Old Stories Revied - New Cambodian Pidan
August 8 - September 7, 2010

What is a pidan?

A pidan, or ‘bitan’ as it is often pronounced, is a very special, elaborately designed pictorial silk textile used in Buddhist temples. The word pidan can be translated as ‘ceiling’ or ‘canopy’ and these textiles were often hung over, or near, the principal Buddha image in a temple.

A pidan is distinguished from other silk textiles by its design of narrative scenes, which often relate to Buddhism. A pidan with religious scenes is never worn as clothing. Whereas most decorative Khmer craft, especially the decorative work in the structure of temples, is carried out by men, the weaving of ceremonial pidan was the work of women.

The designs are produced by a painstaking method called ‘hol’ in the Khmer language, and known elsewhere by the term ‘íkat’. This process creates the desired pattern by tying the threads prior to dyeing. For each colour the threads must have new ties added, and/or the previous ones removed. Only after all the dyeing is finished can the weaving begin. The weaver must carefully align each new weft thread as she weaves, or the pattern will not be clear. The process thus involves much preparation and clear forethought of the design.

The techniques used to weave these pictorial pidan were rarely practiced even before the Khmer Rouge regime. The regime prohibited silk weaving entirely so pidan weaving also ceased. The techniques involved were retained only in the minds of a few and so its revival is both important and commercially precarious.

The revival of pidan

The aim of the Pidan Project Team is to show new pidan in a permanent exhibition of this revived craft. It is important that the heritage, beauty, religious beliefs and the stories contained in pidan are understood and appreciated by the younger generations of Khmer, and by visitors to Cambodia






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