Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 1 year 3 months ago

Background Information (From Phase 1):

There seems to definitely be several factories in the Xizhou village creating and selling textile fabrics such as fleece, spandex, and knitted fabrics. [1, 2] However, these companies are one of many other factories in many different countries and continents, not necessarily related to the Bai minority culture. As a reminder to myself, if I want to contact them to use them for more information, the phone number for the first source seems to be 86-575-84088833. 

For over a thousand years, the Bai minority have used tie-dying as a technique for making cloths.[3] Although there may be slight alterations depending on the village it is made, the basic process is as follows: 1. Designs inspired by flowers, butterflies and birds or geometric patterns are first traced on white cotton fabric, 2) Then the cloth is stitched and tied according to the pattern, 3) When the cloth is immersed in dye, the tightly stitched portions remain white while the rest of the cloth takes on the color of the dye, 4) Next, after the cloths are dry, the stitches are removed, exposing beautiful white patterns which contrast with the colored background. (Depending on the preference, the cloth would be finished after this step.) The traditional color is blue, found in many pieces, coming from natural indigo dye, but other colors can also be found today.[3,10,9,11] 5) Finally, thick white yarn is stitched onto some of the cloths to highlight the outlines of the patterns.[3] The Main colors of the tie-dyeing process are white and blue, with the white color for the patterns and the blue for the backgrounds. "People say, the contrast of these two colors shows the beauty of simplicity, which reflects the Bai People's peaceful and tolerant minds"[4]

Information From 3-5's:

Right now there seems to be a problem with the younger generation because they have no intention of staying at home for the rest of their life, working the family profession.[5, 7,9,11] They want to have more knowledge about the world and more money, so they are driven away from home when choosing a job.[5] In Xizhou village, there are several stores selling embroidered cloths, but those are not part of the Bai culture. They are imported businesses from other provinces and Minorities. The Bai people are traditionally known for their distinct indigo blue dyed pieces with simple but beautiful patterns.[6] Over time, these have become cloths of every size and shape with one solid color chosen out of a whole spectrum, not just Indigo.[6,7,10]

Information From Local Contacts:

20 to 30 years ago, all the tie-dye cloth making shops in Zhoucheng used to sell only indigo pieces[10,9] When tourism and interest increased, the demand changed the supply and the factories tested with and eventually used other plant's dye for a more broad selection of colors.[10,9] Also, Some of the larger stores in Zhoucheng sell to people from all over the world as well as small shops set up in Xizhou.[10] These places work a lot like a factory, where a customer can ask for a specific number of a specific type of cloth with a design and color by a specific deadline.[10]

 The local stores selling tie-dye cloths in Xizhou all buy their materials from Zhoucheng because of low bargains and honest pricing.[6,9] These are washed and ironed and then sold to usually a chinese tourist passing by, because foreign visitors do not show much interest in the tie-dye cloths of Bai culture in Xizhou.[9] Mr. Zhang from De Shen He[9] told me that there is a street in Xizhou village named after tie-dyed cloths that used to have factories making textiles everyday, but all of then had discontinued by the time my travels brought me there because of bad business. Mr. Zhang's[10] store still had some rare 15 year old pieces from these factories.

A fifteen year-old piece of fabric with an abstract design. 

This is another fifteen year old piece with an abstract design of a god.

I observed three things. Unlike the pieces bought in Zhoucheng, these old ones had designs that looked like pictures instead of symmetrical butterflies and leaves. Despite their age, they had the same price as one that would have been made within the week. The difference between the newer ones from Zhoucheng and the older ones made in the factories in Xizhou is that in the older pieces the color does not fade or come out because they were made to last long.[9] Even today, the old pieces are in great condition, and I would assume that the newer ones will not be if stored for the same amount of time.

Most of the designs that are printed and dyed onto a cloth have a traditional story behind it. Some of them, however, are created by old ladies working and chatting away in factories in Zhoucheng, shown in the picture below.[11]

This does not happen often, but they told me that they could if they wanted to. Basically, it is possible to dye any pattern one can imagine on a piece of cloth, even Chinese characters or English letters.[11] I think that the reason why these old ladies do not create newer patterns with modern designs is because then the culture inside the art of tie-dyeing would be lost, like the four original things that Bai Minority people made designs based off of: Wind, Snow, Moon, and Flower.[10] All of these are represented in any of the traditional head wear that Bai Minority ladies wear sometimes, shown in the picture below.[10] 

The long white strands of string represent wind, the white fringe represents snow, and flowers are embroidered onto the hat, and the shape of a hat represents a crescent moon.[10] 

Only experts know the specifics on the stories behind each design and what it means to the Bai Minority or to the Yunnan province.[9,11] In a store selling the cloths, when a customer asks about the symbols on the cloth, the owners would give vague, shallow answers to cover the fact that they do not know much about the piece.[9] The interesting thing is, the people selling the cloths only see value in it as something that will give him/her money in time, not as a work of art, or something he/she will want to own. [9] Because Xizhou Village does not have any activity after dark at all, the stores open after sunrise and before sunset. The open hours change depending on the season, and the business of the stores change based on weather it is a weekday or not. This gives the owners an abundance af free time, and room for many hobbies.[9] Be that as it may, the income from that business can barely support a family.[9,11] Even selling food would bring more money than selling cloths.[9] This is many of the reasons why younger generations want/have to find a job away from home and away from the traditional economy lifestyle.[5, 7,9,11]

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1):


1. Who makes the decision to take the job of a producer or maker of textiles? Is it decided by someone of authority or ownership, or by the individual? 

These days, textile production is not an option for a job anymore because it does not bring in enough money to support a family.[5,7,9,11] 

2. Is it the same case in other professions? 

Other professions in the area (Xizhou,Zhoucheng) are facing the same problem.[5,7,9,11] Small-town jobs like Baba-making or selling dye does not make a lot of money, so those jobs are left for the old people in the village.[11]

3. Does a teacher, family member, or internet teach the maker that skill, is it the same case with other skills in the village?

Usually the skill of tie-dyeing is tought by family or friends.[13] It is a fairly easy process, something that most people learn when they are still children, so it could by taught by a brother, sister, mother, aunt, anyone in the family, or friend.[11,13] By the time that someone is old enough to have a job so easy and simple, they would already know one way or another how to use the needle and thread to keep parts white during the dying process.[13] In the slight chance that they do not, the Lao Ban or other workers there will teach them.[13]


4. Does the preference of design shown in customers change between tourists and locals?

The tourists who buy cloths from Xizhou are all Chinese, and they buy the cloths for the same purposes as the locals[9] For tablecloths, curtains, small decorations in a building,[6,9,10,11] but only the tourists buy the tie-dye cloths sold as a form of fasion because I have found that locals do not wear clothes in that style.

5. Are the designs traditional and learned from generations before, or original and created by the artist?

Most of the designs dyed onto the fabrics are reused ones from stencils, and have existed for a long time.[11] Some are newer than others, designs taken from outside cultures to increase the popularity of products, but designs that the makers created themselves are rare because the makers rarely use their own design.[11] I think the reason why not id because then all the culture in Bai Miority Tie-Dye would be lost.

6. What are the designs based off of, is there a story behind them?

These designs are only chosen because they look nice, or because they represent something good like luck, fortune, or health.[14] Designs that have a story behind them do not exist, unless a special order was made in one of the factories.[14]

7. 'What is the most popular design?' used to be one question, but was replaced with, What designs represent Xizhou and the Bai Minority?

The oldest designs still used today are the bees, the Horse Teeth, the Rings, and the Butterflies. These would probably represent Xizhou the best because they were not tampered with and changed by tourist demands.[11] Also, a pheonix pattern ontop of a dragon pattern would represent the Bai minority well because this order of height represents matriarchy, and the Bai Minority used to be one.[14] Signs of the martriarchy are still evident today, like ladies carrying heavy loads and working in fields.[14] 

follow up question: In the past, did there used to be other types of designs than the symetrical neat ones I see so often today?

The botiques pices are different from the common designs, but other than that there used to be a type of tie-dye that had much more interesting and complicated patterns on them being made until 25 to 30 years ago.[13] Sadly, people stopped making these special pieces because it took to much time, effort, and talent.[13] Back then there were no stencils, so a painter had to paint the design onto the cloth, and then sew over that before dyeing it. [13] People selling these pieces to tourists and shops realized that the easier, simpler patterns pleased customers just as much, due to lack of knowledge in the subject, so they stopped making the camplicated beautiful patterns.[13]

follow follow up question: Do any of the cloths with complicated patterns exist anymore? It is very unlikely, because the tie-dye cloths all have to be 100% cotton, and are easily destroyed.[13] If these pieces do exist, they would have to be at least 25 to 30 years old, and kept in storage for a long time.[13]

Other stores: 

8. Is there competition in the textile production industry serious enough to have to export goods or lower prices? Does it cause conflicts?

There are many stores competing in the textile production business, but there are no conflicts caused by this because Yunnan is known for it's peacefulness. [6]Although some factories do sell to people accross the globe,[10] it is not something that was forced to happen because of competition.[6] 

9. Are most of the customers true to one store when buying cloths?

Other than tourists passing by, stores buying from factories in Zhoucheng usually return to the same store for more products.[9,10] 

10. 'Where do textile stores fit in with general stores in terms of tourist attraction, local customers, and yearly income?' used to be one question, but was replaced with: Is the yearly income barely enough to get by? Or does the business have the chance to expand?
Stores selling the cloths in Xizhou do not make enough money to feed a whole family and rase a child,[9,11] but factories making these cloths have a little surplus, and the smart Lao Bans are saving it to build more shops in the area.[13]


[1] Online: Sell,, accessed 11 November, 2013

[2] Online: Made In,, accessed 11 November, 2013

[3] Online: Minorities of ,, accessed 11 November, 2013

[4] Online: Mastering the Art of Travel Photography,, accessed 11  November, 2012

[5] Zheng, Fay. Personal interview conducted by Risa B, November 25, 2013

[6] Liang, Annalise. Personal interview conducted by Risa B, November 26, 2013

[7] Linden, Geene. Personal interview conducted by Risa B, November 25, 2013

[8] Tafel, Craig. Personal interview conducted by Risa Beddie, November 26, 2013

[9] Mr. Zhang (owner of De Shen He in Xizhou). Personal interview conducted by Risa B, translated by Fay Zheng and Hai Sam Mai, November 29, 2013

[10] Mrs. Duan (owner of Pu Zhen Zong Yi Ran Fang 璞真综艺染放in Zhoucheng). Personal interview conducted by Risa B, translated by Craig Tafel, December 3, 2013

[11] The Duan Family(workers of zha Ran Cheng咋染厂 in Zhoucheng). Personal interview conducted by Risa B, translated by Crag Tafel, December 5, 2013

[12] Tsang, Ka Bo. Touched By Indigo: Chinese Blue-and-White Textiles and Embroidery. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario (Canada): 2005

[13] Duan, Xiao Yun(son of workers at Zha Ran Cheng in Zhoucheng). Personal interview conducted by Risa B, Translated by Annalise Liang, December 10, 2013

[14] Liang, Annalise. Personal interview conducted by Risa B, December 10,2013

I think that I am ready for Phase 4. I feel like I have enough information to satisfy my hooks on my hanger, and I already learned so much on the topic since I got here. I can't wait to get started on my final product!




”中国雲南の絞り藍染め”っていうタイトルの作品展が大阪の国立民俗学博物館(National Museum of Ethnology)で2002年にあったみたい。









このパンフレットの一番最後に 展示担当:国立民俗学博物館研究部 横山 廣子って書いてあるね。





”中国雲南の絞り藍染め”っていうタイトルの作品展が大阪の国立民俗学博物館(National Museum of Ethnology)で2002年にあったみたい。









このパンフレットの一番最後に 展示担当:国立民俗学博物館研究部 横山 廣子って書いてあるね。






Don't worry,just something that I've seen in Japanese.








WOAH your work is so thorough

WOAH your work is so thorough, I'm soo impressed. I like the feeling of a "Before, Now, Future" aspect in your writing, where you talk about about how cloths were manufactured before (including what colors and materials they use) and how now, their businesses aren't flourishing because of the little amount of customers and the young people's lack of interest in the activity. Excellent work!!! I miss you gurlie ;D


The patterns in the picture are very nice and what are the white things that make the picture and did they dye the fabric blue? really want to know

I am half Japanese, half American, and I was born in Australia. I lived in Tokyo for most of my life, and then I moved to Shanghai in the summer of 2012. I've been working on my Chinese skills in hopes of being fluent in the language. After going to microcampus, I think that my confidence and skill has gotten a lot better than before, but still not good enough to be anywhere near fluent:) The Extreme Team has given the Lindens back their centre and Yang Zhou Ran, but a piece of every microcampus student will always stay there. Microcampus was a long and fun trip full or experiences I never thought I would have