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China - Travel diary 2001

AN ADVENTURE TO GUIZHOU PROVINCE: SOUTH WEST CHINA BATIK AND MIAO VILLAGES - 2001 TOUR WITH GINA CORRIGAN

Guiyang | Anshun | Huishui | Luodian | Pingtang | Duyun | Kaili | Guiyang

click on thumbnails above to go to associated photogalleries unless they are still work in progress

Thu 25 Oct - Hong Kong

Stayed at the YMCA, 'The Salisbury' 41 Salisbury Road, Hong Kong Tel: 852 2311 5809 (Rest of group arrived in Hong Kong on BA027 at 16.40) Travel Advisers - Textile Batik Tour

Fri 26 Oct - Hong Kong / Guiyang

18.00 - China South West Airlines SZ414 (1 hour 40 mins) to Guiyang. Flight was delayed about 30mins. Taken immediately for dinner and then to Holiday Inn Hotel (No 1 Beijing Road, Guiyang, Guizhou 550004, Tel 86-851 677 1888, Fax: 86 851 677 1688, email: higybc@public1.gy.gz.cn, http://www.holiday-inn.com/guiyangchn). The hotel was completely full and rooms very hot. top

Sat 27 Oct - Guiyang / Anshun

We set off about 9.00 a.m. on a good road for Anshun (see on map) in a change from the original programme. The road is the main road from Guiyang to the Huangguoshi Falls (a major tourist attraction for the Chinese) and then to Kunming in Yunnan Province and on into Vietnam. Most of our journey was over the Guizhou/Yunnan plateau with karst limestone mountains. Towards Anshun there were several Lao Han farms with the women, including the relatively young ones, wearing their traditional head-dress.

On arrival in Anshun we went immediately to the Fuyuan Wax Printing Batik Factory (which we had visited last year). Mr Hong, the wax artist, was there to talk to us (with his daughter) about the batik process. Previously they used to use locally produced indigo but now, due to the uncertainly of supplies, they use indigo from a factory in Beijing. The waxed cloths are dipped in the dye and oxidised 7 to 8 times.

Collected: Fuyuan Wax Printing Batik Factory, Anshun, Guizhou province: 2 metres of stencil wax resist indigo fabric; indigo wax resist hanging of minority women's heads.

After the factory visit we had lunch (at a restaurant which we had visited last year but this time we were sitting downstairs rather than in a room upstairs). After lunch we went to a (sometimes nicknamed 'Flower') Miao village to the east of Anshun, Lou Jia Zhuang village, Anshun city, Guizhou province. Apparently there are a total of 32-33 households totalling 104 persons in the village. We were warmly welcomed and graciously received by the villagers. We were met at the entrance to the village by two groups of musicians - the girls playing lusheng pipes and four older men playing various other instruments - and offered alcohol.

In the square in the village the girls provided a dance performance accompanied by music from the men. Following the dancing two women demonstrated waxing and a girls demonstrated embroidery. A man showed us the dyeing process. We were told that the indigo was natural indigo paste from a Miao indigo farm nearby. (The indigo is planted in March and harvested and sold in August-September.) This latter demonstration was particularly for our benefit since these days the Miao in the village do not normally do any indigo dyeing but take the waxed cloth into Anshun to be dyed. The girls are still trained to create wax resist at around 13 or 14 years of age. The wax resist is now carried out on cotton but it used to be on hemp. We were able to buy textiles and they put out a good display for us.

Lou Jia Zhuang village, Anshun city

to 25K photo gallery of Lou Jia Zhuang  village

Click on thumbnail for photogallery

A gallery of photos taken on 27 October 2001 in Lou Jia Zhuang village, Anshun city, Guizhou province. The Miao (sometimes nicknamed 'Flower Miao') villagers welcomed us with music and dancing and then demonstrated for us their wax resist and indigo dyeing. top

all text and images © Pamela A Cross

Collected: Lou Jia Zhuang village, Anshun city, Guizhou province: Flower Miao - indigo, red and yellow dyed wax resist panel for a baby carrier; plain indigo wax resist panel for a baby carrier; strip of embroidery; wooden hair comb; buffalo talisman wooden carving pendant as gift.

Almost immediately after to coming back into Anshun and checking into our hotel - the Yanan Hotel, Tel: 0853 3228988, Fax: 0853 3320247 - we went in to hear a lecture on batik by Rita Trefois. This included very useful and interesting information on the chemicals of dyeing and constituency of fibres. We had dinner at 7.30 and then an early night. top

Sun 28 Oct - Anshun / Huishui

We set off early to drive 160km - around 3 hours - to Huishui going due east and passing through the outskirts of Guiyang and then south to Huishui (see on map). From our meeting point with the local Huishui guide we then drove on for about 27km (45 minutes) to Bai Jin township where we had lunch at a local restaurant. We had a walk in the town whilst lunch was cooking. After lunch we drove to an 'Iron Beating' Miao village - Gao Zhai village, Bai Jin township, Huishui county, Guizhou province. (There is no obvious reason today for this nickname.) We were greeted by 4 little girls in festival costume dancing for us. They were joined by 3 women and 4 men playing lusheng pipes. We were then able to buy textiles.

Gao Zhai village, Bai Jin township, Huishui county

 

to Jpeg 27K photo gallery of Gao Zhai village, Bai Jin township, Huishui county, Guizhou province 0110C18A

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A gallery of photos taken on 28 October 2001 in Gao Zhai village, Bai Jin township, Huishui county, Guizhou province. The Miao villagers are known as 'Iron Beating Miao' although there is no obvious reason for that visible today. We were greeted by 4 little girls resplendent in their festival costumes who danced for us. They were then joined by three women and 4 men who played lusheng pipes and continued the dances. We had a small demonstration of embroidery - particularly couched outlines - and we were able to buy some textiles from the older women. top

all text and images © Pamela A Cross

Collected: Gao Zhai village, Bai Jin township, Huishui county, Guizhou province: Iron beating Miao -Young girl's hat, girl's embroidered bodice, woman's woven dark indigo pleated skirt with lighter blue stripes.

We then drove on to Gan He village, Ya Rong Township, Huishui country, Guizhou province - a Qing Miao (or Bouyei/Miao as there has been much inter marriage and it is clear from the costume that the two are very mixed). We were into mountainous scenery with very well kept fields and neat terraces using almost all available land. We stopped just before the village. People were coming in from all around and gathered around to welcome us. There were men with lusheng pipes and men with very long (and very loud) horns. A group of young girls were dancing and we were welcomed with alcohol.

Gan He village, Ya Rong township, Huishui county

Click on thumbnail for photogallery

A gallery of photos taken on 28 October 2001 in Gan He village, Ya Rong township, Huishui county, Guizhou province. This is a Qing Miao (or Bouyei/Miao as there has been much intermarriage and the costume is very mixed). The village women use a variety of techniques to make and ornament their clothing - wax resist, embroidery, weaving braids, complex weaving on backstrap looms and plaid plain weave on upright heddle looms. The basic fabric is indigo.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

The girls' skirts were very interesting being long, pleated and made of patchwork pieces of embroidery, appliqué, different weaves and wax resist applied on a dark indigo background and with a length of pleated wax resist fabric at the back. It seems that skirts such as these had only previously been made to be worn at funerals but had relatively recently started to be used by the girls in important festivals - weddings or funerals - or dance costumes. The women normally dress in trousers and not skirts and the costume looks at first sight as if it is purely Bouyei.

We walked on into the village where they gave us a music and dancing performance in the open square of the village. We next went to where they had laid on demonstrations of winding thread onto bobbins for weaving, making narrow braid on a braid loom, weaving a complex pattern on a back-strap loom and weaving plaid indigo cloth on an upright heddle loom. We then walked up to a higher level past three women straightening out cotton thread ready to thread up a loom. At this higher level there were women working on wax resist against a background of hanging textiles. One was using a mixture of bees wax and buffalo fat and another a mixture of bees wax, buffalo fat and the resin from the 'god tree' - a maple or 'umber' tree. The mixtures are heated up and the resulting liquid is very dark. The cloth looked like an unwashed and unbleached cotton which the women told us they washed before dyeing. The wax was not penetrating the fabric very much as it was quite thick.

We were allowed to buy textiles but this became rather a shambles since the villagers had beautifully laid out two areas of textiles for sale - one at the lower and one at the higher level. Those at the higher level were told to bring their textiles down to the lower but they had nowhere to display them here and it was very difficult to find any of the very beautiful textiles which had been laid out above. It was a great shame as a lot of care had gone into their displays and there were some beautiful textiles available for sale. There was a thick throng of people all pressing together and against us in their excitement and curiosity.

We walked along a path edging some fields near the village to see one of the 'god trees' from which a resin is used with other ingredients for the wax resist mixture.

Collected: Gan He village, Ya Rong Township, Huishui country, Guizhou province: Qing Miao - 2 pieces of quite complicated insert-weaving, man's turban with insert weaving, woman's jacket.

It took us about 45 minutes to drive on into Huishui. The guest house was OK but the rooms were not very attractive. We went out for dinner and then came back for an early night. top

Mon 29 Oct - Huishui / Luodian

We set off quite early from the guest house having breakfast first at the restaurant at which we had eaten the night before and left Huishui for Luodian about 7.45 a.m. We had a long, hard drive south for about three hours to the meeting point and then on to see a Miao/Han village where paper is made - Guo Li village, Bian Yang township, Luodian county, Guizhou province. The paper is made from the bark of a tree which has been soaked, beaten and washed and then put in a tank of water with some agent to separate the fibres. The paper is used for calligraphy. The paper making normally only takes place in the agriculturally low season. There are 7 families in the village who make paper. We saw some ramie growing and woven ramie sacks made to contain the paper and other produce which were said to be woven in the village.

Collected: Guo Li village, Bian Yang township, Luodian county, Guizhou province: Miao/Han - Ramie woven sack.

We then drove on and had lunch in Bian Yang township. Following lunch we had quite a long drive climbing up through beautiful scenery of karst limestone mountains, dry-stone walls around terraced fields and pockets of maize right up the mountainside. The plateau is dry and the farms are poor. We eventually reached a Qing Miao (Bouyei) village - La Lai village, Limu township, Luodian county, Guizhou province which was beautifully set in a small valley surrounded by mountains.

We were met by young girls dancing and men with (long) wind instruments. They gave a performance for us with boys, men playing and women dancing. We were in a big open square. Afterwards we also had to perform - a song and dance hokey-cokey! At the side of the performance area against a background of hanging textiles some older women were demonstrating paper cut applique - as seen in the older, patchwork skirts and bib fronts worn daily today - and black work embroidery - which seems to be mainly used for decorating apron tie ends. top

La Lai village, Limu township, Luodian county

Photogallery in progress

A gallery of photos taken on 29 October 2001 in La Lai village, Limu township, Luodian county, Guizhou province. This is a Qing Miao (or Bouyei/Miao as there has been much intermarriage and the costume is very mixed).

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

We then went to see an indigo dye vat in a house and were shown indigo plants growing outside. On the way back to the village square we were shown, up on the mountainside, where old coffins were wedged in a big crack - so called 'hanging coffins'. This custom no longer prevails.

We were then able to purchase textiles. There were several skirts similar to the older one seen in the Qing Miao Gan He village of the day before (a couple with accompanying jackets) which we were able to examine and photograph. They did not seem to be used any more as costume - not even for festival clothes judging from those worn during the performance.

Collected: La Lai village, Limu township, Luodian county, Guizhou province: Qing Miao (Bouyei) - pair of woman's embroidered apron tie ends.

We then drove on to another small village which was held up as a model village for creating new terraced fields and being able to increase the per capital income from Y20-Y600. We then drove a further 45k to our guest house in Luodian (Longping) (see on map) and had our supper there. We had a show and tell in Gina's room of the purchases from the last couple of days. top

Tue 30 Oct - Luodian

We had quite a relaxed start from the guest house. Unfortunately it was drizzling with rain when we left the hotel and it continued for most of the day. The drive to the village which we were to visit that day was through mountains and fields - all quite high. We eventually reached Feng Ting township, 47km to the west of Luodian. We stopped to arrange lunch in the township but it seems that there was a local wedding, the restaurant was closed and we would have to eat in the village to which we were going.

We took up into the bus for the rest of the drive to the village two young girls, one almost fully dressed in her festival attire and the other with her hair dressed and wearing her festival blouse. They rode with us up to their village - Bai Jia Po village, Feng Ting township, Luodian county, Guizhou province. We asked them whether stencils were used in the village and they said that they had been in the past but they were not used any longer because the women were not satisfied with the effect which they produced. The stencils had been used with paste and not wax. Gina and Deryn had visited the village in 1997 and had seen some stencils at that time.

Our seizing the opportunity to quiz the girls about the stencils (whilst they were with us privately) led from the apparent denial of a request for us to see the use of stencils in the village. This seemed to be associated with the additional scrutiny which we were under in the Luodian area. It seems that we had had a security guard with us the day before and also today. Apparently the local authorities were uneasy and suspicious because very recently 3 French missionaries had come into the area. There was concern that the security guard was going to restrict what we were able to see. The local authorities had insisted that OTC (the national travel agency organising our tour) should get an additional permit for the visit but the authorities in Guiyang had insisted that the area was already open to foreigners and a permit was not required. top

Bai Jia Po village, Feng Ting township, Luodian county

Photogallery in progress

A gallery of photos taken on 30 October 2001 in Bai Jia Po village, Feng Ting township, Luodian county, Guizhou province.  This is a Miao village.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

When we arrived at the village (in the continuing drizzle) we waited around for a long time because the girls were still getting dressed in their festival clothes - and the traditional hairstyles took around an hour to create. Four women came to sit within the entry doorstep to what was probably the head man's house and demonstrated various techniques used to create the skirts - waxing skirt lengths before dyeing; appliquéing strips of red fabric over the wax resist design after dyeing; adding yellow silk felt squares on top of the red appliqué; and working a band of cross stitch to go around the skirt below the wax resist.

The girls stood around under the shelter of the roof overhang and chatted. The concrete outside the house where they were going to dance was very wet and slippery and the drizzle continued. The atmosphere was very pleasant and relaxed. We were able to buy and several more skirts came out for sale as well as a number of hand woven braids and batik lengths. I found a very nice ramie skirt but decided against buying it as it was so heavy - Gina bought it and also a traditional style blouse.

I was very interested to see an old woman appear wearing a (probably hand woven) blouse with her collar sewn on with the right side of the embroidery underneath and the reverse face of the collar on top. This, together with the design of the skirt, was very similar to the Blue/Green Hmong in Thailand/Vietnam. The young girls - probably because the costumes are used for the dancing competitions where effect may play a more important part than tradition, had changed the placement their collars and sewn them on with the face of the embroidery uppermost.

Despite the continuing drizzle - which was possibly lighter - and the wet conditions, the girls and three or four boys gave us a display of dancing. Afterwards we had a simple hot-pot lunch with a freshly killed chicken, small beans and boiled cabbage. Afterwards the girls helped us down the steep steps from the edge of the village to the road below. The drive back though the mountainous landscape was again very special.

Collected: Bai Jia Po village, Feng Ting township, Luodian county, Guizhou province: Miao - Length of embroidery with silk cocoon felt applique which made to be inserted into a skirt and 2 braids, one narrow black and white and one wider and a length of narrow undyed ramie which would be dyed and used to back the bottom of a skirt to give it weight so that it would swing out.

On the way into the town of Luodian some of us were dropped off in a very active main street which felt rather like a market. There appeared to be a lot of Bouyei people around. I bought some paint brushes and some mandarin organges . After dinner we had a second lecture by Rita Trefois covering the world history of batik. top

Wed 31 Oct - Luodian / Pingtang

Not a good start to the day for me as the tour bus left without me! The guest house managed to track down the mobile number of our national guide and the bus came back for me. We drove about one and a half hours to the meeting point but then had to wait for about half an hour for our local Pingtang county and township guides to arrive. When they had arrived we then set off for a Red Miao village - Kong Wang village, Su Chang township, Pingtang county, Guizhou province. It was a long and winding road climbing up and down through the mountains. There were some nasty muddy stretches as a result of all the rain. The day was very grey with a misty look but it did not actually drizzle until the end of the day. There were wonderful views of mountainous scenery. Everything was very remote and the farming was mostly very poor indeed. We had a very real sense of the remoteness, wildness and isolation of the area. Kong Wang village was a long way along the road. We left the bus to walk the very last part of the way to the village although this was not very far.

We were greeted by a few girls singing and offering us alcohol out of gourds. We walked past women sewing and displaying their costume. Up outside the headman's house in a square, flat area ,boys and men were already dancing and singing to the beat of a gong and a drum. There were a number of people around and several were dressed in festival finery whilst the old ladies were wearing a plainer version - probably everyday wear. In one dance there was a young man who was dressed as a woman dancing with the men. Apparently this happens sometimes when a boy wants to attract the attention of a particular girl and he will join in with the girls dancing. We were told that some of the villagers were unhappy that he was dressed as a woman in front of western visitors. top

Kong Wang village, Su Chang township, Pingtang county

Photogallery in progress

A gallery of photos taken on 31 October 2001 in Kong Wang village, Su Chang township, Pingtang county, Guizhou province.  This is a Red Miao village.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

We were able to buy textiles from those spread out in and around the square and down the path leading from the village. They seemed to be quite expensive. I had help in my textile purchases from a charming young man who appeared to help write figures but would then disappear only to reappear just when I needed him again.

Collected: Kong Wang village, Su Chang township, Pingtang county, Guizhou province: Red Miao - relatively new woman's jacket, piece of embroidery for the front of a jacket, decorative embroidered handkerchief.

We were unable to stay very long in the village but had to leave speedily for the long drive to the township where we were to have lunch. On the way, just past a market in a small town, we had a puncture to the front off-side wheel. Whilst this was being changed we were able to walk back to the market and have a look around. We then carried on but had a second puncture - this time to the back offside wheel. With no second spare tire we continued to drive on the puncture until we managed to reach the township where we were to have lunch - at around 3.00 p.m. We had a hot pot lunch preceded by an excellent freshly baked sweet roll. During lunch time the driver had the two wheels repaired.

We then set off for Pingtang (see on map). We did not arrive until about 6.10 p.m. in the darkness. During that time the exhaust had gone and there were heavy fumes coming into the back of the bus. The guest house in Pingtang (Pinghu) seemed to be cleaner than the previous ones and the hot water was on! top

Thu 01 Nov - Pingtang

It had been raining hard and solidly all through the night and was still raining when we set off in the bus. Unfortunately I was feeling feverish, with a sore throat, cough and developing runny nose - all of which had started the afternoon before.

We had to wait once more for the local organiser from Pingtang to turn up. We then set off for the long drive back to the west of Pingtang (following quite a long way along the difficult road which we had travelled along the day before. It was about 80km to the township and then a further 20km to the first village that we were due to visit. The roads were very difficult after all the heavy rain. The driver went pretty slowly and carefully and managed to get the bus through some amazingly difficult places. He was also going slowly because there was no sign of the vehicle with the local guide who did not have a mobile phone! The mists and clouds came right down so that it was hard to see anything at all. Apparently the local guide had been held up in the mist. Eventually we found the local guide stopped in a township where there was a market just getting set up. We stopped briefly, not leaving the bus, and eventually we came to a high plateau - although we could see very little of the land to either side. We drove in what seemed an endless, slow and difficult drive with very little visibility across the plateau for about 20km until we came to Da Tang township where we had lunch - a hotpot from a wide range of offal.

During lunch it was decided that road to the village which we should have visited first, Chang Zhai village, Da Tang Township, Pingtang county, Guizhou province was much too difficult in the current weather conditions and too far and challenging for the party to walk. The turn off for this village must have been just before we got into Da Tang township. top

We then drove the long and difficult 20km back across the high plateau. The weather had cleared slightly and it was possible to catch glimpses of a striding range of mountains over to our left as we drove which reached to about the same height as the plateau on which we were driving.

We eventually got back to the township where we had briefly paused in the bus by the market in the morning. This turned out to be Xin Tang township - the township of what would have been the second but now our only village of the day. We had seen several women in traditional short, pleated indigo skirts with white borders around the hem. They had hairstyles of fine plaits made with added (slightly lighter) hair (from their mothers/grandmothers) coiled around their heads. This time we were allowed to get out of the bus and had about 20 minutes to walk in the drizzle around the market through the puddles and mud. The local people were very friendly and curious to see us. There were several women in costume and we had a look at a couple of baby carriers with a wax resist panel hanging loose over and covering a fixed embroidered panel.

Xin Tang market, Xin Tang township, Pingtang county

Photogallery in progress

A gallery of photos taken on 1 November 2001 at Xin Tang market in Xin Tang township, Pingtang county, Guizhou province.  This township is Miao. This Miao group is associated with a bird name. I have seen literature referring to 'Magpie Miao'. Our guide on the visit said 'Crow Miao' but the festival headdress is made of pheasant feathers! The township is about 80km to the west of Pingtang. This photogallery shows this group of Miao wearing their everyday costume.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

We took several photos before continuing on to Bai Zhan village, Xin Tang township, Pingtang county, Guizhou province. We walked the last short distance up towards the village which we did not go right into as the villagers had come down the road to a stony clearing to meet us . We had no way of knowing how close or not we were to the village itself. Several villagers were returning from the market in Xin Tang township and joined in with the welcoming crowd to see us. top

We were initially welcomed by women offering us alcohol out of buffalo horns. The women were wearing beautiful pheasant feather head-dresses. After this first greeting we moved up the path a little to where they put on a good music and dance performance for us with a man beating a gong and another a drum plus two younger men playing lusheng pipes. There were quite a large number of women dancing. Their head-dresses moved and quivered as the girls slowly stomped. All was very measured. Then the two men with lusheng pipes played and danced aping two buffaloes sparring. This was followed by another dance by the women.

Bai Zhan village, Xin Tang township, Pingtang county

Photogallery in progress

A gallery of photos taken on 1 November 2001 at Bai Zhan village, Xin Tang township, Pingtang county, Guizhou province.  The township is about 80km to the west of Pintang. The village is Miao and the group is associated with a bird's name. I have seen literature referring to 'Magpie Miao'. Our guide on the visit said 'Crow Miao' but the festival headdress is made of pheasant feathers! This photogallery shows this group of Miao wearing their festival costume.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

We were then free to buy textiles. During the greeting and performance the drizzling rain had stopped so the girls were able to dance without getting their costumes wet. However, as we started to negotiate for the textiles it started to drizzle again. The people were very friendly and charming. The wax resist was quite crude with spots arranged in rows. We saw a wooden comb-like tool which one of the women indicated was used to stamp on the wax resist. The women's jackets were plain indigo with two small back collars attached - with the face of the pattern on the underside. When Gina had visited the village in 1997 she had been told that the Han nickname for the Miao group was 'Pheasant Miao' - which, in the light of the pheasant feathers in the women's head-dresses seems very reasonable. Our guide, however, said that the group was know as 'Crow Miao'!

Collected: Bai Zhan village, Xin Tang township, Pingtang county, Guizhou province: Pheasant Miao (or possibly known as 'Crow Miao) - Woman's bodice and braid to secure it, length of wax resist which is either a woman's sash or a young man's turban, woven sash for an old man woven by his wife, a wax resist strip probably used to wind into a woman's gaiter, woman's purse (with a few button's in it) which is kept tucked into the clothing under a woman's skirt and reached by pulling up the hem of the skirt.

We left the village before I was able to negotiate for one of the baby carriers which I had seen in the market and which had now come up to the village. We set off on the long journey back to Pingtang. In places the cloud lifted somewhat so that we could see some of the scenery. It was a very long and tedious journey and difficult for the driver. We eventually got back into Pingtang - in the dark - and had supper. top

Fri 02 Nov - Pingtang / Duyun

Again it rained pretty much all night and all day. We left Pingtang around 9.00 a.m. and drove on to Duyun (see on map) on a relatively good road although there had been some land slips down the mountain sides undermined by all the rain and also some flooding. We went direct to our hotel - the best in Duyun (Kong Lung Hotel, No 134 HeBin Road, Duyun City, Guizhou Province, Tel: 0854 8222898, fax: 0854 8231445, email: dygldjd@public gz.cn)

After lunch at the hotel we went to the Provincial Museum where there was an exhibit of minority costumes. The Deputy Director gave us a tour and picked out a few things of particular note. We then went to see 'Stone Street' a rebuilding or preservation of an old street of houses/shops with a wide cobbled street. We had Rita's final lecture which was on international Batik artists and then went out to dinner at a restaurant - which was really humming! top

Sat 03 Nov - Duyun

What a day! - My cold seemed to be worse and my voice had only the high notes! We set off at 8.00 sharp for the drive to the township for the two villages, Ji Chang, which is 80km (two and a half hours driving time) south of Duyun. There was good scenery along the drive although it was very grey. Along the road we saw Shui and Miao in traditional dress going to market or working in the fields. By the time we reached the Ji Chang township and set off to walk to Wong Jiang, a Shui village, it had started to drizzle with rain. We were given no indication that the route to the village might be at all challenging and did not in any way prepare ourselves for a long or difficult walk.

Although we did not know it at the time, quite early in our walk, we went past the Miao village, Ma Guang, which it was planned that we were to visit after Wong Jiang. We saw several Miao as we walked - in and amongst their houses, along the track and working in the fields. The scenery was beautiful. Luckily the rain eased off quite quickly although it remained grey and not very clear. It was very muddy and slippery under foot. We were fairly strung out as we walked. The local guide - who was from Ji Chang township - walked at the front. After about 40 minutes we reached a bridge over a tumbling stream fed by a small waterfall down a steep cliff. The local township guide had disappeared and the way forward was either perpendicularly straight up the cliff - with no sight of a village on top - or carrying on up the track ahead which ran along the base of the cliff and then climbing further up to where the roofs of a village could be seen in the distance on top of the bluff. Rather than make a wrong choice the group waited on the bridge. top

Eventually the local guide from Duyun, Miss Mong, arrived and indicated that the route to the village lay in what seemed the perpendicular climb up the rocky path of the cliff. One of our number was unable attempt the climb and was left at the bottom with sweets and my shower-proof jacket. A couple of youngsters were later sent down from the village to assist her in walking back to the township.

The climb up the bluff seemed a long one as it continued to climb up well beyond the immediate cliff which had been seen from the bridge. Eventually we reached a large village - Wong Jiang, Ji Chang township, Duyun city, Guizhou province. This seemed to be inhabited not only by Shui but also by Miao, since women of both groups were in and out of the houses which we visited and were also using the quite large pond in the centre of the village for washing their clothes and hair.

We first went up into a house where a Shui woman was working on a sewing machine assembling very dark indigo dyed, diamond twill weave material into what looked like a jacket. We saw some Shui and one Miao baby carriers in the room. A Shui woman showed us a baby carrier still in the individual components in which it the embroidery is worked before assembly of the carrier. We also saw some paper cuts for embroidery.

Wong Jian village, Ji Chang township, Duyun city

Photogallery in progress

A gallery of photos taken on 3 November 2001 at Wong Jian village, Ji Chang township, Duyun city, Guizhou province.  The village is a Shui village where Miao also lived. It is 80km (two and a half hours driving time) south of Duyun.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

Eventually we clambered up higher through the (large) village to a house where we had lunch - black chicken hot pot. We were then led back down through the village to a house where we saw some weaving - a plain unbleached cotton with no diamond weave. We then returned to the first house which we had visited and several women came up and joined us with their textiles and we were allowed to buy.top

Collected: Wong Jiang, Ji Chang township, Duyun city, Guizhou province: Shui - Baby carrier.

We then started off for the walk back down. We were given freshly cut bamboo staffs to steady ourselves on the slippery terrain. The journey down the steep cliff was more taxing than coming up as it was quite steep and slippery with water running down it. The muscle in my left calf which had given me problems before leaving the UK gave way under the strain and I had a painful and slow struggle for the remaining walk to the bus - particularly difficult on the steeper parts of the route.

During the walk we stopped at some houses where we saw a jeweller, reportedly a Shui, who brought out some of the jewellery which he had made for us to see and photograph. It seemed that he was making jewellery which would be worn by both Shui and Miao. Some women came up, including one who showed us how some of the ornaments were worn in dressing the hair. A Miao woman produced from a bag a wax resist jacket with additional yellow and pink dye similar to some Miao wax resist which we were to see in the next village. The woman dressed in the jacket, with an embroidered apron over it held up by silver chains, for us to photo. Unfortunately we had to rush away to the next village - the jacket was a very nice example.

Ma Guang village, Ji Chang township, Duyun city

Photogallery in progress

A gallery of photos taken on 3 November 2001 at Ma Guang village, Ji Chang township, Duyun city, Guizhou province.  The village is a Miao village and 80km (two and a half hours driving time) south of Duyun.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

We continued along the track to where there was a shop where a path left the track and entered a group of houses. We stopped and saw a Miao woman who was carrying two pails of water and had on her back a baby in a wax resist baby carrier which we examined and photographed.

We then went up the pathway to a Miao village - Ma Guang village, Ji Chang township, Duyun city, Guizhou province. The elderly woman whom we had come to see demonstrate wax resist for us was not at home. However, whilst we waited for her, two men of the household produced some beautiful wax resist for us to see, including one long piece in a formal design which was still in the process of being waxed. The wax was very dark and it was applied on what looked like a raw cotton which it was clear had been treated with something to give it a very smooth surface and to keep it flat and taut - although the men were unaware of this and denied it. They told us that this and other, more free style indigo dyed lengths with designs of flowers, fish and birds of wax resist were used in funeral ceremonies although it was very difficult to feel certain that this was, in fact the case. They might also have been used for bed covers. Whatever their eventual use the pieces were waxed and dyed as two similar mirror image lengths and then sewn together. Before we left Gina bought a finished two-piece cover in the formal design similar to the one strip we had previously seen partly waxed. top

We also saw a couple of pieces of waxed indigo, yellow and pink dyed fabric for the sleeves of a woman's jacket and a piece of what looked like commercially dyed bright blue/turquoise cloth which had been waxed and then over-dyed with indigo. The material would be cut up into strips to be used as part of a woman's head-dress. There were some lengths of hand woven, unbleached cotton hanging in the house probably having been washed waiting to be used for waxing.

Eventually the old woman who lived in the house returned - dragged back from market by our guide, Miss Mong. The woman was 85 years old and one of only three women in the village, all over 70 years old, who still did wax resist. The woman agreed to demonstrate some waxing for us. She seemed worried to use a piece of woven unbleached cotton cloth which was rather crumpled. When asked she told us that the fabric was usually rinsed before waxing in water which had been used to rinse the rice - the smooth surface which we had previously observed was thus the result of rice starch. Her wax - which she said was bees wax - was heated in a bowl resting on a small fire in a bowl creating embers.

With my painful calf muscles I ended up being the last person hobbling back to the township where the bus was parked. As I was nearing it I heard a shout behind me. A boy whom I had recently passed was waving at me with something in his hand. I carried on. As I entered the township a woman came up and stopped me and was holding a piece of fabric which it seems the boy had been waving at me. It turned out to be the centre piece for a Miao baby carrier in the formal design of circles similar in style to the larger piece we had seen in the process of being waxed at Ma Guang village.

Collected: Ma Guang village, Ji Chang township, Duyun city, Guizhou province: Miao - wax resist centre piece for a baby carrier.

On the two and a half hour drive back to Duyun the clutch on the bus went and the driver had difficulty engaging the gears and changing from the low gears. We eventually got back into Duyun and went straight to the restaurant for dinner - and had to climb up two floors to get to the restaurant! I found it very difficult coming downstairs again after dinner. When we got back to the hotel I discovered that my washing had not been returned but I eventually tracked it down to the 6th floor. Oh what a wonderful relief to have a hot shower! top

Sun 04 Nov - Duyun / Kaili

We were able to get up in a leisurely fashion and go to breakfast any time before 8.30 a.m. When we left we had a false start as Xiao Wang was telephoned to say that Jacqueline had come away with her room key. He caught a taxi to take it back to the hotel. Soon after we got going again the clutch, despite having been supposedly mended, went once more. We ended up having quite a slow drive to Kaili as the driver was trying to drive avoiding having to change gears. The baggage driver drove his van in front so that he could pay in advance for us at all the road tolls and we could drive through without stopping.

We arrived at the hotel in Kaili (see on map) (Kaili Hotel, 3 Guang Chang Road, Kaili City, Guizhou 556000, Tel: 0855 224466, 8269817, fax: 0855 221658) where we were on the top, fourth floor. After lunch at the hotel we went out to the main market - which was just getting into its stride for the busy Sunday market. After splitting up to go around the market some of us then regrouped and went in taxis to what was known as 'the old hotel' to find the textile dealers who seem to be subject to attempts by the authorities to drive them off the streets altogether. Kaili itself appeared to be one huge building site and the main street where the Sunday market had previously been held was part of the reconstruction area.

Near the entrance to the road up to the old hotel was a shop owned by a textile dealer, a woman, whom Gina knew and who spoke some English. As we stood around in the street outside the shop other textile dealers came up and started to show us textiles for sale. Eventually we went with another woman whom Gina knew to a room in a house a street or so away. Various of the other dealers followed us. I bought various pieces from them including a well used wax resist woman's jacket similar to those from Ma Guang village. We then took taxis back to our hotel and had a look at the textiles which were being offered by the women on the pavement outside.

We walked to the restaurant outside the hotel where we had supper - and saw Mr Shui, our extremely kind and helpful baggage driver from the 2000 tour. He has now purchased his own minibus for tours. When we had eaten and came out of the restaurant we were besieged by the textile sellers from our hotel who had been waiting outside the restaurant for us. I ended up buying a woven braid sash. At the hotel I had a look at the textile shop ('National Handicraft Article Market' owned by Mrs Yang Jian Hong) and bought an excessively heavy book 'A Picture Album of China's Miao Costumes and Ornaments' (with text in both Chinese and English) for Y660 which, according to Gina, is the latest reference work recently published in a limited run.

Collected: From the textile dealers in Kaili: various embroidered pieces; woven braid sash; long piece of wax resist probably for a turban in the style of Pingyong, North of Rongjiang; Miao (similar to Ma Guang village) woman's wax resist indigo jacket; small basket; folded patchwork strips. top

Mon 05 Nov - Kaili

I had almost no voice at all. From my point of view the breakfast was the least appealing of any we had come across.

After breakfast we went to a Gejia village - Ma Tang village - within the Kaili City area. The village is frequently visited by tourists as it is so close to the city. You could judge this by the well provided public area for dancing and its public address system. However, we were warmly welcomed and were given a very wholehearted dance, music and song performance with a large troupe of female dancers and a few young men playing lusheng pipes. There was an excellent demonstration of wax resist by one woman and around the edge of the dance area several women were demonstrating embroidery, braid weaving and needle knitting (of the net covers for the women's hair buns). The women had laid out a lot of textiles for sale - some modern touristy pieces and other traditional Gejia textiles. There was a biting, cold wind and we got cold watching the long performance and the women were shivering waiting for it to finish and us to be able to buy. I was quite pleased with my purchases. I had been hoping to get quite a few Gejia pieces as a background for several special pieces which I have purchased over the years, mainly from John Gillow.

Ma Tang village, Kaili city

to 38K Ma Tang village photogallery

Click on thumbnail for photogallery

A gallery of photos taken on 5 November 2001 at Ma Tang village which is within the Kaili city area, Guizhou province.  The village is a Geja village and frequently visited by tourists as it is near to the city.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

Collected: Ma Tang village, Kaili city, Guizhou province: Gejia - skirt; and (apparently older) embroidered baby carrier; net 'loom'; woven braid; hank of silk thread; wax resist tie; wax resist baby carrier piece; 2 matching embroidered rectangles for the back of a woman's jacket; woman's tabard.

We went back to the hotel rather late for lunch as we had not been rushed away from the village.

After lunch we had a wax resist workshop in the hotel textile shop - which had been organised for us by the owner Mrs Yang. Two Gejia women from Feng Xian village, Chongan township hand come to teach us - or at least demonstrate for us. Apparently all the girls in that village are still waxing and the young girls learn at the age of 6 or 7 and by 16 or 17 are excellent waxers. It is then that they usually wax their wedding outfits. There are only around 10,000 Gejia and, although they are designated by the China Minorities Bureau as part of the Miao nationality the Gejia believe that they are a separate group - due to language and costume differences.

After the workshop I went back to the old hotel to the textile dealers to see if a woman who had showed me some very fine textiles - especially from Hainan Island - the day before might appear. Whilst waiting to see if she would be attracted by the interest to appear I bought three sets of Black Miao and similar embroidered pieces. She then appeared and eventually showed me a stole similar to (an expensive, Y1200/1400) one which had been hanging in Mrs Yang's shop at the Kaili hotel the day before and was reputedly from Hainan. (Subsequently identified as a Meifu Li woman's headcloth from the end of 19th century or early 20th century).

The woman tugged at my arm and wanted to take me to her room. I eventually went with her. We turned right out of the road from the entrance to the old hotel, then first right and into a building on the left and up to first floor and her room was the first door on the right. It was very clean and tidy with a bed and neat piles of textiles against two walls. She spread out a clean bamboo mat on the floor and began to show me textiles. There were several jackets and skirts from Hainan similar to examples that she had shown me the previous day. I found it very hard to judge the jackets or to know which might have gone with which skirt.

Two or three men also arrived and then another woman who all seemed to be linked to the first woman. One of the men brought in a new pile of textiles. I negotiated with the woman for the scarf but pointed out some marks/damage on it caused from some insect cocoons. One of the men went off to try and remove them. Whilst this cleaning was going on I asked to see the Hainan woven skirts which had particularly attracted me by their fineness the day before. (Subsquently identified as Ba-sa-dung Li (Run dialect) women's skirts). I asked what an indicative price might be for one of the skirts. I had a chance to go through all the skirts and eventually picked out one which, to my eyes was much finer than all the rest and was smaller and possibly older. I negotiated for this skirt and then - having exhausted most of my money - indicated that I must leave. The woman gave me a small textile bag as a gift to add to my purchases and walked back with me to the main road where I caught a taxi to the Kaili Hotel.

Collected: Guizhou: Black Miao embroidered pieces and two other dark embroidered pieces. Hainan Island: Meifu Li Indigo woven woman's headcloth with embroidery and fringing; Ba-sa-dung (Run) Li - woman's woven mini skirt.

We went out to supper by bus to a good restaurant with a reputation for its special hot pot - a divided pot with sour and spicy on the one side and less spicy on the other. After this we came back to the hotel and attended an embroidery lecture in the shop which had been arranged for a group of visiting Americans. Xiao Wang had arranged that we could attend. There was a translator with the group from the Foreign Affairs Office. The lecture was very interesting and Mrs Yang had put out for us to see some very special and fine examples of embroidery from her own collection - which she hopes some day will form part of a museum collection. She showed us a few individual techniques a couple of which turned out to be very useful for our visit to a Miao village next morning. It was very pleasant chatting after the lecture especially with one of the American women. top

Tue 06 Nov - Kaili

The temperature had dropped during the night and I had been cold. For once it was not raining and it was bright and there was sunshine by the time we left the hotel. We set off for Shi Qing village, Zhou Xi township which is 21km to the west of Kaili. The Miao in the village are known as Zhou Xi Miao. They are around 25,000 in number and are the majority in the Kaili area. The Miao group is also sometimes known as 'small horn Miao' because of the silver festival head-dresses of the girls. These Miao are famous for their silk felt. It is applied in triangles to the sleeves and aprons of the girl's festival costumes held down by a horse hair which is whipped around the edges of the felt giving a black outline.

We were welcomed by some girls dancing and men playing lusheng pipes and offered alcohol as we walked along the path to the village which lay alongside a stream.

Shi Qing village, Zhou Xi township, Kaili city

Photogallery in progress

A gallery of photos taken on 5 November 2001 at Shi Qing village, Zhou Xi township, Guizhou province 21km to the west of Kaili.  The village is Miao, known as Zhou Xi Miao. They are around 25,000 in number and are the majority in the Kaili area. They are also sometimes known as 'small horn Miao' because of the silver festival headdress of the girls. They are also famous for their silk felt.

all text and images © Pamela A Cross top

The silver smiths were working - beating on the white metal - when we arrived in the village square to watch the performance given by 7 girls and three boys of dancing, singing and lusheng pipe music. We had to join in with them and then we sang and danced the hokey-cokey.

After the dances we went to see a women who was working on pleating one of the short skirts similar to ones we had seen on the dancers. The indigo dyed skirt had been soaked and then tied tightly around a hollowed out tree trunk with many rounds of string. The woman then pulled up the fabric under the string with a metal awl so that it was pushed into tiny pleats. Next to her was a girl working on some embroidery which was amazingly held in circular quilting hoop!

We then went up into a house where three women were weaving in the roof. One was weaving the cotton plaid fabric which, amongst other things is used in the girl's blouses; another weaving braid for the flying ties of the girls' head-dresses; and a third weaving the intricate strips which are inserted in the baby carriers. There were a couple of worn baby carriers near to her loom. Downstairs there were some quite expensive textiles for sale and some braid looms made by the headman of the village. On the path back to the bus a few two girls were offering a few (quite expensive) textiles.

We returned to the hotel for lunch - arriving later that we had hoped. We were held up in the a traffic jam on a one way section where the new road is being constructed. A lorry had run out of fuel and blocked the traffic in both directions until a can of fuel could be fetched. top

After lunch we went to our second wax resist workshop in the textile shop of the hotel. The teacher and a male 'minder' turned up and he requested an additional Y3,000 (about £300) for her to teach. This was refused. After a while a new, Gejia, teacher arrived and demonstrated wax resist for us before we attempted waxing ourselves. We finished the workshop around 4.00 p.m.

Gina, Jan and I then went down to the old hotel by taxi as Gina had some business to settle with the textile dealer woman with the shop. The dealers came around including the one who had sold me the Hainan textiles the day before. One of the others who spoke some English translated for me that the woman wanted to ask me to have dinner with her. I thanked her but said that I was already committed to go elsewhere. I was eventually shown by one of the other dealers a very nice Zhou Xi Miao baby carrier and I was pleased with the price that I negotiated for it.

Collected: Zhou Xi township, Kaili city, Guizhou province: Zhou Xi Miao - baby carrier; Miao - two wax resist sleeve lengths similar to those from Ji Chang township, Duyun city.

We came back to the hotel by taxi and had supper at a small restaurant around the corner from the hotel. We then went to visit a Mr Yang whom Gina had met last year at the 2000 Batik conference in Kunming. He collects minority textiles and is prepared to sell. Mr Yang had some quite nice pieces in his collection. He had a small amount of Hainan textiles including a woven Li skirt of a similar style and colour but not such fine weaving as the one I had bought. He said that it was an old one and wanted a price more than double that which I had paid. We left to go back to the hotel around 10.00 p.m.

Collected: Zijin area Miao wax resist baby carrier piece; 2 metres of bleached fine woven ramie. top

Wed 07 Nov - Kaili / Guiyang

We left for Guiyang at 8.30. The first part of the journey was quite slow through the construction area where the new road is being built - there is some very major engineering work along the road. When it is completed the journey from Kaili to Guiyang - with some good scenic views - will take about two and a half hours. Once we were onto the completed part of the new road we made good time. We arrived at the Holiday Inn in Guiyang and I had a pleasant suite! Unfortunately the luggage van broke down on the journey from Kaili and another van had to be sent out to collect our luggage which did not arrive at the hotel until late afternoon.

We went out to a restaurant for lunch and then Xiao Wang and Gina went to sort out some problems on our visa (the total on the bottom was for one more than the list of names!) as Gina was not going to be with us when we left but was flying on to Beijing. We were then dropped at the Bird and Antique market. I walked along to the Pavilion and bought a good map of Guizhou (Y4) (in English) on the way in and then went into the Pavilion itself. In the textile shop I bought a couple of textiles and, seeing Gina's book on Guizhou in the shop indicated that I was with her group.

Collected: Beaten indigo cloth - 30 inches; woven silk scarf from two head-dress lengths of fabric.

I then set off in a taxi to try and find the government art shop but ended up at an opening of a new (smart and up-market) government store. I eventually walked around and found a shop selling some of the paint brushes which I was looking for. I then caught a taxi back to the hotel and the luggage arrived soon afterwards. We went out to dinner and later some of us had a drink at the bar. top

Thu 08 Nov - Guiyang

After breakfast went to the Pavilion. Sue and I went back to the Bird and Antique market to a shop selling brushes and I was able to get a larger one which I had been seeking. We then went to the Provincial Museum which used to have a good exhibition of minority costumes. However, the exhibit had been closed and mostly removed as the museum was being pulled down before being re-built. We were eventually allowed into one room where some photos and a few jumbled pieces still remained.

After leaving the museum we visited the buildings and gardens made in memory of the philosopher Weng Yang Ming (which I had visited last year). In the complex was a shop with several textiles and where there was a demonstration of wax dyeing by a Miao woman who was the daughter of a famous wax painter from the Anshun area. The original artist was Mrs Yang Jin Xiu who came from Mei Jia Zhuang in Anshun county. The artists had been brought up to do traditional wax resist. The current artist was wearing a costume which was very similar to the first Miao village (Lou Jia Zhuang village, Anshun city) which we had visited and where the indigo dyed wax resist had red and yellow dyes painted onto the cloth. The current artist has 10 students studying with her one of whom was in the shop. There was a painter in a room next door. It was a pretty cold, grey day and we got quite chilled waiting around. It was a relief to go for a good (and warming) lunch.

After lunch we went on a visit which Xiao Wang had finally arranged the night before. It was with a very well known 'Panda (or famous man) of Guizhou' Mr Zeng Xian Yang. He was a photographer of Guizhou and its minorities, especially in the south-east of the province. His photographs have been published in several well known books including one which I bought in 2000 - 'Guizhou's Hidden Civilisation'. During the visit I bought and he autographed for me an earlier book of his photos 'Miao Zhuang'.

He had been collecting and photographing the Miao and their textiles for between 20-30 years. He was particularly active in collecting in the 1980s. He showed us a few wax resist pieces particularly talking about the symbolism in them. He showed us some embroideries, mainly from the Shidong area. According to him the wax resist pieces were around a 100 years old and the embroidered pieces from the 1930s and 1940s based on the ages and histories of the people from whom he bought the textiles. He lived in a modernised flat with plenty of expensive looking Hi Fi equipment and strong security. It was a very interesting visit.

We then went back to the hotel to change before going out to our farewell dinner. After dinner we went to Xiao Wang's home and saw his wife, mother and father whom I had met last year. When we arrived there had been a power cut but the lights came on just after we had sat down. Xiao Wang's elder sister was there with her daughter and she and her husband gave us a lift back to the hotel in their minibus. Unfortunately Ann, who travelled back to the hotel with others in a taxi left her bag in the vehicle. Luckily it did not contain her passport, air tickets or much money. top

Friday 09 Nov - Guiyang /Hong Kong / London

Gina left early for Beijing. The rest of us left the hotel at 10.00 and went yet again to the Bird and Antique market for an hour before going to lunch at the Plaza Hotel. We were then taken to the airport where we met up with the luggage. It took us ages to check in as the computers were down! Luckily none of us were charged any excess baggage! The flight was a bit late leaving from Guiyang. We only checked the baggage through as far as Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong we got the British Airways transfer desk to find out luggage and to check it on to the UK and give us our boarding passes. We had to wait quite a long time for this but it all went smoothly.

Flew to Hong Kong (arriving at approximately 1600 hrs) and on to London BA 028 from HK at 2345.

Guiyang | Anshun | Huishui | Luodian | Pingtang | Duyun | Kaili | Guiyang

click on thumbnails above to go to associated photogalleries unless they are still work in progress

go to China country page - go to pages for China photogalleries and China Photogalleries in progress

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this page last updated 23 December, 2015