Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Beyond the Great Wall - Exploring Traditional Miao Batik with Crayon Resist

There are 1.5 billion people who live in China, and approximately 92% are Han Chinese, that is ethnically Chinese. Most of this blog explores the Han culture. However, in the outer regions of China, beyond the great wall,  various ethnic "minorities" abound. In fact, there are 56 officially recognized ethnic "minorities" in China, which accounts for about 125 million people.
Photo Credit: Beth Burdick
The Miao batik textiles are beautiful with intricate designs, traditionally dyed blue, since the blue dye could be done in cold water. This cloth is mostly used for dresses and skirts, though also for the home as quilts, curtains, tablecloths, etc.

Keep reading for our crayon resist project inspired by Miao Batik

Photo Credit: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Batik  is the process of wax resist dyeing - that is, designs are painted on with melted wax, and once hardened the cloth is dyed. Once the cloth is dyed and the color has set, the wax is removed, usually by washing the cloth in boiling water. What was drawn in wax becomes revealed in the cloth's original color, which is usually white.

Photo Credit: Jason Powers
The Miao's creation story is that they were born from a butterfly's egg, therefore the butterfly pattern is commonly found in their batik. Other common patterns are fish (representing the female spirit) and birds (representing the male spirit), dragons, spirals, and geometric shapes.

Photo Credit: Jason Powers
Batik has been used by the Miao since approximately 200 BC. According to the legend, batik was discovered by a young girl who noticed a bee land on the cloth she was dyeing. After she dyed the cloth, she noticed the beeswax left a pattern that did not color.

Crayon Resist Inspired by Miao Batik

Initially, as we started learning about the Miao, I thought we'd explore their incredible silver work by making our own version of their headdresses. But the girls started feeling it was more of a task then creative fun just as I was reading more about their batik. So we redirected our focus :)
Pea and I did try drawing with melted beeswax using a pysanky tool onto fabric, but just a few strokes required many dips into the wax. Too much painstaking work. I think I'll look into getting the right tools to play with this over the summer when we have more time, but in the meantime, we did some crayon resist drawings inspired by the Miao batik.
We played around with different white crayons (wax, pencil, watercolor, oil pastel) and we looked at, and discussed, the patterns seen in the batik, as seen in this post, and more seen here.

We used watercolor paper, white crayons (oil pastel was the favorite), and blue water based paint. I started off by "framing" their pieces of paper with painters tape, to be removed after the paint is dry.

Elle drew a yin yang fish pattern with butterflies
The girls drew with their white crayons, then brushed over it all with dark blue paint. The white comes out so nicely!

Pea drew geometric patterns

To learn more about the Miao, check out our other posts for Beyond the Great Wall, including an overview of the Miao; the Sister's Meal Festival, a traditional courting festival; and the Lusheng, a bamboo wood instrument; and a look at the Long Horn Miao.

You can find more cultural and historical activities at the following linkups:


  1. These are wonderful. I always learn so much from your posts. Thanks for linking up.

    1. Thank you, and thanks for hosting the link up.

  2. What a wonderful idea. These are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing at the Culture Swapper!

    1. Thanks! The white really stands out against the blue.

  3. Thanks for linking up to the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop! Your posts are always so informative and your crayon resist versions turned out beautifully.

    1. Thanks Jody - I do think the color blue makes those crayon resists stand out so nicely.

  4. I always enjoy your posts! They are full of art, and creativity! Thanks for linking up at the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop #4!

    1. Thanks Frances, thanks for hosting the blog hop!


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