and Categories of Chinese Embroidery
Embroidery is an
excellent traditional technology with a long history in
China. It is a kind of Chinese handicraft to embroider
various designs with different kinds of threads and
materials on fabric. The unearthed silk painting and
embroidery prove that as early as more than 3000 years
ago, there was already splendid silk with veiled design
and of various colors . At present, the piece of
embroidery of the Shang Dynasty found in Henan Province is
the earliest embroidery handicraft in China. The rhombus,
folding waves design with twisted thread at the edge show
that the technology had reached a rather developed level.
In a Western Zhou Tomb in Baoji, Shaanxi Province, a piece
woven by the braid-strand method was found, which is still
used today. The smooth lines and neat stitches showed the
The production of Chinese embroidery products has not only
promoted the productivity in China, but also influenced
the international cultural life. In the Qin and Han
dynasties ( 221 B.C. -220 A. D.), it had reached a fairly
high level and had become an important merchandise for
export. Being the homeland of silk, there was an old
custom in China that the rich people took the
"embroider boudoir" as their proof of loyalty
and chastity while the poor people took the skill of
embroidery and weaving as their profession. In the Qing
Dynasty ( 1644-1911 A. D.), the folk embroidery of
different provinces all had their own characteristics and
formed the four famous categories of embroidery, i.e.
suxiu in Suzhou, xiangxiu in Hunan, shuxiu in Sichuan and
yuexiu in Guangdong. Beside these, there were jingxiu in
Beijing, ouxiu in Wenzhou, guxiu in shanghai, miaoxiu of
the Miao nationality, etc. Each had its own distinct
styles. The methods included crisscrossing, mixing,
netting, scattering, etc. The flowers, birds and beasts on
the embroidery were all as vivid as real living ones.
Since 1949, the art of oil painting, Chinese painting and
photography have been applied to embroidery at such a
terrific effect that they look like paintings from
distance and embroidery at close range. The scope of usage
also has expanded from theatrical costumes to pillow
cases, table cloths, screens, wall hangings, clothes, etc.
It is also a traditional exporting product, which is of
high economic value.
The four famous categories of embroidery embody the
characteristics and artistic value of Chinese embroidery.
Suxiu is famous for its neat stitches, elegant colors and
fine quality. Smooth, bright, neat, even, fine and tight
are its features. The subjects are mostly little animals
like cats, fish and shrimps. The double-sided embroidery,
with the two sides either identical or different, is of
exquisite workmanship. For example, the cat's eyes are of
different colors on the two sides, which is done by superb
Xiangxiu has bright colors. With Chinese paintings as its
background, clouds, mountains, rivers, pavilions, birds
and animals are embroidered realistically. The techniques
of xiangxiu is manifested fully especially in the
embroidery of tigers and lions , with their hair
embroidered in fine bold lines. There goes a saying: On
xiangxiu, birds can sing, tigers can run, flowers are
fragrant and people are lifelike.
Shuxiu is characterized by its simple structure, bright
colors, well-knit stitches, smooth surface and traditional
decorator designs like squares and stripes. Its subjects
are mostly butterflies, carps, pandas, etc.
Yuexiu is done by embroidering with gold and silver
threads, which are neat and bright. It has a tight layout,
decorator designs and a gorgeous surface. Yuexiu is mostly
used in theatrical costumes and wedding gowns. Lychee and
peacocks are its traditional subjects.