Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information




Asian art

View More:


Decorative end piece of a 'phaa biang' (ceremonial scarf) with banded design of stylised birds and animals

circa 1920


Unknown Artist


The 'Tai Neua' are a sub-group of the Tai language family. The Tai live in a broad region stretching from Eastern India to Southwestern China and Northern Vietnam. Before the easy availability of printed cotton, Lao-Tai women produced all the textiles for the home. Lao-Tai women wrap phaa biang cloths around one shoulder and the torso. These cloths are also used for healing practices ('phaa sabai'), as head wraps ('phaa khan soeng'), and as shoulder cloths ('phaa phai'). As a curative cloth, the textile was believed to be powerful enough to help the healing process through its combination of colours and motifs. Phaa biang are composed of several sections, and as sections become worn, they are replaced with new weavings. This is probably one such replacement.

This 'phaa biang' has indigo-blue warp and weft threads. The decoration is composed of supplementary weft yarns in different colours. The white threads stretch across the entire textile and are called continuous supplementary weft, while the other colours are only used in parts, so are discontinuous supplementary weft yarns. Most of the patterned area is covered by diamond motifs, but there are also birds and the popular elephant-bird ('saang hong'), a mythical creature associated with spirits and the heavens.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, December 2011


Place where the work was made

Sam Nuea Laos

Cultural origin

Tai Nuea people


circa 1920

Media category


Materials used

silk, natural dyes; continuous and discontinuous supplementary weft decoration


45.0 x 105.0 cm


Gift of Nomadic Rug Traders 2003


Not on display

Accession number