Miao Handwoven Belt

Miao Handwoven Belt

What are you reminded of when you see the vibrant, handwoven bands laid next to one another?

It was passed on through the old wives’ tale that thousands of years ago when the Miao people lived among the mountains, poisonous snakes plagued the villages and cost the lives of many. Then one Miao girl had the brilliant idea to take colored threads and weave them together to imitate the length and patterns found on these snakes - to confuse and ward off these poisonous creatures! This supposedly did the trick and these handwoven belts then became a symbol of protection for generations to come.

Nowadays since we have less natural predators to worry about, these beautifully handwoven belts have taken on new meanings altogether, and are often gifted as a token of love.

Through our journeys, we met a group of older village women in Xiangxi (Hunan province, China) who through the use of more antiquated tools and techniques, can somehow weave a most romantic tale, reflective of the mountainous paradise they inhabit.

Far away from the bustle of city life, their day-to-day life is filled with color, laughter and song. Zheng Liu (刘正姐), nearing 70s, exudes the enthusiasm and vitality of that of a 20 year old - in between the weaving and storytelling, she would often break into song, or dance along to the roaring drums!

Behind that radiating smile, you could never imagine the ups and downs she has experienced through her life, with two house fires that robbed her family of everything they owned; then in more recent years, expending all her savings in order to save her son. In fact, the only time we really detected a hint of sorrow during the two days spent with her, was when she was retelling her childhood and the regret that stems from not being able to read and receive proper education at a young age.

Life in the country is far from perfect, but if there’s anything we’ve walked away with, it is the sheer strength of the human spirit. Here’s a group of women, each with nuanced stories, choosing to live a life of laughter, to care for their families and each other, and to create beauties to share for generations.

Want to hear Zheng Liu’s story for yourself? Check out our video on Miao Handwoven Belts.

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