The Origins of Banana-fibre Cloth in the Ryukyus, Japan

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Leuven University Press, 2007 - Design - 336 pages
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Studia Anthropologica 12The Japanese word bashofu literally means "banana-fiber cloth." Both the cloth and the clothing made from it are now considered important constituents of Okinawan identity. The Japanese Folk Craft Movement in the 1930s brought attention to this special trait of Okinawan material culture. After years of decline following World War II, the weaving and use of bashofu saw a revival that accelerated after the return of Okinawa to Japan in 1972 and still continues. Although today bashofu receives considerable attention because of its status since 1974 as one of Japan's important intangible cultural properties, its origins and history had remained hidden. In this book Katrien Hendrickx searches for the origins of bashofu in the Ryukyus, including the origins of ito basho, the plant that provides the raw material, and studies the yarn-making methods and weaving techniques. She also focuses on why and how the Ryukyuan people adopted those techniques and introduced them into their own society. By careful analysis of all available sources, considered from viewpoints from fields as various as pure history, phytohistory, philology, ethnography, and folklore, Hendrickx convincingly proves that bashofu was introduced in the Ryukyus from Southern China, and not from Southeast Asia as is commonly argued. Her overview of present-day bashofu-weaving and its use also provides valuable insights into the situation of folk-craft within Okinawan society during the second half of the twentieth century and up to the present day.
 

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Contents

Explanatory note
19
The Ryukyu Archipelago
35
Conclusion
65
Sources regarding bash˘fu in the Ryukyu Archipelago
95
Conclusion
153
Sources on Musafibre weaving in East and Southeast Asia
161
Conclusion
195
Early fieldwork
199
The production process of bash˘fu today
225
Usefulness of the fibre banana plant
253
Key findings related to the research questions
261
Importance of this study
268
Sources in Western languages
286
Appendix 1
295
Appendix 2
301
Kokubu and Era 1984a 5354
307

Bananafibre weaving as important cultural property of Japan
205
Material examples of bash˘fu
211
Maps
316
Copyright

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