A Resist Dyed Cotton Miao Wedding Cloth: Chinese Minority Indigo Dyeing
ca. early twentieth century
68" x 31", 172.5 cm x 78.5 cm
This beautifully faded, indigo dyed cotton cloth is a bridal bedcover made the Miao, an ethnic cultural group that inhabits various provinces of southern China and who are known for their distinctive and elaborate costumes, ornate silver accessories and their beautiful and technically complex indigo dyeing.
This cloth is hand woven from hand spun cotton. By looking at the accompanying photos it is easy to see that the variegated and faded blues are the result of the woven fibers drinking in the indigo dye in varying degrees. The resist dyed decoration is a bit blurred; it seems that both the front and back of the cloth were resist dyed and there was an attempt made at perfectly registering front and back so as to provide a very clear, overall image. Alas, the front and back were resist dyed at slightly different angles and the result is as a shown.
Each of the two sides shows some light fading and a bit of yellowing--one side more than the other. Also there are about six tears to the surface of the cloth, each about 2" or 5 cm in length, with two prominent losses to the top of the cloth, easily seen in the photos here.
The top of the cloth is hemmed and the wear to this folded channel show that the cloth had been hung as a decoration.
The images on this textile are several: there is a central vase form which is surrounded by peonies and phoenixes. The bottom portion shows two traditional "lion dogs" and the top panel shows stylized chrysanthemums. There are borders of floral forms.
The wear, fading and slight damage to the piece do not detract from its rustic beauty. This is a soulful textile, one that no doubt marked an important milestone in the lives of two people and one that, still today, is beautiful in many different ways.