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The Fabric Of Life

(No.8, Vol.6,Oct-Nov 2016 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)


Weaving loom of Thai people, Nghia Lo Town, Yen Bai Province
Photo: Nguyen Ba Ngoc


Identity and culture are woven together in Thai brocades


Icame to Ms Lo Thi Tuyen’s house in Muong Lo, Trung Tam ward, Nghia Lo township of Yen Bai Province to see beautiful hands making beautiful brocades.
The merry sound of shuttles spread far. The image of Thai young girls in cóm shirts and piêu headscarves diligently and deftly working on a loom, is truly impressive and unforgettable. Under the girls’ hands, colours and patterns appear as if by magic.
Brocade making is an indispensable traditional cultural feature of the material and spiritual life of the Thai people in Muong Lo. From the age of six or seven, little Thai girls begin to be patiently instructed by their mothers in cotton gathering, thread spinning, and weaving,. In Thai notions, a beautifully woven and embroidered piece of brocade is a sure guarantee that its maker can make her family happy and is worthy of men’s attention.
Thai women take a lot of pains to make this display of their meticulous skills. The threads are colours with natural dyes extracted from plants found in the forests. Each colour used to make brocades is taken from the essence of heaven and earth. Black is the colour of the earth, blue is from the sky, yellow is the harmony between humans and nature, and red is the irrepressible pulse of life. That’s why Thai women have to spend months to grow cotton and mulberry, to spin and dye threads and to weave their own piece of brocade.



A Thai woman in Nghia Lo Town, Yen Bai Province
Photo: Nguyen Ba Ngoc

The weaving techniques of plain and patterned brocades are different. Thai patterns directly reflect their lives, and so each piece of brocade is a picture of daily activities, happiness and sorrow, all mirrored in the memories and imagination of its maker. The patterns and embroideries used in Thai brocades are mostly animals, plants and everyday life scenes. They represent Thai girls’ notions and aspirations of happiness. The Thai patterns are distinct and rarely confused with the patterns of other ethnicities.


Khăn Piêu dance, a traditional dance ofThai people, usually seen in their festivals, Van Chan District, Yen Bai Province, 2015
Photo: Doan Thanh Ha


Brocades are an integral part of the Thai people’s life, especially at weddings. Before moving into their husband’s house, each young Thai woman has to make sets of beautiful blankets, bed sheets and pillows by her own hands to show her gratitude and loyalty to her in-laws before being accepted as a new family member. Her qualities as a woman will be judged by the quality of the weaving and embroidery of those gifts.
Thai traditional weaving and embroidery products are present in every major festive and religious occasion.

*The article in Vietnamese was printed on www.baoyenbai.com.vn



By Thanh Chi
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