Costumes of Miao Ethnic Group
Women with bright-colored clothes and silver adornments surpass fairies
The Miao Nationality has a large population and is distributed widely, so their clothes and adornments are regionally distinctive. According only to obvious distinction, it can be divided into five types including 480 kinds: the Southeastern Guizhou style, the Mid-southern Guizhou style, the Sichuan-Guizhou style, the Western Hunan style and the Hainan style. The Miao clothes and adornments enjoy good fame worldwide and from ancient to present for the delicate embroidery and splendid silver decoration. The silver adornments in the Southeastern Guizhou are especially of great variety and are characteristic, which fly their own colors in minority clothes of our country.
The Southeastern Guizhou Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture is the biggest gathering region of the Miaos in China. Women there generally like to wear silver adornments. The decoration is more beautiful if the adornments are more, and it is valuable as the weight increases. Some rich decoration is over 20-30 jins (traditional Chinese weight unit), and it makes the whole body sparkle and shine with silvery light. They have partiality for silver adornments because they regard silver as a symbol of wealth. Silver adornments are beautiful, durable and easy to make. What’s more, silver symbolizes light, healthy atmosphere. It can drive out evil spirits, get rid of disasters and bring good fortune.
The Miaos’ silver adornments are: silver hat, silver horns, silver comb, silver ear-rings, ear columns, ear pendants, neckband, necklace, inferior collar, bracelet, ring, etc. Most of them are made by hands of Miao silversmiths. There are structures like symmetrical style, balanced style, connected style and radiation style. Skills and methods are casting, hammering, plaiting, cutting flowers and carving lines. Animal and patterns like dragon, phoenix, flower and bird are general figures, and they are made very lively and delicately exquisite.
Sliver hat is the main decoration of Miao women’s rich dress, and it is generally composed of horse-tablet head surroundings, silver slice, silver flower, silver bird, silver phoenix, etc. They are very dazzling and extraordinarily splendid. The pose of a magpie stepping on plum, the style of a golden pheasant crying, the shape of a peacock spreading its tail, and the scene of a male phoenix and a female one perching together — all these are lifelike, vivid and dramatic. The detailed shapes are slightly different in different places. For example, the phoenix hat in Huangping region is composed of hundreds of delicate flowers fixed on a half-hemisphere-shaped iron wire hoop, which makes a round hat and is like the hats worn by imperial concubines in ancient times. At the mid-top of the hat is a silver phoenix, the two sides of which are four birds with different shapes. At the front are three plates of different length and are hung one by one from upward down. Silver horns or lings are put under each plate, which make sweet sound with the moving of body. There are three levels of girdle-shaped silver pieces at the back of the hat and they are like tail of the phoenix. There are eight pieces on the surface, twelve in the middle and five under them. The three levels are arranged according to their length. The surface level reaches neck, the middle level reaches shoulders and the lowest level reaches the waist, which is very like the tail of phoenix. Each silver hat needs 3-4 jins of pure silver.
Silver horns are one of the indispensable head adornments for women in Kaili, Leishan, Danzhai and Taijiang. They are stricken with different thickness of silver pieces. Their shapes are like horns of tall and big bulls. Some are decorated with a silver fan between the two horns. The silver horns are 50-70 centimeters long, and are carved or hammered into the patterns of two dragons grabbing jewels or phoenixes, etc. Some are decorated with feathers or tassels. Their weight is about 1-2 jins. They are very grand on the head with silver light shinning and it seems that they are towering into the clouds.
The Miao neckband is tubular empty or solid. It has shapes of centipede, column, wound wire, twisted wire and board. Necklace is of two kinds: chain necklace and jingle bell necklace. Chain necklace is connected by dozens of round or elliptic solid rings. It is rough, thick and heavy, and primitively simple. Jingle bell necklace is delicately made and is elegant and luxurious.
Inferior collar is an indispensable breast adornment for women’s elegant dress. It is also called “moon plate” because it is three-dimensional empty and is like half of the moon.
The Miaos’ bracelets and rings are richer in shape. There are whorl bracelet, worm bracelet, dragon head bracelet, bracelet with shape of the leaf of Juancaolan (a kind of plant the leaves of which is rolled), etc. When in rich dress, women wear 3-5 or 7-8 bracelets on each wrist. They hold the idea that more bracelets show more beauty and richness.
The Miao girls are as beautiful as peacocks spread their tails when wearing the dazzling silver adornments, the colorful clothes, the pleated skirts and the florid girdle skirts.