Threads of Time: Traditional Textiles and Contemporary Transformation in Taiwan

There is a comprehensive programme of lectures, demonstrations, workshops and a small exhibition, sponsored by the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture, and organised by the Taipei National University of the Arts and the International Institute for Asian Studies, and supported by the Textiles Research Centre, Leiden.


25 - 28 November 2013



Textile Research Centre, Hogewoerd 164,Leiden

Gravensteen, Pieterskerkhof 6, Leiden


The week-long programme sheds light on textiles, one of the oldest forms of cultural expression that goes back for thousands of years almost all over the world. In Taiwan, various cultural groups have developed unique textile traditions. The programme will focus on two textile traditions in Taiwan: the indigo dyeing of the Han Chinese ethnic group,and the traditional weaving craft of the Atayal tribe. Indigo dyeing used to be an important craft in Taiwan for hundreds of years, yet was almost lost by rapide conomic growth and changes of life styles. In recent years however, the warm,human and natural features of indigo have become re-appreciated by crafts people in Taiwan. The intention of reviving the traditional techniques as well as looking for a new life for the craft in contemporary society have led to various innovative models in many places in Taiwan, for instance, the multi-functional indigo workshops.


The Atayal tribe is one of the best weaving groups among the 14 official indigenous tribes in Taiwan. Having suffered from the near break-up of their ancient tradition in the past colonial periods, the Atayal tribe members are now trying to retrieve their textile tradition and they have already achieved fruitful innovations rooted in their ancestors' wisdom.




Date & time: 25 - 28 November,10.00-16.00

Exhibition: Textiles in Transition - The Spinning of Life

Venue: Textile Research Centre(, Hogewoerd 164, Leiden. Entrance free.


The Atayal people, one of the 14 indigenous communities in Taiwan, believe that the lifetime of a human being is woven by god. A woven product made by Atayal women forms a circle when it is finished. This exhibition, 'Textiles in Tradition - The Spinning of Life,' adopts the form of a circle, allowing engagement with many other circles. It shows the interaction between people, and emphasizes that the opening of each circles ends out welcoming messages for more people to join. This installation piece is surrounded by Atayal traditional dresses belonging to different life stages. The temporary exhibition celebrates various types of Atayal woven forms and includes individual textiles and various outfits.



Lecture series

Date & time: Tuesday 26 November,10.00–12.30

Venue: Gravensteen, Pieterskerkh of 6,Leiden


- Dr. Philippe Peycam, director of IIAS: Welcome and introduction.

- Professor LIN Hui-Cheng, An Introduction to Cultural Heritage Transition in Taiwan

- Prof. CHIANG Min-Chin, Threads of Time: Textiles as Intangible Heritage in Taiwan

- Professor CHEN Wan-Lee, Tradition and Transition: Education of Traditional Arts in TNUA

- Mr. CHO Tzu-Lo, Reviving Indigo: A casein Taiwan


Date & time: Tuesday 26 November,15.30–18.30

Venue: Textile Research Centre, Hogewoerd 164, Leiden


15.30–16.00: Dr Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood,Welcome and introduction to the work of the Textile Research Centre


16.00-17.00: Ms. Yuma Taru: Atayal Traditional Weaving and Its Contemporary Transformation. Lecture and practical demonstration.


Ms. Yuma Taru, having a Han Chinese father and an Atayal mother, is the founder of the Lihang Studio in the Atayal Xiangbi(象鼻) community in central Taiwan. In this lecture, Ms. Yuma Taru will share her personal journey in Atayal weaving and will also give a demonstration of traditional back-strap loom weaving.


17.00-17.30: Viewing of the exhibition: Textiles in Transition: The Spinning of Life.


17.30-18.30. Drinks and reception.




Date & time: 27 November, 09.00-11.00;11.30-13.30; 14.00-16.00

Exhibition: Textiles in Transition - The Spinning of Life

Workshops: Indigo - A case in Taiwan (Ms.CHENG Mei-Shu and Mr. CHO Tzu-Lo)

Venue: Textile Research Centre, Hogewoerd 164, Leiden

Participation is free, but registration inadvance is required.


Indigo dyeing had been in Taiwan for hundreds of years, but all disappeared from ordinary life in the twentieth century due to the import of chemical dyes. In the 1990s, researchers started to revive this traditional craft. The Zhuoye Studio intends to preserve the traditional techniques as well as to improve the production process with modern technology.In these workshops, we will focus on forming beautiful indigo motifs with chopsticks, wooden sticks and rubber bands; or with wax-resist techniques (batik). During each workshop, an introductory lecture presents the traditional processes and techniques involved in producing indigo dyes, touches upon the historical development of the indigo industry in Taiwan and introduces the Zhuoye Studio.



Registration is required for the lecturesand workshops.


To attend the Tuesday lectures, in the morning and/or the afternoon, please register with IIAS, Ms Martina van den Haak,


To attend one of the three workshops on Wednesday, please register with the TRC, Please indicate which of the three workshops you want to attend.