Embroidery, also known as needlework, is an indispensible traditional Chinese handicraft. With the needle leading colored strings (silk, wool and line) on the textile, constituting a pattern or word according to the scheming design.
In ancient times, embroidery was called “zhi”. Later on, it got another name “nvgong” (needlework) for this kind of work was usually done by women (nv means female in English.).
Recorded in “Book of History”, there were principles about embroidery in making clothes far more than 4,000 years ago. The excavated embroideries in Hubei and Hunan had displayed a high level of embroidery. In 1958, fancy work with pattern of dragon and phoenix was unearthed from Chu Tomb in Changsha, Hunan Province, which was considered to be the embroidery two thousand years ago during the Warring States Period (475BC-221BC).
Embroidery in Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) Dynasties became more exquisite due to the rich colors. In addition, embroidery at these periods was prevailing applied in calligraphy, painting and decoration. During Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties, embroidery popularized in the palace and embroidery in folk gained further progress, with the four famous embroideries (Su Embroidery, Yue Embroidery, Xiang Embroider and Shu Embroidery) emerged successively. Besides, there are Gu Embroidery, Lu Embroidery, Han Embroidery, Miao Embroidery and so on, which are all unique to be passed on until now.
Materials in Making Embroidery
Apart from needle and thread, many materials are needed to finish a piece of embroidery such as metal strips, pearls, beads, quills, and sequins. With the development of techniques, embroidery is no longer dependent on handwork. Sewing machines can be used to create machine embroidery.
Four Famous Embroideries
Being spread worldwide, Chinese embroidery become more and more meticulous and complicated in nowadays. As one of the representative works of Su embroidery, the double-faced embroidery titled “Cat” illustrates the superb skill with vivid pattern of a cat.
Driving from Suzhou, Su Embroidery has a long history of over 2,000 years. The moderate climate and superior geographic environment provide advantages for Su Embroidery’s development. It is spotless with the live stitch, handsome pattern and elegant color. It has been selected as national gift for foreign guests.
Yue Embroidery, the general term of the embroideries in Guangdong Province, often draws the theme from phoenix, peony, deer, chook and goose to render a happy atmosphere.
Shu Embroidery, together with Shu Brocade is rated as the treasure of Sichuan. Shu embroidery has a long history, ever mainly used in vestment, gifts, daily blouse, bridal clothes, color cuitain and screen and so on. The embroidery stitch techniques are unique for there are at least 100 more delicate stitch embroidery skills, such as colorful clothes filled with full brocade and embroidery, line embroidery combining with picture and up-class exquisite double-sided embroidery.
Originated from the folk, Xiang Embroidery possesses superb skill and particular artistic style. It features in using velvet strings to draw pattern, in case of being fluffing. Therefore, the local people call it “wool fine needlework”. With the theme of Chinese traditional painting, it shows a sense of being bold and unconstrained.