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There are only odds and ends about the origin and development of "xi lan ka pu" in historical records. In Book of later Han dynasty: biography of barbarian in southwest, the percale to make brocade by Ailao people is the original form of arabesquitic blanket of Tujia nationality that are fond of multicolored clothes. "Wuling barbarian" was a salutation for Tujia nationality in history. Since then, the tradition of being expert in weaving maintained and even after the reform of chieftains to bureaucrats, people still keep the custom of liking multicolored clothes. Arabesquitic blanket has been given different names in common documents. For example, in Records of Longshan County written during the reign of emperor Tongzhi, "tujin was made by five kinds of colorful threads and used as quilt or skirt or scarf" and thus the name "gangjin". Another example, "Natkina cloth is tujin made by Tujia people who weave the latitude string with one hand and weave decorative pattern with ox horn the other hand", written in Records of Yongshun Mansion. The so called "gangjin" and "tujin" both refer to the arabesquitic blanket of Tujia nationality.
Another legend says that Xilan was a girl and Kapu was the bartered calico she waved. Tradition has it that Xilan was the most beautiful and smart girl in Tujia village who has quilted all the flowers in mountain except the gingko which blossoms and withers in the midnight. In order to quilt gingko, she climbed the gingko tree to talk to gingko in the midnight, which was discovered by her ugly and wicked sister-in-law. Later her brother listened to the slanderous talk of his wife and cut down the gingko tree. At last, Xilan fell from the tree and died but her quilting skill was passed down by Tujia people.
The significance of the arabesquitic blanket rests in practical, custom and aesthetic aspects. It is durable in use and is the main dowry in Tujia wedding custom, acting as the symbol of economic status of the girl’s family and a proof for the girl’s education. It stands out among all the dowry on display and the set out of bridal chamber. Therefore, Tujia girl has her self-made embroidered quilt cover which prides the bride’s parents and shows her sewing skills to her husband’s family. It is thus clear that most of the weavers are teenage girl aging from 10 to 20 years old. They are living in such a period when begin to step into love and hold all kinds of beautiful dreams and hopes for the future, which impels them to weave various patterns with colorful yarns that dyed in their plant-made dye.
The most distinctive feature of the arabesquitic blanket belongs to its abundant patterns and bright colors. The patterns include natural object, geometric pattern and script, but they all share some commons. First of all, geometric pattern accounts for the major proportion and even the depictive objects are changed into geometric patterns to adapt to knitting. Secondly, the pattern is rich in variation, even a single facing of a quilt may involves not only chunks of patterns like “forty-eight hooks” but also patches of pattern; besides, there are rectangle-based pattern, hexagon-based pattern and diamond-based pattern in a row. Similarly, the pattern of the quilt ends are also diversified with "moon", "monkey", "script shou" and so on to set off the whole effect. Thirdly, Tujia people prefer auspicious implication, flowers, grass and birds as a theme. A phoenix flies through peony symbolizes high position and great wealth; a deer with a flower in its mouth represents longevity; script "wan" wishes well-being to others, and dragon implicates dignity. More obvious than these, the implied meaning of script patterns like "Fu Lu Shou Xi", "Chang Ming Bai Sui", and "Fu Gui Shuang Quan" is needless to say. Out from all the mentioned above we deeply impressed by Tujia people's love for life, their profound affection for the surroundings and intense yearn for a better life.
The arabesquitic blanket pays much attention to color matching. A formula in verse shows that people are fond of contrast color like black and white, red and green or blue and yellow. As hook-like, zigzag, broach-like and many other edge patterns combined with polygonous small flowers and with black supporting the base and white embroidering the edge, the picture appears clear in range and united as a whole. What's more, warm color is much welcomed, among which orange often serves as the main color applied in major part matched with various colors. The pattern may inspired by Tujia history like four phoenixes raising a seal, or by tradition and customs like two phoenixes facing the morning sun, five kids with a promising future, unicorn delivering a child, etc; or by natural scenery like Zhangjiajie landscape and Tujia hanging house; or by animals and plants like rose, chrysanthemum and so on. Unique in craft, attractive in appearance, and rich in content, the arabesquitic blanket is thought to on a par with Hunan embroidery.