Recommended Books:  Textiles of Southeast Asia



Textiles produced by weavers in mainland Southeast Asia are some of the least familiar to Western collectors. They are also some of the most beautiful and technically accomplished, whether made by isolated tribal peoples or commissioned by royal families for court life.  Relatively little has been published on any of these wonderful weavings. An appreciation of them is greatly aided by a familiarity with the traditional aesthetics, culture and customs of the area. Some of the publications below deal almost solely with the textiles; others focus on wider aspects of the cultures. 

We do not sell books; the listings below are for your information only.  

Textiles and the Tai Experience in Southeast Asia. Mattiebelle Gittinger and H. Leedon Lefferts, Jr.  Washington, D.C., 1992.  264 pages, innumerable illustrations, both black and white and color. This volume, published as a catalogue for a Textile Museum exhibition, includes discussions of the textile traditions in both Laos and Thailand, although it centers on the Theravada Buddhist majority in Thailand. It considers the religious, royal and personal needs served by the art form.  

Lao - Tai Textiles: The Textiles of Xam Nuea and Muang Phuan.
Patricia Cheesman. Chaing Mai, 2004. 297 pages, profusely illustrated, mostly with color plates.  This book, published by Ms. Cheesman's Studio Naenna, is the result of her 30 years of field work in Laos and Thailand. It is an exhaustive study of the costume and household textiles from two provinces in northeast Laos.  It covers their history, use, weaving techniques, dyes, and symbolism. 

Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade and Transformation. Robyn Maxwell. Australian National Gallery, 2003.  432 pages, 580 illustrations. This very large volume is a comprehensive survey of all the major textile traditions found throughout Southeast Asia.  Rather than offering country-by-country coverage, it focuses on the dynamic interplay between indigenous traditions and external cultural forces. It illustrates fine textiles, and includes archival photos that show the textiles in use.
Thai Textiles. Susan Conway.  London, 1992.  192 pages, 105 color and 55 black and white illustrations.  This book surveys the products of weavers from China, Burma, Laos and Cambodia who have migrated into Thailand. It includes an ethnic and historical survey of the people, a discussion of religious and social traditions, and notes on the role textiles play in the weavers' lives. The author uses paintings and sculptures to trace the evolution of costume styles and patterns. She describes still flourishing textile processes. 

Costume and Culture: Vanishing Textiles of Some of the Tai Groups in Lao P.D.R. 
Patricia Cheesmann Naenna. Chiang Mai, Thailand, 1990.  44 pages, 128 color photos. This small volume surveys costumes from Haou Phan province and Xiang Khouang province; it also discusses the influences of court textiles.  The same material is covered in much more detail in the author's book above, Lao - Tai Textiles: The Textiles of Xam Nuea and Muang Phuan.

Lan Na Textiles: Yuan Lue Lao. Songsak Prangwathanakim and Patricia Cheesman. Chiang Mai, Thailand, 1987.  108 pages, innumerable photos, both black and white and color.  This Chiang Mai University exhibition catalog was among the first to document the textiles of three major Tai groups living in northern Thailand.  Some of these peoples migrated into Lan Na in the last two hundred years from Sipsong Pan Na in China. Various Tai groups from Laos resettled in Lan Na as well.  Thus this catalog includes Lao textiles in northern Thailand from all three groups, as well as related Tai Lue textiles from Sipsong Pan Na.  

Lao Textiles and Traditions.
Mary F. Connors, Kuala Lampur, 1996.  82 pages, 24 color plates, 25 black and white photos. This small book introduces the traditional textiles of Laos, focusing on the historical and cultural background of the Lao Tai. It emphasizes the integral part played by textiles in the social and spiritual life of Lao village women.

Lao Hill Tribes: Traditions and Patterns of Existence.  Stephen Mansfield. 91 pages, 21 color plates, 24 black and white photos. This small book provides an introduction to the Mon-Khmer, Sino-Tibetan and Tibeto-Burmese speaking hill tribes that live in the highland areas of Laos. This publication does not dwell on the textiles, but rather focuses on tribal life and customs.  

Legends in the Weaving.
Dara Kanlaya. Khon Kaen, Thailand, 2001. 146 pages, innumerable illustrations. This publication, with contributions by several Lao textile specialists, deals with the place of weaving in the life of Lao villagers. There are sections on various textile techniques, looms and dyeing, sections on motifs and the terminology describing them, and most notably, discussions of the folklore surrounding weaving practices and their importance in the life of Lao girls and women.  

Through the Thread of Time: Southeast Asian Textiles. The James H.W. Thompson Foundation Symposium Papers.
Ed., Jane Puranananda. Bangkok, 2004.  181 pages, lavishly illustrated. Academic contributions by twelve specialists cover such diverse textile topics as Shan court dress, the origins of Khmer textiles, and Cham weaving. Textiles from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam are included. 

Silken Threads Lacquer Thrones:  Lan Na Court Textiles
Susan Conway.  Chicago, 2002.   281 pages, innumerable illustrations.  This large volume deals exclusively with costumery associated with the courts in Northern Thailand. It is illustrated with not only representative textiles, but also mural paintings and historic photographs of the royal families.  

Reading Thai Murals.  David K. Wyatt. Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2004.  80 pages, 77 illustrations. This delightful little book investigates the wider meanings hidden within the beautiful, elaborately painted images that adorn Thai temples.  Many aspects of Thai life, history and religion are discussed.  The painted images are of special interest to people with an interest in costume history
Peoples of the Golden Triangle.  Paul and Elaine Lewis. London, 1984.   225 pages, 754 illustrations.  This delightful volume surveys the six culturally distinct Minority groups that live in northern Thailand:  the Karen, Hmong, Mien, Lahu, Akha and Lisu.  It discusses their beliefs, customs, ceremonies and rituals, their clothing and ornamentation, their houses and villages, and the skills they exhibit in the crafts of jewelry, textiles and basket making.  It is an excellent survey of these groups' costumes.   

The Yao:  The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
Jess G. Pourret. Chicago, 2002. This book covers all aspects of the Yao agricultural society, including their numerous migrations, work, dwellings, religious paintings, manuscripts, elaborate costumes and silver jewelry. The costume sections are extensive and well illustrated.

Lao Mien Embroidery: Migration and Change. Ann Yarwood Goldman. Bangkok, 1995.  72 pages, with innumerable illustrations.  This is a study of the embroidery of one subgroup of the Chinese Yao who lived in northwest Laos until the Vietnamese War when many were forced out of their villages and into refugee centers. In the 1980s many of these villagers resettled in the US, Canada and France.  This study closely examines the embroidery techniques used, the motifs, and the changes the tradition has undergone. It is an excellent documentation of a difficult period of change and adjustment in a fine textile tradition. 
Textiles of the Daic Peoples of Vietnam.  Michael C. Howard and Kim Be Howard. Bangkok, 2002.  290 pages, numerous black and white photos plus 295 color illustrations.  This is the first thorough survey of the textiles of the people in Vietnam who speak Daic languages. The Thai ethnic sub-groups include the Black Tai, White Tai, Tai Thanh, Tai Muang, and the Tai of Muang Daang. Numerous other groups are included as well. The book provides background on the history and culture of these groups and it discusses their weaving and dress traditions.
Textiles of the Central Highlands of Vietnam.  Michael C. Howard and Kim Be Howard. Bangkok, 2002.  220 pages, numerous black and white photographs, plus 201 color photographs illustrating the peoples and their textiles.  This is the first survey of the textiles of the peoples of the Central Highlands of Vietnam, and covers twenty-one ethnic groups who speak Malayo-Polynesian and Mon-Khmer languages. It discusses the history, culture, weaving and dress traditions of these groups. 

Patterns on Textiles of the Ethnic Groups in Northeast of Vietnam.
Diep Trung Binh.  Hanoi, 1997.  192 pages, 293 illustrations.  This little volume shows costume items from more than 20 ethnic groups in the Northeastern area of Vietnam, including the Tay, Nung, Lo Lo, Phu La and some branches of the Mong and Dao.  

The Akha: Guardians of the Forest. 
Jim Goodman, Bangkok, 1997.  262 pages, lavishly illustrated.  The Akha live in five countries:  Burma, China, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, and display some of the most exotic costumery in Southeast Asia. This book describes in delightful detail, the lives and traditions of some of these groups. 

Textiles of the Highland Peoples of Burma. Volume 1: The Naga, Chin, Jingpho, and Other Baric-speaking Groups.
Michael C. Howard.  2005, Bangkok. 354 pages.  264 color plates, plus black and white ethnographic photos illustrating tribal dress. This book (along with an upcoming Volume 2) represents a revision and expansion of the material in the publication below. 


Textiles of the Hill Tribes of Burma.
Michael C. Howard. Bangkok, 1999.  189 pages, 67 black and white ethnographic photos illustrating hill tribe dress, and 194 color photos of textiles from museum and private collections.  This is a comprehensive study of the textiles of about seventy ethnic groups living in the highlands of Burma. 

Mantles of Merit: Chin Textiles from Myanmar, India and Bangladesh. 
David W. & Barbara G. Fraser. 2005, Bangkok. 288 pages, 650 illustrations, including drawings of structures, early field photographs, and Chin textiles from many different collections.  This is a comprehensive study of costumes and other textiles from all of the major Chin groups. It is a fascinating and extremely well done survey.

Textiles from Burma: Featuring the James Henry Green Collection.
Ed, Elizabeth Dell and Sandra Dudley.  London, 2003.  192 pages, innumerable illustrations.  This volume is a collection of case study reports that discuss social and cultural themes, as well as aspects of collecting and documenting textile traditions. It covers both court costumery and tribal dress.

The Vanishing Tribes of Burma.
Richard K. Diran. New York, 1997.  240 pages.  This large volume is a picture book with lavish photos of the peoples currently living throughout Burma. There is also a serious section on Ethnographical History by Gillian Cribbs and Martin Smith with many illustrations.  
"Textiles and Textile Customs of the Tai Dam, Tai Daeng, and Their Neighbors in Northern Laos." Mattiebelle Gittiniger, Karen Anderson Chungyampin, and Chanporn Saiyalard. Textile Museum Journal, 1995-1996, Volumes 34 and 35, pp 93-112. The notes collected for this article focus on the weavings of two groups of Tai weavers, and describes their domestic and ritual use in the culture. A fascinating discussion of their role in funeral activities is included. 

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