Crow Magazine Vol.13-They Dye Their Clothes Into Black


Heiyi Zhuang is a branch of the Zhuang ethnic group that mainly lives in Napo County, Guangxi. The most special thing about them is that they regard black as beautiful. So they are also known as the Black-clothed Zhuang. Due to centuries of warfare in history and ethnic migration, many of them ended up living deep in the mountains, isolated from the world outside with their original culture.
A major habitation of the Black-clothed Zhuang: Tunli Village

Corn is their staple food. / This kind of flower is called “Hua Mai” in Zhuang language. People boil them in water so that they can dye the sticky rice into yellow. 

The outfit of the Black-clothed Zhuang people has a very unique style. The kind of clothes is perfectly layered, accentuating the three-dimensional display. When they go to the market and visit their friends, they can roll up their apron (one of the layers) to make it a pocket bag. During work, the pocket bag can also be used to hold crop. Women’s double-angle kerchief is also rare to see in other Zhuang areas. The highlight of the culture of the Black-Clothed Zhuang people is their aesthetic appreciation in the color black.

The Black-clothed Zhuang women weave the fabrics by themselves. Then, again and again, they will dye the plain white cloth into black with indigos. After years of wear, the black clothes usually gradually return to the beautiful color of indigo.

A woman’s complete outfit is consist of five pieces.



A look at Black-Clothed Zhuang in Tunli Village

After a seven-hour-ride from Nanning to Napo County and another half an hour on road, we finally reached Tunli Village. Tunli Village is a habitation of the Black-clothed Zhuang. Time has passed but it doesn’t seem to change people’s lives here much. They still preserve an original cultural system. People here can understand Mandarin Chinese and are quite talkative. They wear traditional clothes of black, sing old song called “Ni Di Ya” and keep their dated and complicated marriage and funeral customs.