Date of this Version
This is a report on our field studies taken to identify and observe in China the process of itajime shibori, or carved board clamp resist dyeing known as Jiaxie in Chinese and Kyokechi in Japanese. There is very little known history of this craft as generally not much attention is paid in China to their folk traditions.
In 2003 and 2004, we visited Yishan, Cangnan, Zhejiang Province at a workshop which is now officially designated as Zhongnuo Minjian Gongyi Jiaxie Zuofang, or roughly ‘Chinese People’s Art Craft Jiaxie Studio’. As this designation suggests, we observed some interest by the local government to preserve the area’s folk craft traditions. Through documentations and interviews, we gathered some insightful information about the tradition such as that Jiaxie was produced in some quantity in the Jiangnan area and that fabrics were decorated with auspicious motifs and intended for interior home furnishings. Production was virtually wiped out due to the Cultural Revolution (1960-1970) compounded by changing lifestyles.
One can extrapolate a certain parallel in the case of Lanyinhua, a type of blue & white folk textile produced in Zenjiang’s neighboring province of Jiangsu. There, wheat paste resist stencil dyeing with indigo was used to create decorative cotton fabric. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1598), cultivation of cotton began in the Yangtse River (Cháng Jiāng) delta which provided fertile ground for decorative processes using resist dyeing with indigo (this may have likely included Jiaxie). Lanyinhua tradition suffered a fate similar to Jiaxie and its production dwindled considerably after the mid 1900s.