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Textiles from the Li people of Hainan Island (Part 2: jackets and other textiles)

The Li are related to Dai/Tai people from across southeast Asia, and they are part of the broader Austronesian family. Their textiles, particularly their striking supplementary weft and ikat designs, show their connection with southeast Asian peoples and are quite different from textiles from other parts of southwestern China.

Click on the photos for a larger image.


Characteristic woman's jacket worn by Run dialect speakers on Hainan Island. The panels at the sides are decorated with bold Naga designs with a frieze of Naga designs along the lower edge. Jacket is mid-20thC, the Naga panels are older. The decorated panels were kept as heirloom items and re-used by successive generations.

105 cm wide.

jacket with Naga designs from Li people, Run dialect, Hainan island
reverse side of CET46 Run dialect jacket from Hainan island
detail of Naga panel on CET46 detail of Hainan Run Li jacket embroidered dragon

CET418 Skirt from the Run subgroup (such as would be worn with CET46 above). Woven in 3 narrow panels, the top panel with warp patterning, the bottom two panels with supplementary weft patterning. Designs of anthropomorphs and geometric shapes. First half of the 20th century. Stuebel recorded skirts during his 1932 expedition with essentially the same designs and coloring.

37cm x 28cm

Hainan Run Li skirt
other side of CET418 Hainan Run Li skirt, supplementary weft

detail of CET418. The weave of these skirts is characteristically thick with supplementary weft designs floating in the upper layers of the fabric. The technique is similar to but distinct from mainland supplementary weft traditions and is done entirely on a narrow backstrap loom.


detail of Hainan Run Li skirt

CET358 Meifu Li embroidered headscarf. Handspun cotton with silk embroidery and couching. Late 19th or early 20th century.

These headscarves seem to have been made for a limited period during the 19th and early part of the 20th century, after which time their production amongst the Meifu Li seems to have ceased (other subgroups continued to weave headscarves). Most Hainan headscarves have simple floral or geometric designs: the Meifu Li were unique in using designs based on Chinese characters.

29cm x 168cm.

Hainan Meiful Li embroidered headscarf
detail of CET358 Hainan Meifu Li headscarf detail