fa daai (Patterned Band)

About this object

History of use

Hakka women in Hong Kong wore very plain clothes, black, purple-black, brown, or dark blue. The only decoration was perhaps simple stitching around the neck of their tunics, or at the top of their aprons. Their clothing consisted of tunics, pants, simple aprons, rectangular head cloths that hung down at the back, and flat hats, open at the top, with a curtain-like veil around the edge to protect them from the sun and dust while they were working outdoors.
Patterned bands added ornamentation to this simple clothing, however. They were worn in a number of ways: to fasten their aprons at the back, to wrap around their head cloths so that the tassels hung at one side of their faces, or over the top of their hats with the tassels hanging at both sides. They also had ritual and ceremonial uses. They were hung from the lanterns raised in the ancestral halls to celebrate the birth of sons, and young women .wove many of them in the period just before their marriages to give away to relatives. As the Hakka women in Tsuen Wan had very heavy outdoor work to do, including farming and carrying heavy loads as wage labour, as well as caring for their children and households, they rarely had time to do this weaving. Those with the skill to do it did so on rainy days or whenever they could find a little time. After the mid-twentieth century the New Territories of Hong Kong began to undergo fundamental changes. The people who had been settled there before 1898, when the British colonizers claimed the area, began to give up rice agriculture and coastal fishing, turning instead to wage labour and increased employment overseas. By the end of the century, educational opportunities leading to the possibility of white-collar work also increased, together with western influences. These changes meant that objects and clothing once useful and appropriate were no longer needed and generally were discarded. Some were saved by their owners, who sometimes were willing to donate them to museums, sharing, also, their knowledge of how they were made and used.
Traditional clothing, including patterned bands, began to go out of use in the New Territories of Hong Kong after World War II. A few bands could be seen in the 1970s-80s, but a museum curator said that there now is no one who can weave them.

Narrative

According to the donor, Mr. Chan, Heng-faat, he was given this band by his older sister before her wedding in about 1930. It was customary for a young woman at her marriage to weave a white band and a red band and put them in her dowry chest with the ends hanging out. Her younger brother then pulled out the red one to keep, and she kept the white one in the chest. Hakka people are one of the two original land-dwelling groups that settled the area that became the New Territories of Hong Kong. Their spoken language, and some customs, differed from those of the other original group, the Cantonese or Punti. The Cantonese arrived first and settled on the best rice-growing lands, while the Hakka began to arrive after the late 17th century and settled the more hilly lands.

Iconographic meaning

The colours of the bands and their tassels indicated whether or not the wearer was married. As the tassels on this one are green, this means that she was not yet married. Young married women wore red or pink. The colour combinations, the materials, and the overall configuration of the band also symbolized the wearer’s place of origin. The patterns themselves all had names and symbolic meanings.

Specific techniques

Hand-woven on a very narrow backstrap loom. The weaver started by winding the circular warp, using the colours that will appear at the edges and in the central patterned area. The tension was created by putting one end of the circular warp around a stool and holding the other with a chopstick tucked into a tape tied around the weaver’s waist. The tassels were created by inserting strands of silk thread in between the two layers of warp. The weaver then created the pattern by inserting the weft across the band and away from her body, hand-picking the pattern with a beater made of hardwood and approximately the size and shape of a western large sharp knife. As one layer of the warp is white (in this case) and the other red, she picked out the pattern by pulling the red through the white in accordance with the designs. As the work progressed, she moved the warp around, and when it was finished she cut the warp, thus adding it to the tassels.

Physical description

Narrow band with woven pattern and tassels. The pattern repeats pink geometric shapes within blocks on white ground with yellow and green. The ends have long tassels of green, white and pink.