Traditional Textile Techniques of Li Minority
Li minority’s traditional textile techniques were created by women of Hainan Li Ethnic minority group. It comprises spinning, weaving, dyeing, and embroidering, and cotton thread, twine and other fibers are used to make clothes and daily supplies. Li women learn tie-dyeing, double side embroidering and jacquard weaving hand in hand from their mother when they were young. They combine their own imagination and the understanding of tradition to weave the pattern of the brocade. And with no written languages of their own, those patterns become a recorder of Li minority’s history, legends, culture, religion and traditions. Li brocade is indispensible among its social and cultural activities, religion ceremony and festivals, especially marriage. When these big days come, all Li women will design dress for themselves. As the recorder of the Li culture, Li brocades’ traditional spinning and weaving techniques become an essential part of Li nationality’s culture heritage. But in recent years, the number of women who know well of how to weaving and embroidering reduce rapidly, the techniques loom to be distinct. The techniques are in dire need of protection.
The traditional Li minority textile techniques consist of four procedures, which are spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidering.
- Cotton spinning is to use a hand-twined spinning wheel to spin cotton in to spindle.
- Dyeing. The traditional dyes are mainly made from plants, animals and minerals.
- Weaving. Li minority use Juyao loom (Juyao loom is a kind of loom made of bamboo or wood sticks) to weave spindles, it is simple, light and handy.
- Embroidering. Li minority’s traditional embroidery consists of two kinds; single-sided and double sided. Embroider techniques differ according to different stitches, embroiseries and materials, and perfectly combine color, pattern and embroidery into one brocade. Exquisite technique, natural and plain patterns all make Li brocade original and ethnical.
Li Minority's Traditional Spinning, Weaving, Dyeing and Embroidering Techniques have the following four distinct features:
- Living fossil of ancient culture: It is a wonder in human history that a certain technique had last thousands of years till now. We can still find hand-twined spinning wheel, Juyao loom and Guanshou dress (A kind of traditional Li minority cloth, with no sleeves) as well as relevant bark fabric in Li habitation area in this information and digital economy era.
- Outstanding contribution: Li minority’s cotton spinning and weaving skill had preceded other nationalities in China for a long time; it was in the front row even in Song (962-1279 AD) and Yuan dynasty (1206-1368 AD). Huang Daopo, a great woman master of weaving techniques living in late Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) and early Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD), learned the techniques of Li minority, improved then spread it to other parts of China. In other words, Li minority’s spinning and weaving techniques changd Chinese people’s dressing habits and promote the development of cotton textile in China.
- Distinctive ethnicity: Since thousands of years ago, Li minority’s cotton spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidering techniques were learned and passed on by all Li’s women as one essential skill of living, in addition, it is a kind of tool that Li people could show themselves to the outside world. Li minority have no written characters of their own, so to some extent, Li brocade is their unique historical records, concentrating the history and culture of the Li ethnic minority.
- Typically original: It is mainly manifested in two aspects, one is the original nature of the technique and material, and the other is the original culture it represents. After thousands of years of existence, except for the coastal economically developed areas in ancient times, today the simple and original weaving tools and techniques can still be found in most mountainous areas. It is by using this ancient tool and technique that Li Women weaved the Li Brocade that are described as “beautiful bright-colored as the clouds”. The fiber and dyeing materials for traditional Li Brocade are mostly local products that are found in the nearby hills and gullies, with only very few of the color silks are brought from the outside world.