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November 21, 2010

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Li textiles carry culture

THE traditional Li textile techniques of spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidery are used by Li women of Hainan Province to make cotton, hemp and other fibres into clothing and other daily necessities.

The techniques, including warp ikat, double-face embroidery and single-face jacquard weaving, are passed down from mothers to daughters through verbal instruction and personal demonstration. Li women design the textile patterns using only their imagination and knowledge of traditional styles. In the absence of a written language, these patterns record Li history and culture as well as aspects of worship, taboos, beliefs, traditions and folkways. The patterns also distinguish the five major spoken dialects of Hainan Island. The textiles form an indispensable part of important social and cultural occasions such as religious rituals and festivals, and in particular weddings, for which Li women design their own dresses. As carriers of Li culture, the textile techniques play an important role in the cultural heritage of the Li ethnic group. However, in recent decades the numbers of women with the weaving and embroidery skills at their command has severely declined to the extent that traditional Li textile techniques are exposed to the risk of extinction and are in urgent need of protection.

In response to initiatives from the authorities of Hainan Province, and by decision of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, Li textile techniques were included on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage administered by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture. In 2009, UNESCO listed Li textile techniques as Intangible Culture Heritage in need of urgent protection.

(UNESCO website)


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