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Silver Ornaments of the Miao Ethnic Group(2)

Silver Earrings
There is a much greater range of silver earrings than any other type of Miao silverware. The Museum of Guizhou Province alone has, nearly one hundred kinds in its incomplete collection. There are four types of earrings: drop, circle, hook and wheel. Drop and circle types are the most popular types and earrings use other patterns besides the usual flowers, birds, butterflies and dragons.

Silver Bonnet Ornaments
The Miao people regard silver as talisman against evil spirits, so people living around the Qingshui River have a custom of decorating their children's bonnets with silver ornaments. Traditional bonnet ornaments include lions, fish and butterflies.Chinese characterssuch as fu (prosperity), lu (high position), shou (longevity), xi (happiness) and changming fugui (longevity with wealth and honor) are also used because of the influence of dominant Han Chinese culture.

Chest and neck decorations

Silver Neckbands
The Miao people have always attached great importance to neck embellishments. Chains and loops are the two basic kinds while some pieces combine the two, for example the chained rings in some regions.

Silver Collars
Silver collars are popular in the south ofHunan Provinceand the Qingshui River delta area of Guizhou Province. They evolved from the longevity clock, and retain the original rectangular shape with inscriptions like "Chang Ming Fu Gui" (longevity and wealth). They are usually worn with necklaces.

Silver Chest Bands
A popular silver chest decoration, the bands are usually rectangular or semicircular and evolved from longevity locks . Some smaller ones are made of single pieces, and bigger ones are made up of two or three pieces, covering almost the whole chest and abdomen with a highly decorative effect.

Silver Hanging Decorations
The most common hanging decorations are shaped like butterflies, birds, fish, coins, and riding figures. They usually consist of chains, brands, and pendants arranged in as many as four to five levels, and the longest can be up to 85 cm long.

Hand Decorations

Silver Bracelets
Bracelets are an important part of the Miao people's silver decorations. There are many variations in shape and different styles represent the diversified tastes of various Miao group branches. People usually wear four or five pairs of bracelets at a time up their forearms.

Silver Rings
Miao silver rings are usually large and wide featuring birds, flowers or vines. There is no specific restriction on how many or where to wear rings. The Miao people near Guiyang sometimes wear eight rings at one time - one on each finger except the two thumbs. In comparison with other silver Miao ornaments, there are few patterns and styles for rings, and they are only popular in a small number of regions.

Clothing Decorations

Silver Patches
People of the Miao branch near the Qingshui River delta area traditionally wear clothes with silver patches. The most common patches are square, rectangular or round and usually feature reliefs of lions, tigers, phoenixes,golden pheasants, dragons, cranes, butterflies, flowers, children and arhats (enlightened Buddhists). Butterfly-shaped bells decorate the bottom of gowns and wristbands, ringing melodiously when the girls walk.

Silver Waist Chains
Silver waist chains are mainly shaped like plum blossoms, with single or double layers.

Silver Clasps
Silver clasps are most common in the Duliu River delta area. These clasps are highly decorative.
Back Decorations
Back decorations can be functional or purely for ornamental purpose. These decorations are usually shaped like butterflies or gourds, and are mostly worn by girls and women.

Waistbands and foot decorations are popular in some regions.

Because the Miao silverware producing regions have no natural silver resources, the hardworking Miao people used to melt almost all the silver coins and ingots they earned. This led to different levels of silver purity, as currencies differed from region to region. From the 1950s, the government began allocating special silver to the Miao people, as a sign of respect for their tradition and customs.

 Details of a large Miao (known to the rest of the world as the Hmong people) necklace, worn during wedding ceremonies. Guangxi is rich in Hmong culture and the backpacker town of Yangshou is littered with small stores selling Hmong jewlery, handicrafts, and clothing.

Making silver ornaments is complicated, and requires exquisite craftsmanship. First the smelt silver is sliced into thin flakes or threads. The silver ornaments finally come into being, after the silver slices are chiseled, filed, enchased, and forged. The Miao silversmiths are not only good at smelting and forging, but also skilled at designing. The design of the silver decorations is largely inspired by other art forms such as embroidery and wax printing. The silversmiths consistently improve and enrich the patterns, while keeping the traditional designs.  
However, the status quo of Miao silver ornament making is not so optimistic. The skill of designing and forging silver ornaments has only been passed down within  families, and experienced silver craftsmen are aging, as more Miao youth turn to other, better paying business to make their fortunes. This bleak situation calls for urgent protection, if this traditional art form of the Miao ethnic group is to be saved

The Miao girls' penchant for silver jewellery stems from their love of beauty, wealth and dignity.

Ethnic villages in Guizhou spread on the border and in the remote mountain areas. Road conditions can be difficult. The fresh mountain air, beautiful natural scenery and lots of fun climbs always make it a physical demanding but exhilarating day. Southeast China is the place where many ethnic groups live in compact communities. So Guilin and Yunnan, both of which are famous for their unique landscape as well as mysterious minority culture, are also ideal places for an ethnic tour.


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