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PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2003 6:04 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 01, 2003 4:52 am
Posts: 162
Location: California, USA

Sino Thai is an ethnym used only for the assimilated Chinese in Thailand, who speak mostly Thai and have Thai (Sanskritized) names, This level of assismilation is quite unusual in Southeast Asia.

All T'ai (or Daic) people originated in either Southern China, Northeastern Laos, or Northwestern Viet Nam; the term Sino Thai is inaccurate for these reasons, and also fails to capture the actual migratory routes, time-span, and overall complexity as the T'ai arrived in mainland SEAsia proper.

The Li of Hainan are now HLI! Miao (or variants of) are, at their request, now known as HMONG. The same goes for the Yao, who prefer being called MIEN (or Iu-Mien, as my husband's grammar of the language is titled).


Unfortunately, the areas of weaving in Thailand and Laos are so intertwined as to make geographical boundaries pointless. I have never understood the reason for separating ethnic groups and their weaving styles into Thai and Lao. The entire NE of Thailand (Isan) has more Lao speakers than does Laos; the areas closest to Cambodia are Khmer speaking, and their weavers follow Khmer traditions.

This does not mean that accurate identification is unneccesary or impossible. I think that origin and dates are extremely important, but need to be based on other kinds of evidence (including, but not limited to): dyes, pattern and structure, motif, power symbols, and ethnic markers. There has always been an active interchange of textiles from one area to another; there are also "samplers" with a wide range of motif and design which master weavers would put together for clients. (Not every woman wove, and some were either slow or clumsy, making it possible for textiles to be purchased by those that were not very good).

These concerns also apply to the ethnic divisions of the hilltribes, who also cut across nation-states, but whose textile traditions are almost similar. Of course there are wide variations in textile styles, but whether these are due to geographical divisions is questionable.

3. AGE:

Definetly the major bugaboo of collectors. If I have a textile in my collection that I bought in 1982, that I dated at around 1975 (post-war), is that textile now 28 years old, or is it simply post-Viet Nam?

Dating a cloth is so fraught with potential disaster, that I can't reliably check age without looking for fading, heaviness, or thinese of fibers used in the weaving, etc.

Any comments on this last point or others that I made here?



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2003 8:02 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 2001
Location: Canterbury, UK
Sandie, just an odd one or two thoughts for now. I have always been fascinated by the migration of the different tribal groups. So many of them originated in China and have moved outwards regardless of where nation boundaries have been or are. It is interesting to speculate as to whether you can plot some of the migration by identifying details of the textiles. However, it is much too simplistic to stick rigidly to this as there are so many other contibuting factors - but it can be a useful pointer to start asking questions.

Hmong/Miao - I tend to use the term Hmong for all the peoples of this group who living outside China and Miao for those within China - only because it seems that this is how the people refer to themselves. I would want to refer to the people by the name with which they are most comfortable and - when talking to other enthusiasts - gives an identity which is mutually understood.

Age of textiles - perhaps a link here to the long running thread on the Age of textiles which I moved across to the new forum is relevant here ... c.php?t=10 Several interesting points made here.

on-line tribal textiles resource

PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2003 12:10 am 

Joined: Tue Jul 01, 2003 4:52 am
Posts: 162
Location: California, USA
A very interesting point you made regarding migration patterns and their relationship to textile variation.

Some thoughts:

All T'ai groups are Theravada Buddhist, except for the T'ai Daeng, who are animist, with a layer of Mahayana. The T'ai Daeng have one motif not shared by other groups, the "third eye", which is expressed through the use of diamond shapes, and is considered their power symbol.

This motif is supposed to have been borrowed via Nepal, but the evidence is sketchy. I don't find it unusual for the diamond shape to occur in a weaving culture which relies so heavily on geometric form as design.

Of all the T'ai groups that I know of in historical perspective, silk is produced only by the Lowland Lao, elsewhere the thread is bought; Buddhism condems killing, and since the silkworm is killed (and eaten), many Thai dislike this process. For centuries, T'ai silk was used only for the weft threads, and imported thread, from either China or Japan, was used for the warp, as it was considered stronger then native silk.

We can also trace some motifs from the Dong Son period, which also were found in Sumatra, and there is the whole business of the "kop", or frog man and its evolution, but I'll get to that later on; I'll tackle the "naak" eventually as well.


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