As it’s known to all, Chinese silk is of world renown. So today, I’ll talk about a kind of traditional handicraft related to Chinese silk – Chinese Embroidery.
What is Chinese Embroidery?
Embroidery, also known as silk embroidery, is commonly referred to as “xiu hua”. With a long history, Chinese embroidery was in the same important position as Cotton poplin and K’o-ssu (silk tapestry with cut designs) in the history of Chinese craft art. With a long history, Chinese embroidery was in the same important position as Cotton poplin and K’o-ssu (silk tapestry with cut designs) in the history of Chinese craft art.
As one of the traditional Chinese handicrafts, Chinese embroidery was first developed by local women to decorate their clothes, pouches and bedclothes. The handicraft is that girls use the needle threaded colorful strands thread exquisite patterns and characters on cloth. Early embroidery had the design and patterns only on one side, while the reverse side had irregular stitches and thread ends. Later the skills of the double side embroidery evolved. Both sides of embroidery can be displayed in the same design and different colors. For example, a peony design would be red one side and yellow on the opposite side.Chinese embroidery has a long history in China. In ancient times, Chinese girls in towns and cities had to learn the embroidery skill at their early age, which will give them an advantage when they are going to get marry.
There are four Chinese representative embroideries are now designated by the government as a Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage. They are: Shu embroidery, Xiang embroidery, Su embroidery, and Yue embroidery
Famous types of Chinese embroidery
- Su Xiu (Suzhou Embroidery)
Su Xiu originates and has been crafted in Suzhou, with a history of more than 2000 years. It features exquisite embroidery work, varied stitch, pretty patterns and elegant colors. The pictorial embroidery and intimating-painting embroidery of Su Xiu are world-renowned for its superb artistic value. Double-sided embroidery is an excellent representative of Su embroidery
The most salient features of Shu embroidery are:
- It is renowned for its refinement, its clearly demarcated, delicate lines and its elegant, tasteful overall design.
- It is tightly stitched, similar to Shu embroidery, and uses a thin needle to produce meticulously crafted patterns.
- Its colors are not monochromatic, but consist of the proper mix of different colored threads so as to achieve the desired hue.
- It is “reversible” like Xiang embroidery, though the best Su embroidery masters produced double-sided embroidery where the reverse side was a mirror image of the front.
Three major categories:
- decorations for halls
- crafts for daily use
- Xiang Xiu (Hunan Embroidery)
Xiang embroidery is well known for its time-honored history, excellent craftsmanship and unique style. The embroiders use the satin, organdy, nylon as the raw materials to craft Xiang Xiu embroidery works. Patterns of Hunan embroidery draw on the strengths of Chinese Painting, the subjects of which are mainly landscape, characters, flowers, birds, animals, especially the embroidered lions and tigers. They craft not only valuable Xiangxiu embroidery art works, but also items for daily use, such as embroidery pillowcases, embroidery mattress cover, embroidery handkerchief, embroidery tablecloth and embroidery clothes.
The most salient features of Xiang embroidery are:
- It deliberately mimics other art forms such as painting, engraving and calligraphy.
- It’s “reversible” with separate imagery on both sides.
- It specializes in a satin look, the depictions have very soft, smooth surfaces.
- Its motifs are typically “broad-brush” humans, birds, animals, and landscapes, among which depictions of lions and tigers dominate.
- It emphasizes few colors, with large solid-color surfaces. Intricate patterns was never the goal, but instead simple and bold.
- Yue Xiu (Guangdong Embroidery)
Guangdong embroidery, according to legend, was originally founded in ethnic minoritie–Li. There is a unique phenomenon in Guangdong embroidery is that embroidery workers are mostly men and they are often embroidering, standing and using long needles. It consists of two branches: Chao Xiu (潮绣) and Guang Xiu (广绣). The works includes big decorations such as high Mirror-screens, or hanging screens, and tiny goods such as Pocket, clothing decorations, fans and fan coats.
One of the oldest style of Chinese embroidery, Guangdong Embroidery has five distinctive features: varied kinds of threads, a high color contrast, the gold thread sew as the contour line of embroidery patterns, complicated and gorgeous decorative motif, and male embroiders. And influenced by national folk art, the embroidered pictures are mainly of dragons and phoenixes, and flowers and birds, with neat designs and strong, contrasting colors. Floss, thread and gold-and-silk thread embroidery are used to produce costumes, decorations for halls and crafts for daily use.
- Shu Xiu (Sichuan Embroidery)
Sichuan embroidery, also known as chuan embroidery. With its unique skills of stitch, Su embroidery has strong expressive and artistic effects. due to the effect of the geographical environment, customs, arts and culture, Su embroidery has gradually developed into a unique style that is rigorous and exquisite, light and flat, smooth and clear, vigorous and round, light and lively. Its craftsmanship is outstanding with over 100 kinds of exquisite stitch. Altogether, there are 122 approaches in 12 categories for weaving. The craftsmanship of Shu embroidery involves a combination of fine arts, aesthetics and practical uses, such as the facings of quits, pillowcases, coats, shoots and screen covers.
The most salient features of Shu embroidery are:
- It is tightly stitched — necessary for intricate work (think high-pixel versus low-pixel resolution).
- It excels in the art of mixing threads in a gradually increasing fashion to effortlessly transition from one solid color to another.
- It the natural world. The panda is a current popular motif as Chengdu is the home for the panda.
- It is typically done on soft, satin fabric and makes use of brightly coloured threads.
- It follows strict, tradition-bound principles, that are divided into 12 primary weaving categories which result in 122 subcategories.
- Its products include quilt covers, pillow cases, table cloths, chair cushions, scarves and handkerchiefs.