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Hainan Brocades & Embroidery

April 14, 2021 2 min read

I have just been introduced to two groups of textile arts created by the Li people of Hainan.

As I learn I am sharing the resources that I’ve found.

Hainan Island in the pre-historic times, was attached to the Northeastern part of what is now Vietnam.

However, the island was formed after it physically broke away from Vietnam due to a volcanic eruption, and drifted southeast near China after the Mesozoic period, millions of years ago. The Li People are the original inhabitants of Hainan. who settled on the island more than 3,000 years ago and number over a million today!

Their weavings are elaborate and highly evolved having gone through dozens of generations of testing and refining..

The first is the brocade category. These textile panels form the main part of skirts for women as can be seen from this photo from the net.

A detailed look at the brocade reveals anthromoporphic figures:

It is interesting to see that these motifs are also present in other aspects of Hainan life [photo from tour operator in Hainan sunnyhainan.com]:

I have yet to find out about the cultural significance of these human motifs and the reason for their inclusion in textiles. In the gallery of Li textiles here, there are 3 skirts with a variety of human motifs that can be studied further.

Then there is the category of head wraps made of indigo dyed cotton with silk embroidered inscriptions. This group is the creation of a different sub-group of the Li people who are also from Hainan.

The end panels are covered in extremely fine silk embroidery in geometric patterns and Chinese characters are inscribed.

What do these mean? The humans, the text? Am still learning and hope to find definitive answers soon. And will add to this note as I find out more.

But in the meanwhile the textiles may be enjoyed here.




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