Longpo Yi (龙婆衣) - “Dragon Wife’s Robe”

April, 2013

Longpo Yi (龙婆衣) - “Dragon Wife’s Robe”

Yi people
Longpo Yi (龙婆衣) - “Dragon Wife’s Robe”

First half of the 20th century
Malipo County, Yunnan Province, China
2012.021.0001, Acquisition made possible through the Robert and Ardis James Foundation

The Longpo Yi or “Dragon Wife’s Robe” is a ritual garment made and used by the Hua Luo (“Flowery Lo”) people – a subgroup of the Yi ethnic minority of Southwest China. This group’s folklore recounts the tale of a young girl who married the River Dragon’s son. When the girl’s mother died, she wore the “Longpo Yi” to the funeral; ever since, the Hua Luo people have done the same. A female descendent of the recently deceased wears the robe in the funeral procession, during which she gently dances to the sound of two bronze drums.

This example is composed of squares pieced together from triangles of silk mostly, but also of cotton in select areas. These squares, which resemble pinwheels in American quilt tradition, are appliquéd onto an indigo-dyed cotton background. A wax-resist indigo print forms the bottom border and is decorated with a row of tassels. The woman wearing this garment must have made an impressive impression as she solemnly and rhythmically moved along in the funeral procession.