Going Into the Depth of Yi Dress in Zhaojue
---Liu Qiankun, Guo Weiwei
Green leaves, fertile fields, fragrant flowers and flowing streams along our way to Zhaojue formed the beauty of the encounter of spring and summer. And it is at the twilight when we arrived at Zhaojue. After one night’s rest, we drove to Sergu (in Biziyili Village, Qingheng Town, Zhaojue) in the mist next morning. The road to Sergu was not so bad, however, some parts of it was slightly damaged because of the running trucks. When we reached there, we went to join the Farewell to Children’s Skirt ceremony.
The seventeen-year-old girl, Erbi jiwei, was the leading role of the ceremony in that day. It’s a coming-of-age day for the girl, in which she had to take off children’s skirt and put on women’s dress. Yi girls are required to wear black or white children’s skirt, linear earrings dangling with shells and plait their hair into a long braid and when they are under age. While after the ceremony, they are allowed to wear colorful dress and complicated earrings and plait their hair into two thick braids.
In Yi’s custom, girl’s family can hold the ceremony when she is 13, 15 or 17years old at an auspicious date that is selected by a respectable senior. And the ceremony is so solemn and grand that almost every woman in the village has to take part in and the family members have to butcher pigs and sheep t celebrate the day.
Jiwei was surrounded by dozens of women, who were praying that she could meet the love of her life soon and find matched and easy-going in-laws. In the past, men were kept far away from the ceremonial site and what they could only do was to be a good butcher for the reason that Yi girls wore only long skirt without leggings.
Farewell to Children’s Skirt ceremony symbolizes the maturity of young girls; therefore, parents always attach great importance to it, especially mothers. They are the most intimate one for their daughters who knows their physiological conditions well, so they are responsible for the preparation of all costumes and ornaments for the girls before the ceremony, like headscarf, new dresses, various beads and jewelry.
It is Yi people’s tradition that only after the ceremony can girls have a romance with boys. Of course, a farewell to children’s skirt means the change of dresses. In Yi’s culture, dresses vary with dialect areas, identities and social status. In Zhaojue County, I have taken part in the largest fashion show of the Yi people, in which more than 400 traditional costumes as sparking as pearls with fine luster were showed and grasped our sights quickly. On the site stood numerous square matrixes, each of which wear the same costume like Car war (felt cloaks), coir raincoats, armors and pleated skirts. Everyone in the square matrixes presented the national spirit and beauty of Yi people. Inspired by trivial daily life, they created unique ballad and dance picturing the grand scene of the immigration and settlement of their ancestors. Though it was a rainy day, the enthusiasm of the performers and audience was still running high. People danced in the disguise of Bimo and Sunie, the messenger from the God, or of a cavalry, telling the proud history of their ancestors fighting for their homeland. All treasures of Yi people showing on the square made me wonder if there was any other nationality boasted such magnificent and colorful dresses and such a long-lasting and beautiful cultural heritage. I realized that all the costumes carried the history of Yi people, a history living in long solitude with perseverance, which can be sensed from the headscarf, cloaks, silver and golden patterns and various ornaments.
The traditional Yi dress is colorful. Both men and women wear similar top with narrow sleeves, whose front buttons on the left. As for bottoms, men wear trousers, while women wear pleated dress with Carva or wool felt. Yi is a nationality that pays great attention to the avoidance of the sexes so that women always cover themselves up under the clothes except their face and hands exposed to the air. Even their neck is hided behind the ornament named neck jade wearing, which is collar-like but is separated from the top. Women wearing neck jade wearing always keep their head up, looking quite graceful. You may wonder how they labored with such a large ornament in the past. Maybe the ancient Yi was very prosperous and powerful and women didn''''t have to work.
These days, the liquor sellers on the street were quite content for their beer and liquor had become the best-selling item. Yi people don’t drink like us, Han people, who are particular about the drinking atmosphere. However, as long as there are dishes for drinking, they just sit down anywhere and propose a toast to others passionately. On the street walked beautiful Yi woman in traditional clothes. Most Yi people have a slender face and a prominent nose so that their features look particularly delicate and noble. Their black base of cloths endows them with a sense of mystery, while the white base gives a strong visual impact contrasting to black. The embroidery on the dresses and ornaments are very gorgeous, day blue, orange, green, medium yellow, shallow blue, bright red, scarlet, symbolizing best wishes to people. On all of the clothes, there are totem or other mascot, the pattern and color of which set off the pureness and grace of the silver earring on their ears.
The full-dress parade marched in succession in the fashion show with a total number of 18 teams, Muguo Muwei Team, Mosa Team, Reke Amor Team, Bimo Suni Team, Mosu Pamo Team, Suobo Team, Tchizi team, Yonazi team, Jiashi Team, Wala Team, Harper Team, Bojo Team, Xixi Team, Amor Ayi Team, Yitchiqi Team, Ayire Team, Folk Artists Team and Modern Clothing Team.
The main raw materials of Yi dress are wool and cotton, the function of which is to keep out the cold rather than simply be beautiful. Under the impact of the flowing of fashionable modern clothing, the Yi dress may become artworks sleeping in folk museums one day. However, the aesthetic values and primitive pureness in the essence of Yi dress are what modern designers can never achieve for the reason that it is a direct intuition given by nature, which can never be acquired in modern materialized society. Will we finally say farewell to such a great art?
On the evening of that fashion show day was a modern Yi dress show, which took me to experience the vitality of this ancient nationality. The modern delicate-design clothes made of light materials looked gorgeous, fully presenting the fantastic mixture of old and modern styles. Yi girls were no longer shy of wearing unconventional dress; instead, they were confident and expressive enough on the runway to show off their figure and the dress to the beat of the drums. Red Series, Black & White Series and other series of dress, together with the beautiful girls formed charming scenery capturing both our sights and spirits, many of which boast a promising future to occupy a position in fashion since they have bright colors, distinctive national characteristics and they are the integration of traditional and modern styles. Maybe one day, the ancient clothes can be widespread not only in Daliang Mountains, but also in China and even the whole world as Zhaojue People expected.
More than 200 modern clothes and 400 traditional clothes came into my lens and memory in such a way; even today, I can still recall the splendid colors and fabulous design of Yi dress..