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Handmade Chinese Miao silver jewelry
Who are the Miao?
Can you imagine wearing 40 pounds of pure silver ornaments from head to toe? Well, the Miao are a nation who proudly show off the beauty with their handmade, elaborately designed silver jewelry in a way that almost covers their entire body! The Miao are a minority group inhabiting the mountainous areas of south and southwestern China, and for them silver is a symbol of wealth that can bring hope and prosperity. There are so many different kinds of Miao silver ornaments, here are just a few:
Miao silver headdresses are quite a sight and are worn only on very special occasions, like weddings or important holidays. They consist of three parts: the horns, the hat, and the hood.
Silver horns: The silver horns are the most important part of a Miao silver headdress, and they are crafted to mimic the horns of an ox. From one horn to another, the headpiece can span almost three feet and will usually reach about the same height. So they can be almost half the height of the wearer!
The designs of the horn are very elaborate. They often sport a beautiful design of two dragons playing with a ball. Women put some silver flowers, butterflies, or a pair of white feathers onto the horn to make it higher and more attractive.
Silver hat: A silver hat is the base of the headdress and can be a foot tall. It's entirely covered with silver animals, birds, flowers, bells, and tassels. Behind the hat are twelve pieces of silver feathers hanging all the way down to their waist.
Silver hood: The silver hood hangs down from the hat and covers parts of the face and neck. In some Miao areas, the silver hood has five ornaments placed on it, with the biggest one in the middle dropping from the forehead and the others hanging around ears.
While in other areas, a silver hood has three layers. The highest layer features 29 round silver flowers. The middle layer features a round glass in the center, and 14 warriors riding horses stand on each side. Beautiful fringes form the lowest layer.
Miao silver hairpins always feature flowers, birds, and butterflies. The most impressive designs feature about 10 silver flowers placed like a Chinese fan. Beautiful beads sparkle in the flowers, with five silver phoenixes fluttering around.
Some hairpins are just like chopsticks with silver bells or tassels adorned on them.
Miao women use a silver comb to decorate their hair. The wooden comb has a layer of silver slices covered on its surface. The image of a Bodhisattva, or designs of birds, flowers are often engraved on the surface. Some combs have long silver chains hanging down.
Intricate Miao unique silver jewelry is often shaped like flowers, birds, butterflies, dragons, or plants. Miao women often wear 3 or 4 silver earrings at the same time. A single silver earring can weigh 200 grams, falling down directly to their shoulders. But many small earrings have threads which are as thin as a piece of paper.
Wide silver neckbands are similar to necklaces in the West, but they are rigid and have many pendants hanging down from them. In different Miao areas, the neckbands vary a lot.A dragon silver neckband has the image of two dragons playing with a ball and about ten various ornaments falling from it. Another kind of neckband has 14 silver rings linked tightly together, while silver birds or butterflies hang down from each ring.
The Miao silver bracelets are engraved with the images of flowers, fish, or dragons. Some bracelet are characterized by their heavy, wide bands looking like the cuffs worn by soldiers in ancient times. Miao women usually wear 4 or 5 pairs of silver bracelets at one time, sometimes more during festivals or holidays.
A Miao silver ring is usually quite small and has fine pieces of silver bent and shaped into flowers, birds, or plants. Some Miao women have rings on their eight fingers, only with their thumbs free. Some rings can be half the length of their fingers.
Tiny silver slices or threads are commonly woven into the fabric of Miao clothing. About 40 main silver pieces can be used, all of which are in round or square shape.When put on a silver garment, the clothing sparkles beautifully with the Miao walking or dancing.
Beautiful patterns like butterflies, flowers, phoenix, and lions are engraved on each piece.
Also, sometimes as many as 60 silver bells can hang from the garments, which make beautiful sounds and add to the overall look.
A silver waistband features hundreds of silver images of Bodhisattvas sewn on a piece of cloth. The Miao wear it around their waist, and the images shine beautifully when the Miao walk or dance.
Last but not least are small but sturdy silver anklets that clasp above the foot. Miao children wear silver anklets to keep off evil spirits.
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