Like all art, Hmong paj ntaub (flower cloth) is inspired by their environment. The motifs and symbols represent everything from nature to architecture, and one can only imagine the intimate relationship between the Hmong and the land they lived on when it is featured on elaborate and arduous embroidery. Many of the people in the diaspora may not have the same kind of physical closeness to the land as they once did, but these symbols continue to persist in the form of tattoos and other mediums.
A common story shared by many elders say that paj ntaub (flower cloth) are the remnants of the Hmong language. Hmong women coded onto clothing their language in order to disguise their stories from their oppressors.
Hmong elders also share that their ancestors call it the Flower Cloth because the embroidery patterns resemble how the petals of a flower stem out evenly from its center.
COMMON SYMBOLS & THEIR MEANINGS
PROJECT PAJ NTAUB
Enjoy a personal guide to the art of paj ntaub in Hmong Museum’s monthly free workshops.