Beliefs Exhibited on Clothes—Costumes of the Yao People


Beliefs Exhibited on Clothes—Costumes of the Yao People

by Live in Guizhou

PUBLISHED Nov 11, 2021 • 4MIN READ

THE Yao people are the most widely distributed ethnic minority group in southern China, mainly living in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the provinces of Hunan, Guangdong, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Jiangxi, with the largest concentration of them in Guangxi. They are also one of the oldest ethnic groups in China. Legend has it that the Yaos are the descendants of a mythical king called Panhu. Their long history has bred a rich and unique ethnic costume culture.

Yao people celebrate Double Sixth Festival, which falls on the sixth day of the sixth lunar month.

The clothing of the Yao people is very colorful, having such colors as blue, white, black, and red, while the main colors of their costumes vary with the style of different sub-ethnic groups within the Yao people. Generally speaking, their apparel is famous for its colorful, complicated patterns and exquisite workmanship. Yao women who are proficient in embroidery often embroider elaborate patterns with colorful silk threads along the neckline, skirt, cuffs, bottoms of trouser legs, and hemlines. Most of these patterns have been passed down for many generations, not only serving as a beautiful decoration, but also becoming a carrier of the Yao culture.

There are many sub-cultural groups of the Yao, and the style of each sub-group’s costume has its own characteristics. In the Nandan area of Guangxi, the men’s clothing there is divided into formal dress and plain clothes. Most of the plain clothes are made in dark blue and have stand-up collars and front buttoned jackets. The formal style of clothes, on the other hand, usually has the coat edged with blue cloth. Whether it’s formal or casual, the upper garment usually has a chicken pattern embroidered on both sides.

The trousers, made of white cloth and stretching down over the knees, have a unique set of five red patterns at knee, including three long lines in the middle and one short line on each side, symbolizing the bloody fingerprints of their ancestors when they fought on battlefield in times past. The bottom portion of a trouser leg has a trim of black cloth. For this reason, the Yao people in Nandan are also known as the “white trouser Yao.”

Group of happy chinese minority woman Yao in traditional dresses outdoors

Women’s summer clothing, or a gown, consists of two pieces of cloth joined at the shoulders, black at the front and dyed and embroidered back. In winter, they usually wear right lapel sleeve clothing on the top. Whatever the season, they wear a blue pleated skirt which displays circular patterns dyed onto it with tree sap and a red hem line.

The Hong Yao (or Red Yao) reside in Longsheng, Guangxi, and their clothing is primarily red, decorated with various patterns, hence the name. The clothes are mainly embroidered and woven by the local people themselves.

The embroidered clothes are made for the most part from dark blue cotton cloth with red and silk threads of other colors. The embroidered patterns include the dog totem images worshiped by the Yao people, the animal images of lions, deer, dragons, unicorns, phoenixes as well as patterns of landscape, flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables, all of which symbolize good weather and harvest. The woven clothes are made from cloth woven on old-fashioned looms with white threads as warps and red threads as wefts. There are two two-inch square “King of Yao seal” patterns on the chest. It is said that the wearer of the patterns will have the protection of the king and live and work in peace and contentment.

The traditional costumes of the Yao people have been passed down from generation to generation. They record the history of this ethic group and show their unique cultural beliefs and customs, and as a result have become a gorgeous chapter of the Chinese national costume culture.

(Source: China Today)