Trip Review for China

Shawls and the Back Wrapping Cloth

The “Wearing stars and moons” or “Seven stars shawl” indicates the lambskin shawl of Naxi women. It is usually made by a complete piece of lambskin and sewed with black wool cloth edgings of 6 cm wide. At the two shoulder parts, two round plates are embroidered using silk threads to signify the sun and moon. Underneath, there is a row of seven small round plates that signify the stars. The complete shawl is tied in front of the chest using wide white cloth ribbon.

Besides Naxi women, other nationalities also have all kinds of shawls. In Yi minority area in Yunnan Province, women like to wear a kind of unique costume – back wrapping cloth, which has the similar function as the “wearing stars and moons.” While carrying big bamboo baskets or heavy things to climb mountains, they could use it to prevent hard and heavy baskets to hurt the waist. Even when not carrying heavy things, back wrapping cloth also could keep the waist part warm. When having a rest while doing labor work, it can be used as a cushion to sit. Yi minority’s back wrapping cloth is different from Naxi’s sheepskin shawl in its size, which is relatively small with a diameter of 25cm and thickness of 1 cm. It is not made of the complete sheepskin, but a piece of round wool felt. Embroidered tying ribbons of around 2 meters long are tacked on the back wrapping cloths. The tying ribbons intersect in front of chest, and back wrapping cloth hang down the back to cover the waist and the behind. In terms of style and way of doing, there are two types of back wrapping cloth: one is traditional, with its surface not covered with cloth cover, but embroidered with patterns of two bronze drum halo lines and two horizontal rectangular. The patterns are usually black dotted with some red and yellow color, which shows a simple and rugged style. For the other kind, its surface is covered with black cloth and embroidered with all kinds of delicate and beautiful patterns. A piece of back wrapping cloth draped at the back shines together with the colorful costumes, which forms the typical clothing feature of Yi women in the west part of Yunnan.

Yi women and men who live in Grand and Small Liang Mountain in Sichuan and Yunnan region all wear “caerwa,” which is rather big with about the same size of a loose and big shawl. It is woven by linen and supplemented with wool. A Caerwa has many functions and is considered to be“a coat during day, a raincoat when rain comes and a quilt at night.” Old men usually wear black and blue caerwas, while young men like to use flamboyant colors of strong contrast such as red, yellow, green, orange and pink. It was tied around neck at the top, opens in front and has tassels at the bottom. Men will look handsome, masculine and powerful when wearing caerwas and the “hero knot” on the head. Women will look pretty, elegant and rustic when they wear colorful caerwas, flower patterned head handkerchiefs together with a kind of hairstyle with two plaits crossing and wrapping around head top.

A sheepskin waistcoat of Qiang people opens in front without buttons. Though it is not a type of shawl clothing, basically it was also draped around shoulders. Qiang’s sheepskin waistcoat is the symbolic costume of Qiang minority. People of all ages and sexes, even toddlers, will wear “Chu Feng” type fur waistcoats that are not face-covered. Outside is naked sheepskin. Edges are sewn into patterns or sewn neatly. “Chu Feng” means that fur expose outside from waistcoat edges at the parts of shoulder, front piece and lower hem. Qiang people call it “fur jacket.” In sunny days, they will wear the waistcoat with naked sheepskin side being exposed outside and in rainy days the fur side being exposed, which will enable rain drop to flow down along with drooping fur. Same as the caerwa of Yi minority, it also has the function of coir raincoats. Qiang people also have a kind of brown and black thick woolen “Muzi” jacket of 1.5 meters long. Like a fur waistcoat, it not only helps to prevent against coldness, but also shelter rain. Whenever necessary, it can be used as a cushion or quilt. Besides, it can help to protect the back when carrying heavy things.

The costume that looks most natural and unstrained is the Drung minority’s stripes linen cloth blanket. Because Drung people, no matter what age or sex, all drape this kind of linen blanket with very simple clothes arrangement inside, it has become the most characteristic costume. Drung people call it “Yuduo,” while people not from their nationality usually call it the “Drung blanket.” The way of draping the blanket looks about the same at first sight. They drape it around one shoulder and expose another shoulder, mostly left shoulder. But if categorizing carefully, there are many rules. Men wrap slantwise a linen blanket on the back from left axilla to right shoulder and tie them in front of the chest. Women drape two square blankets, from shoulder to the knee part. Blankets overlap either from left side or right side. If the blankets are wrapped to the right, the waist part is then tied tightly with ropes and blankets will cover both the front and back. If to the left, then it is more flexible to put on or take off.

Costumes that were draped around shoulders are mostly adornments evolved gradually from labor work or life. They still keep the double functions of decoration and practical use. Unlike clothes that are usually worn neatly in set, they look more casual and primitive and are full of martial bearings endowed by nature. This maybe is the country flavor lost from modern clothes.

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