The traditional Li textile techniques of spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidering are employed by women of the Li ethnic group of Hainan Province, China, to make cotton, hemp and other fibres into clothing and other daily necessities.
The techniques involved, including warp ikat, double-face embroidery, and single-face jacquard weaving, are passed down from mothers to daughters from early childhood through verbal instruction and personal demonstration.
Li women design the textile patterns using only their imagination and knowledge of traditional styles. In the absence of a written language, these patterns record the history and legends of Li culture as well as aspects of worship, taboos, beliefs, traditions and folkways. The patterns also distinguish the five major spoken dialects of Hainan Island.
The textiles form an indispensable part of important social and cultural occasions such as religious rituals and festivals, and in particular weddings, for which Li women design their own dresses. As carriers of Li culture, traditional Li textile techniques are an indispensable part of the cultural heritage of the Li ethnic group.
However, in recent decades the numbers of women with the weaving and embroidery skills at their command has severely declined to the extent that traditional Li textile techniques are exposed to the risk of extinction and are in urgent need of protection.
Asia and the Pacific
Series: 2009 Inscriptions on the Urgent Safeguarding List
Authors and personalities: Song Xiangfeng-Chen Liang, director.
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