Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1862 Yi nzemo
Subjectnzemo prince, noble
Culture: Yi / Lolo / Nuosuo
Setting: slave raiding, anti-Qing rebellions, Yunnan 19thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Heath 1998 p134
​"Just as the Moslems were taking up arms throughout Yunnan in 1856, a Lo-lo uprising had simultaneously erupted in the south-west of the province, apparently prompted by two Taiping agitators who had been sent to stir up local opposition to the Ch'ing government.  However, though they were not defeated until the late-1860s, this group does not appear to have had much impact on the military situation in general or the course of the Panthay rebellion itself.  Some Lo-lo groups could be found fighting for the Chinese, who fielded Lo-lo militiamen throughout the century, especially for use against other Lo-los.  These retained their native costume.  Some were also employed in manning Government guard-posts along the roads, and Baber recorded in 1877 that 'many of the subject Lo-los along the border [of Szechwan] are soldiers receiving pay from the Chinese'.  Lo-lo militiamen raised in Szechwan played a key role in the final defeat of the Taiping rebel Shih Ta-k'ai in 1863.
    "[...] Raids launched by the independent Lo-los against the Chinese were customarily carried out in the early winter, and preferably under cover of darkness.  Baber wrote that 'they do not kill unresisting people provided a nominal ransom is paid or promised; but vigorous youths, young women, cattle and salt are unsparingly carried away.'  They made no attempt to tackle fortified sites, or to confront Chinese troops in the open field, their usual tactic being to withdraw ahead of the Chinese and then fall on their supply columns, precipitating a withdrawal that, by constant harassment, could often be converted into a rout.  The Vicomte d'Ollone records that their attacks were 'accompanied by the most frightful shouts, and leaps worthy of panthers'.  In 1883 Alexander Hosie noted the existence of a number of 'Chinese garrisons in mud forts in the valleys to control this people, while the hill country is left severely alone by them', and observed that the Lolos were 'distinctly held in dread by the Chinese'."

* South-west China 1998 p516
"The Black Yi were famous for their slave-raiding trips into Han territory.  Han traders only dared enter the Cool Mountains under the protection of a local chief.  During the Nationalist era, several powerful Sichuan warlords were of Yi descent."


* Bennett 2018 p22-23
"The armours of the Yi or Lolo people of Yunnan and Sichuan in south-western China demonstrate that the popularity and utility of lamellar constructions endured in these areas all the way up to the 20th century.
    "The leather helmet and cuirass (pixiongjia or 'leather chest armour') .... were probably used for important occasions rather than fighting.  However, this style of equipment seems likely to stretch back to the Nan Chao people who lived in this region in the eighth century, and it is still possible to see the residual influence of the laced plate structures that were such an important predecessor to lamellar from the late Zhou onwards.  Together, they would still provide fairly comprehensive and robust protection for the wearer."

* Heath 1998 p139 caption
"Figure 150 wears traditional Lo-lo hardened leather armour, which was invariably painted in bright colours.  That worn here comprises a helmet with cheek-guards and a lamellar neck-guard; red-lacquered breast and backplates decorated in yellow and black, with a flared lamellar skirt; a vambrace on the left forearm; embroidered red cloth knee-guards; and felt greaves covering the front and back of the lower leg.  A sword is suspended by a baldric at the left hip.  IN battle he would be armed with a lance and a bow, a servant usually carrying the latter until it was needed.  The helmet sometimes had cloth wrapped round the lower part."


​* South-west China 1998 p517
"Yi noblemen traditionally shaved their heads except for a topknot, which was pulled forward and tied into a horn-shaped bulge."
* Heath 1998 p
"They plucked their beards and moustaches, and shaved the sides and back of the head, but grew their hair long on top and tied it in an characteristic knot at the front of the forehead, described by those who saw it as a 'horn', 'done up with resin into a stiff horn which looks somewhat like the point of the hat worn by Mr Punch'.  This could be up to 9 ins (23 cm) long, and was most often twisted up in a blue or black calico turban.  E Colborne Baber records that subjugated Lo-los in Szechwan 'abandoned the horn as a concession to Chinese prejudices', but nevertheless declined to adopt the pigtail and instead shaved the entire head.  Blakiston likewise noted that some of the Lo-los fighting for the Imperialists against Shih Ta-k'ai in 1861 had partly or fully shaved heads, but no pigtails.  With the collapse of the Panthay rebellion in the 1870s, most Lo-los outside of independent 'Lolodom' appear to have abandoned the 'horn' entirely and adopted the pigtail, though they retained the turban."


* Heath 1998 p134
"The most characteristic feature of Lo-lo dress was a stiff, waterproof felt cloak tied by a string at the neck and reaching below the knees, sometimes as far as the ankles.  It was worn all year round (though a cotton one was sometimes substituted in hot weather), and served as a blanket at night.  The felt started out pale grey, but darkened and became deep brown and eventually black with the passage of time.  The rest of their costume comprised blue, puttee-like cotton leggings, secured with strings, plus a loose, baggy-sleeved coarse cotton shirt and a pair of baggy cotton trousers that were sometimes voluminous enough to resemble culottes.  The shirt and trousers were both most often either white or left their natural undyed colour, but could also be found dyed, the predominant colour giving rise to the generic name by which some tribes were known to the Chinese -- Red Lo-los, Blue Lo-los, Coloured Lo-los, and so on.  A felt tunic was also sometimes worn over the shirt.  They customarily went barefoot,but could be found wearing straw sandals or short felt boots on long journeys or in extreme weather conditions.  Where a hat was worn it was of the characteristic Chinese woven bamboo variety, but covered with felt."

* Heath 1998 p139 caption
"The cloaks of the nobility were of finer felt than usual, were sometimes coloured blue, and might have a red cotton fringe along the lower edge.  In addition those worn when riding were slit halfway up at the back, with a broad flap, covering the slit, which rested along the horse's hind-quarters."