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Batik is one of the 3 ancient textile-printing techniques in China together with tie-dye and stencil printing, where melted wax (usually beeswax and paraffin wax) is applied to cloth before the cloth is dipped into dyes during the batik process. Different kinds of patterns then appear on the clothes after dyeing, usually with blue flower patterns on a white background or white flower patterns on a blue background. Once the wax seeps into the fabrics, the dyes won’t penetrate any more. At the same time, the paraffin wax allows cracking in the fabrics during dyeing, which is a characteristic feature of batik. Typically featuring various patterns, simple and elegant colors, and unique styles, batiks are widely used as articles of daily use for the Miao ethnic minority people. Meanwhile, they are very pleasant to the eyes and full of ethnic flavor.
History of Chinese Batik
Chinese batik is a unique form of manual dyeing art that originated with the ancient Miao ethnic minority group during the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 B.C.-771 B.C.), developed in the Qin (221 B.C.-206 B.C.) and the Han Dynasties (206 B.C-220 A.D.), and prevailed in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It has since been passed down from one generation to another, becoming an important part of the great Chinese civilization. Among the countless batik objects unearthed from ancient times, there were green batiks from the Northern Dynasty (386-534) and batik taffetas from the Tang Dynasty (618-907), all smooth in touch as well as finessed and elegant. Batik art is widespread among the ethnic minority groups in Southwest China, especially among the Miao communities in the Guizhou Province who inherited and developed the traditional techniques, and where batik functions as a form of indispensable art for the ethnic women. Almost all the clothes of the Miao ethnic minority are decorated by batik patterns, including headbands, skirts, jackets, and aprons, as well as backpacks and pillow covers. The traditional patterns on their clothes such as flowers, insects, birds, dragons, and phoenix usually convey symbolic meanings.
Categories of batiks
Generally speaking, the Chinese batik is classified into 3 categories. The first category refers to the batik products made by the ethnic minority groups in Southwest China, which are considered as folk artworks used for self-supporting and self-sufficient purposes. The second category refers to the batik products made in workshops and factories, considered artistic handicrafts for the purpose of profits. The third and final category refers to the batik products made by famous artists (also called batik painting by insiders), which belong to pure works of art for the purpose of appreciation. All the three categories have influence on one another.
The process of batik
Thorough washing of the fabric, drying it in the sun, and keeping it even on a stone table.
2. Melting the wax
Laying the white fabric on the table, putting the beeswax in a piece of pottery, lighting the fire to heat the beeswax until it melts, and spreading of the wax on the fabric. Different kinds of patterns can be drawn on the fabric with a wax knife.
Dipping the fabric into the dye vat (with indigo dye) for 5 or 6 days, taking it out, and drying it in the sun. The result witll be a light green fabric. If you want a dark green fabric, soak it in the dye vat for a longer period of time.
Washing of the fabric in boiling water to de-wax it. This is when you can see the white-blue patterns on the fabric.
Hometown of Chinese Batik
Anshui of the Guizhou Province is regarded as the hometown of Chinese batik. It is also a famous tourism city in China where the first Chinese batik art festival was held in 1992, attracting numerous visitors from all over the world. Ever since then, Chinese batik art has been popularized and beloved in international markets.
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