Before there were written words, there were woven patterns on Hainan Island. Travel to the southern part of the Chinese island, where the area’s indigenous Li people live, and you can see why art came before language: Silky clouds tangle in the green foliage of volcanic mountaintops, presumably inspiring locals to weave brocades as stunning as the horizons. Considered China’s oldest cotton textile art, the designs represent episodes from the Li’s daily lives. To save this disappearing art form, an islander named Li Guo Kai has formed a company called Hainan Splendid Zhibei Industry Company Ltd. to employ and educate local women in Li methods of spinning and weaving exquisite brocade. Find the cloths in specialty shops around the island or arrange a visit to a Li village through Boao Inn Bed & Breakfast, and bring the language of the clouds home with you.