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A heritage of unity and color

Updated: 2023-02-04 09:33 ( China Daily )
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Miao embroider Jiang Laoben [Photo by Wei Junwen/For China Daily]

The first time Jiang's dresses were showcased in the Guzang Festival was 37 years ago. Her apprenticeship in the art, however, dates from when she was 8 years old. At that time, she took embroidery lessons with her grandmother and aunt. She then graduated to making traditional Miao clothing, and at 15 years old, started on the bainiaoyi.

Making such a dress, the most famous example of Miao embroidery, requires intimate knowledge and intricate craftsmanship. A complete dress may be woven with hundreds of embroidered bird patterns, each a time-consuming creation.

Jiang is now transmitting her skills to future generations. She currently has more than 100 students, mostly young people from the village, who learn from her how to make the dress and other traditional Miao handicrafts, such as batik.

"It's a great honor to make bainiaoyi for the festival because it's a way of worshiping our ancestors. It's important to me that the traditions at the heart of the festival aren't lost," she says.

Miao songs indicate that the Guzang Festival was celebrated by early Miao people during the Xia Dynasty (c.21st century-16th century BC), which would make this festival thousands of years old.

According to the website of Guizhou's protection center for the intangible cultural heritage, the Guzang Festival reflects Miao social values, including ancestor worship, community harmony, hard work, austerity, peace and happiness, and is a valuable asset for the study of Miao history and culture.

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