How to make Chinese tie-dyeing ?

After showing what is zha-ran, how zha-ran looks like, I decided to move further to show the process of how to make tie-dye towards our young generation.

Handmade zha-ran needs a long time to produce.

The process can be repeated several times to achieve the best results, and the effects could be vary which would depend on the quality of the fabric, pattern designs, dye density, temperature and time. So each tie-dye product is unique, even if made by the same craftsperson.

They need to collect some Radix Isatidis roots (Banlangen in Chinese). This root is a Chinese medicinal herb which can be used to dissipate excess heat from the body, remove toxic substances and diminish inflammation and detumescence. 
Then they need to ferment the Banlangen and produce the indigo in a vat
Time to design the pattern for the textile
Use a brush to print the pattern out in the fabric
They need to fold and stitch the cotton cloth that the tied part will retain its original colour, while the rest is dyed
Soak the cloth into the water and let it destarch
Put the fabric in the boiling water with the dye for half or one minute
Take them out and cool them for oxidation
Take out the stitches
Use the clean water to wash again
Final step —– Dry it

Finding out What is Chinese tie-dye?

Due to the lack of awareness of zha-ran among young generation, I decided in the beginning of my intervention, I need to prepare all the documents, pictures or videos to show what is Chinese tie-dye, what Chinese zha-ran looks like.

Zha-ran, a Chinese tie-dye, is one of the most traditional textile dyeing techniques which is still popular by the Bai ethnic group people in Yunnan, Southwest China. This skill appeared over 1500 years ago in China and is still used today.

In 2006, zha-ran is entitled to The First Batch of China National Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

In Dali, Yunnan province, there is a place named Zhoucheng, a small village where 99% are Bai ethnic group people who became the main producing place of Chinese tie-dyed cloth, known as ‘the living-fossil of Chinese tie-dye.’

The fabric used is normally white fabric made of cotton or linen. The dye was originally made of natural herbs ,especially with radix isatidis  root (Banlangen 板蓝根 in Chinese)that produce blue colour.

Blue and white are two principal traditional colours for tie-dye in China. In Bai ethnic group, they believe white represents lucky and blue represents hope. So the locals always use tie-dyed cloth for the new-born babies, bride gowns even grave-clothes.


1.The Inquiry of the Education and Inheritance system in Dali Zhoucheng Bai Ethnic Group Tie-dye Technique, Lu Zhiyan

2. The Cultural Connotation of Zha-ran Technique in Zhoucheng, Dal i