Hakka Patterned Bands in Hong Kong – 1976 RASHKB article

Elizabeth L Johnson wrote an article about “Patterned Bands” in the New Territories which was published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch, Volume 16, 1976. [HF: I have been unable to copy the Chinese characters which appear in the article.]

Patterned Hakka bands image c from article RASHKB Vol 16 1976

Plate 1 Woman weaving patterned band, Kwan Mu Hau Village, Tsuen Wan 1976 Courtesy: Dr Elizabeth Johnson

The article begins: These notes on a form of peasant textiles are based on research conducted in Kwan Mun Hau , one of the old villages of Tsuen Wan District, in the New Territories of Hong Kong. Tsuen Wan, now an industrial city with a population of nearly 600,000 with a small rural hinterland, consisted until after World War II of a group of about twenty Hakka villages, with a central market area. The villages remain, (some have had to be resited) but most are now surrounded by the city.

The area’s rapid urban development has meant that traditional forms of dress and adornment have virtually disappeared, to be replaced by western-influenced styles of clothing. Despite this, women of Kwan Mun Hau village were able to describe the use and significance of these textiles, and to demonstrate the technique of weaving them. The information reported here, which refers to Tsuen Wan of about thirty years ago but is applicable to the more rural areas of the New Territories even today, is derived from interviews with informants in Kwan Mun Hau Village, as well as from observations elsewhere in the New Territories. The findings are only preliminary; additional research must be done elsewhere in the New Territories to supplement this report.

Patterned Hakka bands image d from article RASHKB Vol 16 1976

Plate 3 Short patterned band for attaching to Hakka style hat. From Tang of Wang Toi Shan, married into Fu of Sham Tseng (20 years old).

The fa tai or “patterned band” is worn by Hakka women in the New Territories of Hong Kong as an article of personal adornment. Patterned bands are hand woven, intricately patterned ribbons about 1 CM wide, and ranging in length from about 65-145 CM. They are most commonly flat, with tassels of varying length and thickness at either end, and are either multicoloured, or white with coloured or black patterns. If multicoloured, they are made of silk (now often synthetic) threads with silk tassels; if white, they are of cotton with the patterns in silk or cotton and the tassels of white cotton cord.

Patterned bands are woven in a series of discrete patterns, all extremely fine and intricate, each approximately 2-7 CM in length. A particular pattern is often woven twice in succession, the second time in reverse. Each pattern or pattern element is named, although more than one name may be in common use for any one pattern. Among the various common pattern names are “olive pit” a lozenge; “plum” an overall pattern of small circles; “fishbone” a chevron pattern; and “angle” an overall zigzag pattern. These pattern elements may be combined. For example, a pattern like two angular hearts point to point is called “angles enclosed by fishbones”. Like other Chinese design motifs, these patterns sometimes have significance beyond their immediate meaning. For example, a band brought by a Tsuen Wan bride to her husband’s home at marriage had the pattern called “little olive”, a homophone for the words “male child”, which she was expected to produce…continued.

Source: “Patterned Bands” in the New Territories of Hong Kong RASKHB Vol 16 1976

RASHKB says “Anyone with an interest in the history, art, literature and culture of China and Asia, with special reference to Hong Kong, will enjoy membership of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, which is generally regarded as the premier Society for the study of Hong Kong and South China. Dating back over 150 years, the Society is today a very active body, organizing varied visits, talks, seminars and more.”


  1. The Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch website

This article was first posted on 10th May 2016.

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  1. Itinerant Hakka Weavers in Hong Kong

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