Li Skirts

Ref. Number: A921

Country: China

Li skirt

Li skirt

Some historical books tell us that as early as the 1st century BC, Li women had begun weaving cloth called guangfubu, a product of their own spinning and dyeing as well as weaving. Later the Li people’s woven goods such as gubibu, panbanbu and shidan (tablecloth) came to be offered to the court as tribute. Especially in the period from the 10th to the 13th century witnessed their weaving techniques highly reputed in the southern part of China. The high reputation continued even in the Qing Dynasty as indicated by a line reading “Li brocade is as fascinating as clouds” which is found in a poem composed in that period.

As might be expected, Li women are skillful at dyeing and handloom-weaving. They not only utilize raw cotton and hemp fibers as their main materials for tailoring clothes but also have an excellent knowledge of the collection of wild plants to be used as dyestuffs. Experienced in the art of spinning yarn and weaving cloth from the age of seven or eight, they are able to combine their own original ideas with traditional techniques including those of colour arrangement and “tie-dyeing”. They weave exquisite products with splendid multi-coloured designs out of cotton and hemp fibers and embroidery thread of five colours (blue, yellow, red, white and black) by using simple and humble handloom. Such products are typified by skirts for women more than any other.

Li Skirt

Li Skirt

Cylindrical skirts Li women wear differ in length according to their tribes. The women of the Bendi Li tribe, who reside in the centre of the Li people’s dwelling area, wear the shortest ones. The farther a tribe reside away from the central tribe, the longer skirts its female members wear. The costumes and accessories Li women wear are varied in colour, design and shape and this helps to make their life in the mountainous area tasteful.

As a whole, Li women’s costumes consist of a jacket and a tubular skirt. However, in different areas, patterns on their jackets and the ratio of length and width of their skirts are quite different. In the Wuzhi Mountain area of Qiongzhong County, the Li women wear round collared jackets open in the middle front with geometric patterns in the front and motifs of birds and flowers on the back. In Bait County, they wear pullover jackets with decorated patterns on both sides along the bottoms of the front and the back and around the sleeve cuffs. Pleatless and short (about 30 centimetres long and 40 centimetres wide), their tubular skirts are chiefly decorated with patterns of figures and animals. The tubular skirts of the Li women of the Detou branch are rather long and loose with the bottoms decorated with wide embroidered borders. In Ledong County, the patterns of figures and animals on the Sanxing women’s skirts are straightforward, simple and unsophisticated in style.

Li Skirt

Li Skirt

The clothing decorative art of the Li nationality is emphatically characterized by exquisite patterns. Rich in imagination, the Li women can capture accurately the essence of birds, insects, animals, flowers, grass, stars and the moon as well as figures in very beautiful patterns. Ingeniously shaped and harmonious in colours, these patterns not only embody the simple and plain artistic taste of the Li people, but also have recorded the most popular fashion of the past. Hence, they are an important part of the Li people’s cultural traditions.

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