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“Interweaving Traditions:

Chinese Minority Costume and Jewelry”


Alex Stewart

 Director, Education and Outreach,

San Diego Chinese Historical Museum and Doctoral Candidate

The colorful and intricate costumes of the Miao, Dong and other minority groups of southwestern China set them apart from the Han majority and convey a cultural essence that cannot be captured in words. In order to reveal the full significance of these ornate outfits and the craftsmanship that produce them, this presentation will discuss how these people settled in the rugged terrain of Guizhou Province, became gradually integrated into the Chinese empire, and managed to maintain many customs that dramatically contrast with the Han majority. Exploring the tremendous diversity among Miao groups will also provide an overview of some painstaking embroidery techniques that are rapidly disappearing. Focusing on the cultural context of these textiles will reveal how they capture the history of groups that traditionally lacked written languages and preserve ancient ways of life that are rapidly disappearing.  The lecture is in conjunction with the exhibition “Interwoven Traditions: Chinese Minority Costume and Jewelry” at the museum.

Alex Stewart has worked at the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum since 2005, as docent and then education coordinator. He holds an M.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, San Diego, and a B.A. in Anthropology with a minor in Chinese language and literature from The George Washington University. He has studied at Nanjing University and traveled extensively in China. Currently, he is preparing for his doctoral dissertation field research on Chinese Islamic education in Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture while also teaching for the Making of the Modern World writing program at UCSD’s Eleanor Roosevelt College and running the museum’s Education and Outreach Program. He often represents the museum on local television news programs, has co-curated several exhibitions and given lectures at their openings, and he has spoken to numerous local organizations such as the San Diego Museum of Art Asian Arts Council, the UCSD Alumni Association Diversity Committee, and the San Diego Archeological Center.


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