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Atayal Beishiqun Women's Shirt

Tags: aborigine | Atayal | clothing

This shirt is from the Atayal tribe that resided along the Daan River. During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945), this group of the Atayal tribe was called Beishiqun (Beishi group). The Atayal living along the Dajia River were referred to as the Nanshiqun (Nanshi group). In the language of the Atayal the Beishi group was known as “painohu”, which refers to the expansive and flat riverbed of the Daan River. The Beishi group was respected among the Atayal of central Taiwan for the bravery and fierceness of its warriors. 

This shirt differs in form and style from the clothing of the Atayal living in other areas of Taiwan. Its background color is white as it is woven from white ramie (a type of Asian hemp). There are multi-colored patterns covering large portions of the shirt that provide a three-dimensional look. Most traditional Atayal shirts were made by folding woven cloth in half to form the front and back. There was no tailoring. Only simple cuts were made for the arms to go through. This shirt was constructed using multiple weaving techniques and applique, a style not seen among other groups of Atayal. It is not clear as to why this unique style of applique is only found among the Beishi group. However, it has become a characteristic of the clothing of this group.

This shirt is comprised of nine pieces of woven cloth and two pieces of cotton material, as described below:

1. Two pieces of white ramie cloth measuring approximately 69 cm in length and 26 cm in width were folded over to form the front part (30 cm in length) and the back part (39 cm in length). A seam of 42 cm joins the two pieces at the back. Along the vertical margins of the two front pieces are arm openings measuring 17 cm, as well as seams along the front and back pieces to form the upper part of this short shirt. On the front of this garment is a round collar measuring 13 cm in length and 9 cm in depth. A band has been added to the collar. Applique of two pieces of cotton cloth is in the style of Chinese collars. On the right and left sides at chest level are patterned appliques.

2. Two pieces of woven ramie cloth with white background and multiple colors measuring approximately 31 cm in length and 26 cm in width are sewn onto the bottom of the front part of the shirt. There are also a horizontal applique of 60 cm and a vertical applique of 4 cm.

3. Two pieces of multicolored woven ramie cloth measuring approximately 26 cm in length and 14 cm in width are sewn crosswise across the lower portion of the back of the shirt.

4. A single multi-colored band of woven cloth measuring approximately 52 cm in length and 6 cm in width is sewn crosswise along the lower part of (3).

5. Two pieces of cloth measuring 34 cm in length and 32 cm in width are folded and sewn onto the arm openings.

6. Two pieces of black cotton cloth measuring 28 cm in length and 4 cm in width are folded and sewn onto the arm openings.

7. On the front, at the upper edge and middle part of the lapel, are buttons.

8. On the right and left seams, at a distance of 18 cm from the bottom hem, are ties. On the right only remnants of the seam where the tie once existed remain. The left tie is made from woven pink hemp, divided into two strips each of about 8 cm in length.

9. Inside the shirt at the upper part of the seam that runs along the back is a name in three Chinese characters (張賢璋, Zhang Xian Zhang) written with a blue ballpoint pen.

The warp includes white, orange, brown, pink and yellow threads. The weft features white, black, red, pink, yellow and blue threads. The materials used include ramie, yarn and cotton thread. Patterns include lines, rhombi, triangles and circles.


Department of Graphic Communications and Digital Publishing, Shih Hsin University Digital archiving project of the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines