Tujia is a nationality good at embroidery and textile. Early in the Qin-Han Period, Tujia ancestors had been able to weave an exquisite cloth "Zong cloth". In Country History of Huayang, this kind of cloth was called "thin and blue cloth", "just like the damask silk." It was later called "Xitong cloth" in the Tang Dynasty, which had already developed very consummate craft. Light Stories of Small Stream describes: The cloth is made from threads of five colors, and look bright and beautiful. It can be used for quilts, dresses or towels. After the Song Dynasty, the textile technology of Tujia was developed further. Besides the common nankeen, woven with cotton and silk, "Xilankapu", is kind of brocade with luxuriant design and exquisite craft, and gradually enjoyed great prestige worldwide.
"Xilankapu" is a traditional handcraft of Tujia. On the weaving machines with narrow lathe, it is woven by hand, with blue, black, red, and white threads as the longitude, silk, cotton, and wool of many kinds of colors as the latitude. It is boorish and clear, with energetic structure, bright and beautiful color, and unique patterns, showing significant artistic effects. It is the quintessence of the folk art of Tujia. The pattern of Xilankapu usually adopts the techniques of symbolizing and abstraction, straight-line modeling, symmetrical in succession. Its traditional patterns can reach two to three hundred kinds, which can be roughly classified as the following three categories: First, the pattern of natural images; Second, various types of geometric patterns; Third, characters of the language. Most of the traditional kinds of patterns are taken from the life of Tujia, such as the stripes of tiger, leopard and deer, colorful feather of golden pheasant, clouds, water wave and arched bridge. They are also imitating butterflies chasing peony, double phoenixes towards the sun, magpie singing on the plum tree, and a party to escort the bride to the bridegroom's home. In recent years, they also introduce the patterns of waving dance, love between mother and son, sisters' dance, panda picture, bright moon in hometown and so on. These patterns are unique in design, fantastic and lifelike in modeling, and honestly reflect the life, history, folkways and customs of Tujia people. They are also a reflection of Tujia people's affection for life. Xilankapu pays great attention to the contrast and foil in color to highlight the harmonious artistic effect --- colorful but not vulgar, clear, fresh and steady, and reflect Tujia's national character --- bold, unconstrained and natural.
According to the legend, a Tujia girl called Xilan has created Xilankapu. Xilan is a clever and deft girl good at color knitting. In order to knit the gingko flowers in blossom at midnight on the brocade, she persisted in observing gingko at midnight for a very long time. Her jealousy sister-in-law lodged a complaint to his father-in-law, and framed that she went out and fornicated with her lover at midnight, which had ruined the family' ethics and moral standard. The old man took it seriously, and killed the daughter with his walking stick unexpectedly. The girls of Tujia yearn and worship her very much. They inherit her skillful embroidering and knitting skills, and name Tujia brocade "Xilankapu".
It is an indispensable ability for every girl of Tujia to weave Xilankapu. From the age of eleven or twelve, they ought to begin to study. When they grow up, the quantity and quality of Xilankapu they knit will be an important standard to measure their personality and ability. In the past, Xilankapu was frequently used for quilt covers and other dresses. At present, it has been widely applied to every field in life. Apart from being popular with Tujia people, its brocade hanging, silk belt, satchel and figured sheet have a good sale in Beijing, Shanghai, Xinjiang and other places.
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