Tibetan robe, pulu and kasaya (a patchwork outer vestment worn by a Buddhist monk)
Tibetans have lived in snowy plateau for generations. The style and characters of their clothes culture are decided by special geographical environment, climate conditions and mode of production of plateau animal husbandry and farming.
Robe is Tibetans’ main traditional clothes. It is mainly made of pulu woven with wool in farming area, and is made of sheepskin in pastoral area. The basic characters of Tibetan robe are: the robe has wide front and is buttoned on the right side with wide waist; the sleeves are very wide and long; the collar, edge of the front, cuff and the lower hem of the gown are mostly edged with fine and soft fur, pulu or colorful cloth. They take off one or both sleeves when working in daytime, and tie them around the waist. A shirt with long sleeves is worn inside of the robe. When men tie belt, they usually pull the lower hem of the robe up to knees. When women tie belt, they pull the robe up a little bit and make the lower hem cover the ankles. Thus a big bag is formed in the bosom and the waist, and many daily odds can be put into it. The detailed style is distinctive for different places and can be divided into many types. Just in terms of the fur robe in pastoral area, men’s robe is plain robe without cloth surface, but the front, cuff and edge are edged with black velveteen, corduroy or woolen cloth which is about ten to fifteen centimeters wide. Women’s robe style, especially the decorations on the fur is different for different areas: in the northern Tibet area, the edge of the front and the cuff are generally sewed with five to seven strips with black, red, green, purple, etc arranged in order. Because some strips are a little bit wider, the whole surface of the fur can be completely covered by the strips; Women’s robe of Hainan region in Qinghai has wide collar and waist. The sleeves are over 30 centimeters longer than the arm, and the lower hem stretches out about 10 centimeters over the instep, which are mostly edged with red or black strip or leopard skin as decorations. When they wear it, they carry the collar on head, tie the waist, and then put the collar down; Women’s robe in Huangnan region usually has round collar, and robe reaches the instep; Women’s robe in Haixi includes a kind of ceremonial dress in addition to common fur robe, Men’s clothes and adornments in Gongbu which is a kind of brocade robe edged with lamb skin, satin or otter skin; Women’s robe in Guoluo has 2 or 3 lines of hem and horn-shaped adornment; Women’s robe in Gansu is often edged with very wide leopard skin, and it has a different way of wearing: the belly is tied at the back, and long end of the knot falls down over buttocks.
Pulu is Tibetan traditional wool fabric, and it is main material for making robe, boots, hat, etc for Tibetan people in farming area and in cities and town. Wool is its raw material, and the way of making it is: firstly fluff and comb the wool, twist it into thread around spindle by fingers, and then weave it with wood shuttle loom into pulu. Pulu is generally over 20 centimeters wide, and has colors of white, black, blue, red, reddish brown and green. In addition to monochromatic cloth, there are pulu with dyed cross-shaped designs. It has many types, and can be divided into two types all together: common pulu and close pulu. The lines of close pulu are delicate and close, and it is soft, which can be compared favorably with woolen cloth woven by machine. It is said that the history of machine weaving has had more than 2000 years. There are clear and definite records about coarse cloth, plain coarse cloth and felt in the “New Tang Book o Tibet Biography” which shows that pulu fabric had been very popular in the Tang Dynasty. In the Yuan Dynasty, pulu was carried to the interior as tribute. Pulu produced in Lhasa, Rikeze, Zedang, Zhanang, Jiangzi in Tibet, and Xiancheng, Batang in the western Sichuan is the most famous, and products made with it are transported and sold in other places of Tibetan region, the interior and even abroad.
Pulu of Zijin, JiangziTibetan monk’s clothes are simple and solemn. Monks often wear sleeveless garment and purplish red skirt, and wear a purplish kasaya out of the garment.
“Kasaya” is transliteration of Sanskrit, and the original meaning of it is “color that is not pure” or “bad color”. It is generally used to name Buddhist garment. Because garment worn by monks is made of “color that is not pure” (variegated color), it is called kasaya in terms of the color. After Buddhism was transferred to China, color of monk’s clothes changed. For example, when monks expound Buddhist teachings and hold ceremonies, they often wear Jinlan clothes (kasaya woven with gold thread). Kasaya is not common clothes, and it is one of the upper garments worn by monks when they worship Buddha, beg alms, explain classics, listen to explanation of classics, and take part in ritual. Kasaya should be sewed with cut cloth, and it should be sewed into netted checks. It is pieced with square satin into the shape of fish scale that means pieces are sewed on the cloth started from the middle one upon another, and edges with the same size are reserved. Sewing thread horizontally across the edge is interlocked. Kasaya is a kind of strip-shaped wrapping sheet which is generally about 70 centimeters wide, and is 2.5 times as long as human body. When they wear it, they wrap it on the upper body and expose the right shoulder. The kasaya reaches the instep. Kasayas are different according to different levels of ranks and positions, including quality and color of the cloth. Generally speaking, people whose sleeveless garment is edged with yellow brocade or who wear yellow silks and satins in normal times are mostly living Buddhas or eminent monks. The style of kasaya and way of wearing kasaya are almost the same for the four Denominations of Tibetan Buddhism: Ningma, Sajia, Gaju, and Gelu, and only the hats are different.