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Li Nationality Traditional Dyeing, Weaving & Embroidery Skills

Li Nationality Traditional Dyeing, Weaving & Embroidery Skills

Hainai Li Ethnic Minority Group's weaving and dyeing techniques have a long history and have unique features. They produce linen textiles, cotton textiles, brocade, printing and dyeing products (including tie-dyeing), embroideries and imperial quilts.

The Li people have many ceiba and ramie resources that are used as raw materials for weaving, dyeing and finishing. Before cotton fabrics were widely used, fabrics made from wild ramie had been very popular there. People usually peel the cortices of collected wild ramie in rainy seasons. After the processes of soaking, rinsing, among others, the cortices are soaked and made into ramie rolls. After being dyed, the ramie rolls are rubbed with hands into ramie yarn, or twisted using the spinning wheel, and then are weaved and made into cloths. The wild ramie cloth is durable and often used to make garments and skirts worn by people in work.

The brocade of Li nationality has more than 160 kinds of patterns, including figures, animals, plants, flowers, articles for daily use, geometric patterns, etc., with the majority are figures, animals and plants daily used items. There are mainly two kinds of looms that are used to weave Li brocades, treadle loom and waist loom. The latter is an extremely ancient weaving loom, by women of the Li nationality can weave exquisite and gorgeous complex patterns. Brocades with different patterns, colors and styles were once important signs of differentiating tribes and groups that had different blood lines, possessing significant cultural value.

The major form of dyeing and finishing of the Li nationality is tie-dyeing was called jiaoxie in ancient times. After procedures of knotting, tying, dyeing, drying in the sun, removing stitches, and other steps lead to the fabrics shifting into a brightly colored cloth. The dyes used for dyeing and finishing are mainly from plant sources — leaves, flowers, bark, roots, etc., and natural mineral pigments are used as auxiliary dyeing materials.

Embroidery of the Li nationality includes flat embroidery and bifacial embroidery. Of the two, the bifacial embroidery of those Li people that inhibit in Baisha and speak the Run dialect is the most famous, with both its design and patterns extraordinarily beautiful.

Imperial quilts are of precious value. Produced by integrating skills of spinning, dyeing and finishing, embroidering, and weaving, it is exquisite and bright colored, with elegant patterns and varied styles. With the highest cultural and artistic value and showing outstanding skills, imperial quilts were once offered as tributes in the area of Hainan in many dynasties. Imperial quilts are also called dabei (large quilt). In historical records, it is referred to as “Yazhou Quilt.” Due to various dialects and settlements of the Li people, imperial quilts have many artistic styles and characteristics creating valuable and tangibility for research into the culture of the Li nationality. After 1950, many women of the Li nationality do not weave imperial quilts anymore. Today, most of those master the imperial quilt weaving skills are getting old, inheritors are few. Therefore, efforts are in needed to save skills.