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Dai People Handicraft Art

Dai People is a nationality with long history and profound culture, in daily life and work, they developed multifarious productive technologies and skills for making commodities based on local conditions, of which some were passed down through generations and are still performed in villages. These traditional technologies and skills embodied the creative wisdom of Dai People, as well formed an indispensable and colorful part of their culture. However, as impact of modern life gets stronger upon those things, like other traditions gradually dying out, these technologies and crafts are confronted to the same danger of being abandoned.





Photo Place: Man Mai Village, Gasa Town, Jinghong City

Handicraftsman: Bo Xiang, good at making ornamental articles used daily and ceremonially by Dai People, traditional decorative lockets, bowls, beetle nut box, eardrops for example. 


Related Information: Actually, Bo Xiang is not the only handicraftsman engaged in this profession in Village, Man Mai is not the only village where there are silversmiths, either, in Dai areas, there are quite number of people doing similar job like Bo Xiang, only different silversmiths are accomplished in making different articles. Silverware plays important role in some of Dai people's ceremonies as well in their life, when boys go to temple to be monk, silver beetle nut box is a must in list of gifts from family as amulet, when girl gets married, a silver belt must be given by mother as marriage portion to bid good wishes, most women in village wear only silver belt in waist, most aged women only wear traditional silver eardrops...Dai people's persistence to some of their traditions is maintaining this old industry still alive in villages, and the increasing purchasing power of Dai villagers would promote the room for its further development.

Pottery Ware





Photo Place: Man Ge Village, Jiangbei District (on north river bank) of Jinghong City

Handicraftswoman: Yu Zhang Feng, good at making traditional clay potteries for both daily and ritualistic use, candleholders, vases, water pot, temple roof decoration for example.


Related Information: She learned skill from her father, an old Dai handicraftsman who enjoys high reputation for his skillful potting work in Dai's society, and finally surpassed him in creativity, besides the traditional in-family-use articles and temple ceremonial things, she's also making artistic decorative potteries based on her simple originality, which no any Dai potter has ever done before, leave the comment on her artistic level for later, she dares to try putting new elements into her work and combining her production with more original part of Dai's culture and history, this already means the new hope for Dai people's traditional ceramics, what is more important, she's still young, always wants to do it better and she loves what she's doing.

Paper Making





Photo Place: Man Zhao Village, Menghun Town, Menghai County

Handicraftsman & woman: Villagers, especially aged women, specialize in making paper with bark of a kind of tree which they call "Sa" in their own language, most families in this village have paper-making workshops at home.


Related Information: Their product doesn't look very fine, but very original and durable, since long ago it's been adopted by monks for recording Buddhism scriptures and by some handicraftsmen for making traditional flying lanterns or oiled-paper umbrellas, nowadays, such pristine paper is also widely used for food packing, tea product especially, the new purpose of it oriented to modern commercial need seems able to keep such old-style paper being produced in traditional way for longer. Compared with other old productive technologies and crafts carried out by Dai people, paper-making is quite unique, because Man Zhao is the last village in locality where Dai nationality people are still doing this work and doing it well.

Rice or Corn Whiskey Distillation





Photo Place: Man Hui Suo Village, Gasa Town, Jinghong City

Handicraftsman: Ai Mo Long, good at distilling liquor from corn and rice.


Related Information: Dai people is a nationality who's optimistic about life, they enjoy festive occasions quite often, when liquor is absolutely necessary and can't be insufficient, drinking could keep them at banquet table whole day in relaxing mood, their deeply-rooted love for alcohol and considerable consumption of it are pushing liquor distillation industry in Dai rural areas still forward. Man Hui Suo is a village famous for good quality of their distilled corn or rice spirit, there are quite some families here engaged in liquor distilling business, with homegrown corn and rice, with sweet well water, with the traditional technology the elders passed down, they are working hard to stand against the pressure from modern breweries.

Bamboo Rocket





Photo Place: Man Hui Suo Village, Gasa Town, Jingong City

Handicraftsman: Ai Dun, good at making bamboo rockets which are traditionally launched for New Year celebration


Related Information: To launch bamboo rockets is a standing program of Dai people's New Year celebration, but to make bamboo rockets is not in everyone's domain. Rocket launched into sky carries villagers' wish for thriving life in the future, the height it can reach to some extent measures how successful wish would be expressed or delivered to God they believe in, which depends much on the skill of  its maker, for the performance of rockets, competition often goes on  between different villages unutteredly. Ai Dun is such a handicraftsman who has village honor on his shoulders. He makes bamboo rockets seasonally every year at the beginning of April, when most villages are preparing for traditional Dai New Year, his work requests much attention and caution, how powerful the gunpowder should be to push rocket into sky but not blow it off, what kind of bamboo can bear the pressure from combustion inside it, how big the nozzle should be to propel rocket most effectively, how long the tail would be enough to control posture of rocket flying in the air but not increase unnecessary weight...these details decide if rocket would be a successful one or turn into a dangerous bomb, or just a humbling smoky firework, no books for Ai Dun to consult, what he can rely on is only his rich experience derived from practice.

Flying Lantern





Photo Place: Man Hui Suo Village, Gasa Town, Jingong City

Handicraftsman: Ai Niu, good at making traditional flying lantern and bamboo fireworks.


Related Information: To let off flying lantern is another traditional way Dai people celebrate festivals, not only New Year, but also religious festivals they spent during July to October. Flying lantern is hot balloon of the most primitive style, made of paper produced by Dai people through old method, floated by burning cloth soaked with animal grease. To let off flying lantern is night activity, it rises slowly but can go very high, and it's bright in dark sky, in the ancient time soldiers used to let it off to send simple messages, as story goes it's first invented by Kong Ming, a famous military consultant who lived 1700 years ago, this explains some why flying lantern is also called Kong Ming Lantern in China. There is no record about when Kong Ming Lantern was introduced into Dai area or when they invented it by themselves, but Dai people let off lantern on the similar purpose as Han people do, to send message to their hero, who went to the heaven to learn knowledge for Dai people but died there accidentally, they often hang money, daily commodities and other small stuff on lantern as offerings, and believe their hero in the heaven can get these things and know his people are commemorating him. Ai Niu is an expert on making flying lantern, very famous among Dai villages, when Dai spend New Year in April, or religious period from July to October, it would be his busy season.

Bamboo Weaving






Photo Place: Man Mian Village, Man He Meng Village, Menghun Town, Menghai County

Handicraftsman: Villagers, especially middle-aged males or aged males, good at weaving daily-used things of Dai traditional styles with thin bamboo strips, table, taboret, food container, knife sheath or other stuff.


Related Information: Villagers here have quite nimble fingers, around their habitations there grow lush bamboo groves, with abundant supply of producers' goods nature bestowed, they are doing bamboo weaving as bywork, and their products are gaining popularity in the market. It's been long history since people began to take use of bamboo, chopsticks, matting, stool, chair...and bamboo products have never been abandoned in quick changes of people's life style, especially in the countryside, even as modern furniture and commodities have already become main roles in local Dai's houses, there you can still find enough positions for their traditional bamboo woven things, which are demonstrating the extension of Dai's traditional way of life.

Oiled-paper Umbrella






Photo Place: Man Xing Village, Man Yang Village, Mengzhe Town, Menghai County

Handicraftsman: Ai Han Pa, and several other old men aged like him, good at making Dai's traditional oiled-paper umbrella.


Related Information: To make umbrella traditional way with bamboo and oiled tree-bark paper is a time-taking and trivial procedure, requesting patience and skill, and, it's not profitable. Normally two days would be taken for Mr. Ai Han Pa to finish one umbrella like this if all materials are ready, at certain intervals, on market day, he will take his products to town nearby and sell them at price of 12 - 20 RMB for each, business can't always be good, sometimes he has to bring unsold umbrellas back. Most of his customers are aged countryside people, who are reminiscent and still living traditional way, but people of this group is decreasing, since modern foldable umbrellas of diversified styles and colors are in almost every grocery shop for sale, of which price is even lower. Production of traditional oiled-paper umbrella is a diminishing industry in Dai's society of Xishuangbanna, Man Xing Village and neighboring Man Yang Village are the only places through whole prefecture where this old skill can be observed, in total only nine old men are still carrying out such production, the oldest is over 90 and the youngest is already 77. Mr. Ai Han Pa himself is 80, has been engaged in this traditional production for over 56 years, neither his son or grand son wants to take over his job, nor other young people in the village, like other eight craft brothers, he has to carry it on till he's not able to.

Loom Weaving





Photo Place: Man Luan Dian Village, Gasa Town, Jinghong City

Handicraftswoman: Most housewives in the village, especially the mid-aged.


Related Information:  Actually, loom weaving is a universally undertaken production in society of Dai, not only in Man Luan Dian Village, because this is still an original part of Dai's traditional life. Looms are set right under the houses built on stilts, their owners work on it brokenly, not always tied to it, nor leave it there untouched for months, it's taken more as a spare-time job, and normally to finish one piece of cloth would spend them several weeks or even longer. Dai women are smart, through different arrangements of threads with different colors they can create different patterns in their product, some geometrical, some artistic, simple, plain but original. Most of the villagers still use cotton fabrics woven by themselves a lot in their daily life, although it's not as elaborate as industrialized counterpart,  bedspread, quilt, pillowcase made of it can be found easily in Dai homes, it feels coarse, but very cosie. Man Luan Dian Village used to be appointed to supply fabrics for royal family's consumption by Dai emperor in the history, so their fame was not built up yesterday, the weaving skill of women here is authentically higher than other villages, and obviously number of practitioners is more.

 time£º2014-09-25 20:10:11

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