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Traditional Yao Clothing

Traditional Yao Clothing

You can find some of the most outstanding examples of traditional Yao costume in Nandan County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Traditional clothing includes both ceremonial dress and everyday clothing. A strong motif in this area reflects the importance of the chicken in local Yao life.

Men’s everyday clothes include a blue-black collar with buttons down the front and a chicken pattern down either side. Their trousers go to the knees, made from white cloth with a black border. For ceremonial occasions they wear a blue-edged jacket with chicken, flower and star patterns. The white trousers have a unique set of five patterns at the knees, said to be the blood handprint from when King Yao fought against other nations.

Women’s summer clothes, or gowns, consist of two joined pieces of cloth, black at the front and a dyed and embroidered back. Their winter clothing has sleeves without buttons. Whatever the season they also wear a blue pleated skirt covering the knees and displaying a pattern of three circles with edges that are embroidered in red non-woven silk. Their jackets and skirts all use unique decorative techniques.

The embroidery, inlaying, dyeing and needling reflect the interests, life and culture of the Nandan Yao nationality, who also play a significant role in the costume culture of Chinese ethnic minorities.

Key home areas for the Yao people include Hezhou in Guangxi. This is a mountainous area (including the major mountains of Hunan, Guangdong and Guangxi). Taditional costumes also fall into several categories, eg Jiantou(尖头), Pingtou(平头) and Baopa(包帕), which reflect local variations.

Yao patterns reflect distinct national cultural and historical characteristics. The animal and plant patterns are typical of fishing and agricultural economies, whilst other patterns indicate the strong influence of early religions, as well as the Buddhist and Taoist culture. The patterns are also threaded with common experiences of age, marriage, love and social status. Thus, the study of Yao clothing also carries an important academic and practical significance.