Elegant Traditional Costumes: A Visit to the Hmong People in Laos (In Laotian)    
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Today’s A Journey through Aesthetic Realms will be presented in Laotian, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Greetings, graceful viewers. Welcome to A Journey through Aesthetic Realms on Supreme Master Television. Today, our program will introduce the amazing traditional costumes of Hmong tribes in Northern Laos. The Hmong people are agricultural nomads in the mountainous regions near the borders between China and Âu Lạc (Vietnam), Laos, and Thailand. Their origin can be traced back to 5000 years ago in the Yellow River Valley of China.

Over a period of three millennia, they gradually migrated southwards and moved into the eastern end of the Himalayas where fast flowing rivers carve out parallel deep valleys among majestic mountains. Another 2000 years passed before many of them began moving to Southeast Asia in the 18th century.

Although without a written language, the Hmong people have well preserved their cultural identity for thousands of years. Therefore they are sometimes called “Living Terracotta Warriors.” Their ethnic traditions and history have been passed on through both oral literature and patterns on their woven garments.

In Laos, Hmong communities are generally classified according to the color scheme of women’s costumes. Blue Hmongs batik their fabrics heavily with a plant-derived indigo dye. White Hmongs, on the other hand, don’t practice batik and their skirts are pure white. Flowery Hmongs are known for the many colors of their women’s attire with ornamental coins and sparkling beadwork.

Let’s visit a Hmong textile shop and find out more about their vibrant traditional dresses.

This one we talked about clothing for the hill tribe. We wear multi-colors. For this suit, this is multicolor Hmong fabric. These mixed materials have this shirt and a hat and a belt and this one. There must be fabric covering the front and a skirt in order to become a suit. And the waist must cover the body entirely. This is the rule of the Hmong tribe; one must cover this way throughout.

This also uses pure silver. This one is pure silver which we make by hand. This attire is used for religious ceremonies or special occasions. When we play Hmong-styled drama, we would wear this attire. When we dance we would wear this attire also. This one we sell to our people and foreigners, they come to support us.

Men’s clothes are equally splendid with bright colors, elaborate patterns and elegant coin work.

This suit for the men. but for the adults, the shirt’s got to be bigger. The hat’s also got to be a little bit bigger. For the color, there are many colors. This color is fine. Or any color is also fine. But the men must have red trousers. And there is also this one to tighten the waist to cover the front. Inside, they have to have a long sleeve, white long sleeve with a collar. One must wear a white shirt with a collar for good looks.

This is in keeping with our Hmong tribe. Any color will do. It is up to anyone’s liking. This one we made by hand. The green color is fine, the white color is also fine. This one has embroidery for beauties. The adult must use big coins to adorn as embroideries. But for the young ones, we use small coins to hang in there. That is all.

Most woven fabrics of the Hmong people are made from hemp, which has been cultivated by humans for over 12,000 years. In recent years, hemp has been promoted as the crop for the future due to its low environmental impact, high fiber content, and versatile applications.

Equal weight of hemp has three times as much raw fiber as cotton, while at the same time, its farming and processing can be done without using chemicals. Hemp fiber is a good source of pulp for paper making. Rich in protein, minerals, vitamin, and essential fatty acids, hemp seeds have been touted as the most nutritional complete food source in the world. Hemp oil is also a low-emission bio fuel.

In many Hmong tribes of Northern Laos, women are responsible for the entire hemp production process, from sowing seeds to weaving textile. After harvesting, the stems of the crop are cut into ½-meter stalks and left to dry in bundles under the sun. The fibrous bark is then removed from the dried stalks.

Hmong women would join the short fibers into long pieces by twisting their ends together and winding them into a hand-sized ball. The yarns are then woven on a wooden loom into plain hemp cloth, which is ready for the traditional batik process.

In the batik process, the fabric is first patterned with wax to mark the places where color is to be avoided. Then it is dipped in a pot of dye and allowed to dry. To achieve different shades of color, the process is repeated for up to 40 times over two weeks. After the final round of dyeing and drying, the material is boiled to release the color-resistant wax. Indigo is the most popular natural dye for Hmong batiks.

The motifs used in Hmong textiles can be as simple as geometric shapes or as complex as storytelling murals. Besides floral designs such as flowers, leaves, fruits, and seeds, nature-derived patterns also include faunal elements such as spiral snail shells, butterflies, and birds. Zodiac animals are the most popular motifs for children’s clothes as they are considered to safeguard against ill fortunes. Typical human images are in pairs, where a parent or ancestor holding hands with a child symbolizes guidance and protection.

The most fascinating patterns are those with historical meanings. These motifs frequently appear on clothing designs and depict mythical Hmong stories. The images of “Butterfly Mother” describe the Hmong version of genesis. Born on a maple tree, Butterfly Mother fell in love with water bubbles of the lake and gave birth to the ancestor of the Hmong. She also laid 12 eggs. A bird helped her hatch the eggs over 12 years and gave rise to the 12 Eastern zodiac animals. Other images portray the Yellow River and the Yangtze River in memory of the great ancestral migration.

Before a fabric becomes finally useable, a finishing process is applied, during which it is rolled between a round log and a cylindrical rock to flatten the threads. After this procedure, the material becomes smoother.

Besides batik dyeing, embroidery, appliqué quilting and silversmith are essential skills of making Hmong textile. With the exception of metalwork, all techniques are passed from mothers to daughters. Embroidery is frequently used in conjunction with appliqué to create a colorful pattern with appealing visual effect. Before a garment is completed, rows of shimmering metal coins, sequins, and colored beads are suspended from specific anchor layers. It may take a few months to make a Hmong skirt by hand, and the finest artistry is highly valued.

Elaborate silver jewelries are worn by both men and women of Hmong Lao and they represent protective power against harmful spirits. Neckbands are the most prominent accessories. Babies typically have a simple band attached with a small bell. Adults wear larger bands, often attached with engraved ornamental pieces.

This collar, according to Hmong style, is for men. But both men and women can wear. This one is made of pure silver. Both men and women can wear this one. And for the women, there’s got to be a pair of red earrings. And there is a bracelet, and this one to make it complete. That is all. For the men, they’ve got to wear this, and must wear this, and a bracelet. A bracelet is fine. That would be enough. We wear it because it is the rule of the Hmong tribe. It must be worn like this all the time. It comes from the heart of the Hmong tribe.

Women of certain Hmong tribes, such as the White Hmong, wear a distinctive hat with a characteristic cross pattern above their forehead.

This one has to be worn in white, with trousers. This one is for the White Hmong. This hat, in the olden time, it was not like this. It used to be a long satin, 3 meters long. We use it to tighten around the head. Fold it repeatedly, until it is done. But now, we have progressed already.

They made it readily beautiful. When it is time for use, we just wear it. This is modern. This hole, they must fold it to fit the head. If it is too long, to fold it around the head would take too long. But now they have it ready-made. Nowadays, they use sponge, and they make it in modern way. When it’s time to wear, just put it on. Therefore, it is easy.

The beautiful costumes of Hmong Lao are a manifestation of their long and rich cultural history, lofty aesthetic pursuit, hardworking spirit, as well as a lifestyle in harmony with nature. May such a glorious heritage be cherished and preserved for many generations to come. We also pray that the gentle Hmong people in everywhere be blessed with peace and a sustainable future.

Loving viewers, thank you for your heartwarming company on today’s A Journey through Aesthetic Realms on Supreme Master Television. Coming up next is Vegetarianism: The Noble Way of Living, after Noteworthy News. Wishing you lasting inner tranquility, with Heaven’s immense blessings.
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