Dai brocade: Weaving the memories of Dai people
Dai brocade is an ancient handmade craft of Dai people, which is rich in regional and ethnic characteristics. The primitive simplicity and affluent colors and patterns make the brocade outshine those produced by machines. It carries the history and memories of Dai people.
Boasting a long history, Dai brocade is a kind of daily necessities used by Dai people, especially in religious rites and decorations. The materials for Dai brocade range from silk, wool, cotton, and linen to golden thread. And the cloth is made on traditional looms. As products of agricultural society, Dai brocade is extraordinarily precious as many skills of agrarian society died under the impact of the development of machine manufacturing in modern society.
Dai brocade has many kinds of patterns like flowers, grass, trees, elephants, kylins, horses, peacocks, bodhisattva, pagodas, dragon boats, geometric figures, houses, etc. It is often made with a piece of black cloth on which patterns are stitched with red, yellow, green, golden and silver silk. The gorgeous colors and neatly stitched patterns contribute to the uniqueness of the artworks.
As times goes by, the market shares of Dai brocade have shrunk under the impact of modern industry, and some embroiderers changed their careers. However, many craftsmen or craftswomen stay committed to passing on the Dai brocade skills and Lang Er is one of them.
Living in Fengping Township, Mang City, west Yunnan’s Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, Lang Er is a prefecture-level inheritor of Dai brocade. For more than 20 years, she has worked hard to improve her own brocade skills while teaching apprentices how to make the handicrafts.
“As I’m from Dai people. It’s my mission to carry on the skills,” she said.
Lang Er has also promoted the integration of Dai brocade with modern elements, injecting new vitality into the traditional skills. (Translated by Zu Hongbing, Photos from Zhangshang Dehong)