Chinese Batik

Click to zoom inBatik is a traditional Chinese folk art which combines painting and dyeing. It is made by dipping a specially designed knife into melted wax and painting various patterns on pieces of white cloth. The wax stays on the cloth and often cracks after it hardens. The cloth is then dyed and the dyes seep into the cracks and make fine lines. When the wax is boiled away, beautiful patterns appear on the cloth. Batik cloth can be made into garments, scarves, bags, table-cloths, bedspreads, curtains, and other decorative items.

The history of batik can be traced back to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD). Batik used to be popular both in Central and Southwest China. Somehow the batik technique was lost in Central China, but it has been handed down from generation to generation among the ethnic people in Guizhou, a province in Southwest China. Nobody knows how batik was invented, but a folk tale about a "batik girl" tells us something about it. The story relates that long, long ago, there was a girl living in a stone village called Anshun, now a city in Guizhou Province. She was fond of dyeing white cloth blue and purple. One day, while she was working, a bee happened to alight on her cloth. After she took away the bee, she found there was a white dot left on the cloth, which looked very pretty. Her finding led to the use of wax in dyeing.

Among the Miao nationality, a minority ethnic group in Southwest China, young girls have to learn to make batik, to weave, and to embroider. Custom demands that they make their own farments, from wedding dresses to funeral shrouds. Like all other Miao girls, Yang Jinxiu, a native of Anshun in Guizhou, learned batik skill when she was a little girl. At twenty she had already formed her own style which was characterized by the combination of realisma nd romanticism. In 1981, she was chosen by the China Association for Science and Technology to exhibit her art of batik making at an exhibition abroad. Later she took the exhibition to Canada in1982 and the United States in 1984. Her works were praised as "gems of ancient folk art" and "flowers of legendary oriental art". In 1986, she went to Guiyang, capital of Guizhou Province, and established a batik handicraft mill which expanded a year later into the Yang Jinxiu Batik Joint Corporation. Yang is the manager and chief designer. The corporation exports batik goods to a number of foreign countries including the United States, Canada, France, Austria, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, and Singapore.