As an embodiment of traditional culture, Jingpo brocade is a platform for us to learn about the history of Jingpo, their earlier living environment, the hardship of their immigration, as well as their spirits regarding self-dependence and persistence. Brocade is not just an ethnic costume, but also the living soul of Jingpo culture and the main carrier of cultural succession.
As one of the five permanent ethnic groups in Dehong, Jingpo immigrated to Dehong from Tibetan plateau about one thousand years ago, during which five branches, under the integration with the other ethnic groups, came into being, namely, Jingpo, Zaiwa, Lechi, Lae, Bola. Jingpo have their own languages, namely Jingpo language and Zaiwa language. Most Jingpo people are followers of primitive religions, believing that everything has their own lives, and therefore everything, no matter sun, stars, lands, mountains, rivers, etc. can be their Gods. Now there are 1.36 million Jingpo people living around the world, including 1.16 million in Myanmar, 50 thousand in India, and 1.5 hundred thousand in China (95% of Chinese Jingpo are living in Dehong).
Jingpo people are able to weave hundreds kinds of patterns on the brocade, and most of them are common animals and plants or vivid symbols related to animals and plants. Some skillful Jingpo women, on the basis of basic symbols, can create more beautiful and amazing patterns. For instance, “Pianbo” is based on popper flower, “Weng Qike” is based on footprints of wild cats, “Bao Qibo” is based on footprints of crabs, “Shengke” is based on leaves, “Kezhan” is based on seeds of pumpkins, and “Mo Lanbo” is based on flower of bracken, etc.
In terms of the origination of patterns on brocade, there is also a touching and beautiful legend. Long ago, an industrious and brave Jingpo boy fell in love with a smart, kind and beautiful Jingpo girl. To express his affection and yearning for the girl, the boy performed munnharpe day and night. “How can I win her heart”, the boy thought. Several days later, a clever idea occurred to him: “If I can make the best munnharpe and give it to her as a gift, I am sure I will win her heart”. Days later, the boy finally finished his making and then caved some exquisite patterns on the bamboo tube which is used to keep the munnharpe. Fortunately, the boy won the girl’s heart by this present. When the girl missed the boy, she would perform the munnharpe and stared at the exquisite pattern at the same time. At last, she began to copy the pattern that is showed on the bamboo tube, weaving it on her red bag and even her clothes. That is the way Jingpo brocade came into being. Even now, when married, Jingpo girls must wear the red sheath skirts decorated with beautiful patterns.
Jingpo brocade is closely related to their daily life. Jingpo come from and now are still living in mountainous areas where climate is unfavorable and the day-and-night temperature difference is great, which made them choose wool as the main material. Meanwhile, the patterns are usually “S” shape or rhombus, which is probably caused by the fact that during their immigration among the cold and high zone, the most common plants they met were ferns. Although Jingpo brocade is not as thin, light, and luxurious as Dai brocade, it, through its sharp color contrast, straight and angular patterns, and streamline design, can make us feel the beauty of nature as well as the distinctive culture of Jingpo.