Every art lover knows
the big names Gustav Klimt, Pierre Auguste Renoir,
Edgar Degas and Giovanni Segantini - but few can
remember the names of men and women who devoted
their lives to the art of traditional Chinese silk
Fewer still can imagine what it would be like to use
the embroidery to do Western style pictures.
At the show "East Meets West, Modern Art in
Oriental Handcrafted Silk Embroidery," which
has just ended in Shanghai, scores of embroidery
works were on display, all of which are considered
to be masterpieces.
"It took more than two years for a master
embroiderer to make a Western picture," said Yu
Jinglu, organizer of the show. "Sometimes it is
Yu had the idea for a show when she did some
embroidery pieces of the works by Ting Shao Kuang, a
renowned painter now living in the United States.
"They were marvelous," recalled Yu.
Chinese traditional silk embroidery has a history
spanning more than 2,000 years.
The complicated process involves various embroidery
techniques, such as tracing, color matching and
Sometimes a length of ordinary silk thread has to be
split into 10 to 16 strands in order to show detail.
According to Yu, some works on the display were
first presented in Los Angeles to the acclaim of the
Americans. "I prepared magnifying-glasses for
visitors, who were amazed at such elaborate
In East and South China, girls begin to learn
needlework at the age of five or six. "But
nowadays, fewer and fewer of them are involved in
this traditional profession, making the current
pieces of embroidery even more valuable."
Seen from a distance, few can tell the difference
between a silk painting and an oil-painting except
that the former is more brightly colored.
"Not all Western paintings are fit for
embroidery, because silk may not reflect the shades
of colors you see in an oil-painting,"
Now she is racking her brains to give a name to this
art as the embroidery involves more than one style
in more than one place. "I would be proud to
call it Chinese embroidery, as it is more than a
folk or local art," said Yu excitedly.
(China Daily 12/04/2000)