Thanks to everyone for their contributions on this one.

[see a probably mid 20th century Zhenfeng Miao baby carrier with photos of the woven tie ends http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... =4021#4021 ]


Attachments:
blackmiaotieend_mysteryhead.jpg
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blackmiaotieend_mystery3.jpg
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blackmiaotieend_mystery4.jpg
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blackmiaobabycarrierend2.jpg
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blackmiaobabycarrierend1.jpg
blackmiaobabycarrierend1.jpg [ 59.63 KiB | Viewed 13598 times ]

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Last edited by Pamela on Fri Jan 02, 2009 6:48 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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 Post subject: Dong Son?
PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2004 11:23 pm 
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Thanks Susan, for elucidating so thoroughly the T'ai related material. Actually, the pattern on Pamela's piece reminds me of the Arakanese men's cloth I purchased from Susan a while ago. It will be posted as soon as I can get my husband to pose in it.

Of course, Arakan textiles are just begining to come onto the market, and probably have not made their way into China; however, the pattern similarity is striking, although it is woven in brown cotton on light brown, and doesn't have that play of light and dark which makes Pamela's piece so lovely.

Are we looking at Dong Son design? All those geometric shapes that pop in and out of Southeast Asian textiles seem to come from a proto-source that has influenced a variety of items, from about 500 BC (including of course, those famous bronze drums).

It may well be time to look less at the form and pattern of textiles, and more to weaving techniques, color, dyes, and loom type, in identifying them. It's as if suddenly the whole unitary world of southeast Asian textiles is revealed, rather than the differences. (And no, they aleady took me of THAT medication!)

Sandie


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PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2004 8:25 pm 
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So many Many chinese things popping up all of a sudden!

Most definitely a Dong piece. I was surprised to see that there was any question until I started flipping through references to find some support. Not many things documented for the Dong.

This piece is most definitely from northern Guangxi Province and almost certainly from Sanjiang county. Usually modern pieces add some bands of color on either end, however I have a few of these that are solely black and white.

I have been told that these pieces are used as head scarves, however I have only seen them used in a ceremonial way as an accessory used in dancing worn at the belt or waved. The most striking use of these was in a procession of young people travelling to a neighboring village out near Fulu. Each young woman was holding one in a ritualized manner (same hand same folding) as approximately fifty to one hundred people marched down the road to their party. I've got photos, but their somewhere in the china mail system for the next two months or so.

I don't understand the reluctance to attribute cotton weaving to the Dong people as it is by far their specialty. I must say that I have rarely seen the Dong weave in something other than cotton and those pieces which do incorporate silk are almost exclusively from Guizhou. Examples of Dong weaving are best seen in a Chinese published set of books titled "Guangxi Minority Social Customs and Art" (my translation of the Chinese title Guangxi Minzu Fengsu Meishu) which is a four volume set published by the Guangxi Arts Publishing House.

I also dont understand the challenge to the attribution of the backpack on p. 112 of Bonding via Baby Carriers as my experience collecting in the area shows that the provenance of the piece is correctly attributed to the Miao village of Zhou Xi. (In addition to fine silk weaving, they make a great catfish hotpot.)

-James


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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2004 7:30 am 
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James- Welcome ... to the Forum. You are quite right about the Dong attribution, and mea culpa for even suggesting that they do not work in cotton... I did amend that one since I even show some cotton pieces on my site. I was in our infamous Night Bazaar the other night and came across several of the headcloths, but with the bright colored ends that you mentioned, and they were attributed to Dong. Thanks for helping us understand how they are used- very interesting. Re the baby carrier: having not been to China yet, I can only go on what I see here in Chiang Mai, and my sources here are calling the long silk panels, as on the carrier, 'Dong'. Obviously, they must be misinformed. Or could this be a case of Miao and Dong living in close proximity and sharing styles, motifs, etc.? I will be in south China later this month and hope to visit some areas where these groups live. Any suggestions on specific locations?
Thanks,

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PostPosted: Wed May 12, 2004 5:37 am 
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Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome.

With regard to the piece posted by Susan Stem, I've done a little more research and pulled some pieces out of my things here.

I have three pieces from Zhouxi. The weaving is silk warp and weft. The width of the weaving is about 20 cm and they're around 65 cm long. Two of them are black and white and one is green and black. I couldn't tell the dimensions from your photograph, but the ratio seems a little off. Could the bottom edge be cut short? The patterns, particularly those within the triangular portions running down the sides are identical.

At the same time I have a photograph from Sanjiang County, on P. 152 of the final volume of the Guangxi series I referenced above which shows a strikingly similar panel attributed to the Dong. The similarity is in the overall proportions of the piece, the central squares running the length and the strangely irregular bands of color striking through the black and white patterns. The difference is in the width (the Dong piece appears to be almost twice as wide.), the patterns (the Dong piece has simpler patterns), and the material used (given the look of the weaving, the size of the piece and the coarseness of the weaving - I'm guessing the Dong piece is cotton).

I'm not sure what to make of the similarity, but find crossover from these regions hard to believe. Zhouxi is in an area outside of Kaili, Guizhou which is almsot exclusively Miao, except for some Gejia to the north. Sanjiang is in the north of Guangxi Province and even today is separated by a few days of travel on rough roads. Sanjiang is a predominantly Dong Region with some Yao and Zhuang villages to the east. If it weren't for those red bands running through the fabric, I would say they came about independently. Can you think of a structural or aesthetic cause for those irregular red bands in the weft?

I spent about two months down in the Sanjiang region living in a Dong village and traveling around to neighboring areas carrying out a research fellowship about seven years ago. Last I heard it was getting a trickle of backpackers passing through on their way between Guilin and Kaili. Accomodations can be rough at times, but I particlarly like the villages in northern Guangxi. The bridge at Chengyang has become the model Dong bridge. There are always textiles about if you let people know you're interested (and sometimes even if you aren't). The area around Longsheng has some easily accessible Zhuang villages, but again gets its share of backpackers. The best Dong weaving (multi-color and really the only silk weaving I'm aware of from the Dong) is found in the area between Sanjiang and Kaili in the Rong Jiang and Cong Jiang areas. Unfortuantely travel through there is a little more challenging and rough. Pieces are also getting expensive. There are lots of areas around Kaili that have been opened to tourists for a long time and there's a little more infrastructure at that end, but almost exclusively Miao villages with a few Gejia villages to the north. I think the best source for info on Miao villages can be found in the travel diaries of this site.

Hope that helps.

James


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