Textile Odyssey Tour to Southwest China 2019
Yunnan (April 27 – May 9)
Guizhou (May 10- May 17)
Textile Odyssey takes us to Yunnan and Guizhou, two southwest provinces that are home to more than half of China’s fifty-six ethnic groups. We’ll travel to rural, out-of-the-way places where, despite the modernization of China in its urban areas, many ethnic minority groups continue to make and wear a distinctive group outfit that defines their identities as clan members. Here we’ll see China’s rich cultural diversity in the ethnic dress worn by a variety of subgroups of Dong, Miao, Yao, Hani, Yi, Zhuang, Bai, etc. In the homes and villages of local artisans, we’ll witness demonstrations of time-honored textile techniques such as indigo-dyeing, calendaring, pleating, batik, stitch-resist, weaving, embroidery, folded piecework, applique, braiding, twining, etc. Inspired by discoveries during numerous Textile Odysseys, we’ll revisit our favorites and also explore several “new” remote villages, markets, and festivals, where we meet clans who remain unknown to most of the world. Here we’ll have opportunities to learn firsthand about their history, beliefs, culture, and unique worldviews.
The frontier province of Yunnan borders Burma, Vietnam, and Laos and is home to twenty-five ethnic groups. We meet in Yunnan’s capital city Kunming, known as “The City of Eternal Spring” for its year-round temperate climate and perpetually blooming flowers. Here we will acquaint ourselves with the rich cultural background of China’s 56 ethnic groups through visits to the Nationalities Museum and the Old Town Market.
Exciting highlights of our Yunnan itinerary include two Spring festivals that are unknown to mainstream tourism and rarely attended by outsiders. At these festivals, we'll see many members of several subgroups of Yi dressed in their beautiful embroidered, hand-woven, and fine batik clan clothing. As part of Textile Odyssey’s eco-tourism goals to bridge cultures, promote documentation of unique cultures and textile traditions, and enrich our vision and understanding of the world, we’ll also visit a “mystery” Yi village and learn about their ancestral history and the story of their unique calico dress. We see demonstrations of indigo-dyeing, stitch-resist, and batik by Bai artisans.
Yi woman, Yunnan, 2012
Hani handsculpted rice terraces, 2015
Traveling south, we visit a beautifully restored Qing Dynasty family estate, replete with courtyards and gardens recalling the artistic grandeur and contemplative beauty of old China. In the Ailao Mountains, we’ll be in the midst of spectacular rice terraces, ingeniously engineered and hand-sculpted by the Hani people in a tradition that dates back 2,500 years. Improved road conditions allow us the opportunity to travel to a “new,” remote market attended by many ethnic minorities from the mountains. As they move about in the rhythm of their daily lives, we’ll see many people dressed in their distinctive group costumes: among them are the Nisu Yi and Zhuang with their eye-catching “fanny flaps”: the Dai with their colorful embroidered leggings: the Yao Lanten with their bright pink, long fringe and their celestial crowns; and the Hani with their finely trimmed, braided borders and silver studded garments. We’ll also visit a Mongolian village, home to the descendants of Kublai Khan, and a Hani village with a museum dedicated to Hani clothing and artifacts.
Hani woman spinning yarn, 2008
Traveling overland through beautiful karst mountain landscapes in Guizhou, we encounter many ethnic minorities who continue to handcraft and wear their distinctive and elaborately embellished group dress, expressing pride in their craftsmanship as well as their cultural legacy. In this tranquil setting of rural villages and small towns graced by ancient architecture --beautiful traditional wooden houses, painted Drum Towers, and Wind and Rain Bridges -- we will meet master textile artisans from the Dong, Flower Skirt Miao, Red Thread Miao, Pingzhai Dong, Yao, and Huaxi Miao clans and see demonstrations of specialized textile techniques such as indigo-dyeing, calendaring, pleating, twining, embroidery, folded piecework, weaving, and silk-felting.
Miao women at festival, 2015
Note: It is possible to join one or both segments of the tour.
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