In the far southwest of China and bordering on Vietnam, Laos and Burma is the Yunnan province, a mountainous region with soaring peaks of almost 10,000 feet (3,000 m) that swoop down into lush river valleys. Of the country's 30,000+ species of "higher" plants, almost 17,000 of them - well over half - can be found in Yunnan. Like any historically resource-rich region, it's long been high on the local agenda to keep Ye Gods happy in order to stay protected from natural disasters, human menace and other mischief-makers of both the corporeal and non-corporeal sort.
For centuries, people have placed a guardian along the roof ridge of their homes, a ghost-eating tiger with the symbol for king on its forehead. Hand-molded from local clay and baked in a kiln, this ridge-guarding feline must have looked less ferocious and more tabby-like from afar as people promptly dubbed it the tile cat.
Tile cats are believed to protect the energy within a home, plus attract happiness and repel bad spirits. "The people of Yunnan have a deep belief in the secret role of the tile cat," notes Tan Song, author of Craftworks of China. "When they 'invite' a tile cat, they kill a rooster and sprinkle its blood on the tile cat's head to give it life." (image)
A peripatetic lil' sprite, its pawprints were recently found in the West all over the collection of fashion accessories. Along with hats (top) and dresses, Younmeng Liu of the London College of Fashion collaborated with electronics engineers on a fanciful clutch that responds to touch. Picking it up makes the teeth jut out. Uh oh, forgot your umbrella? Fear not for your arm-kitty opens wide to keep you dry. And to extract your cash, simply touch the tongue to access the mouth cavity. "The aim of this kind of combination," adds Liu, "is to connect traditional culture with modern view, to make the cats alive."
To view Liu's full collection, CLICK HERE.
Keeping memories and traditions alive through the magic of fashion is something the Folkspun fashion tribe* excels at in their chosen role as the group dedicated to preserving the past and making it relevant for our future. For more of my posts and podcasts about this tribe, CLICK HERE. If you want to know more about all the fashion tribes I cover, START HERE.
- Lesley Scott