Chinese embroidery is a kind of traditional Chinese arts or crafts which is well-known all over the world. The basic embroidery technique is pulling colored strings with the needle to stitch previously designed patterns on the chosen item. Various materials and items can be embroidered, such as clothes, scarves, purses, shoes, banners, screens, etc.
Chinese embroidery has a long history since the Shang Dynasty. It has close connection with traditional Chinese silkworm raising and filature. China is the earliest country in the world to discover and make use of silk. Because of the quality of silk fiber, most Chinese fine embroideries are made in silk. Therefore Chinese embroidery is also called Chinese silk needlework. In the Song Dynasty, the embroidered garments were widely welcomed and embroidery gradually popularized widely in folk society, which to a most degree promote the development of Chinese silk embroidery industry.
Su Xiu (Jiangsu Embroidery): Su Xiu refers to embroidery crafted in areas around Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. With a history of more than 2,000 years, Su Xiu is famous for its beautiful patterns, elegant colors, variety of stitches, and consummate craftsmanship. Its stitching is meticulously skillful, coloration subtle and refined. Suzhou artists are able to use more than 40 needlework and a 1,000 different types of threads to make embroidery, typically with nature and environment themes such as flowers, birds, animals and even gardens on a piece of cloth.
Xiang Xiu (Hunan Embroidery): Xiang Xiu comes from areas around Changsha, Hunan Province. It is distinct for its starkly elegant black, white and gray coloration. Its emphasis is on contrasts of light and shade that highlight the pattern texture to give a three-dimensional effect. Xiang Xiu composition combines void and solid imagery, utilizing empty space in the same way as Chinese ink and wash paintings.
Yue Xiu (Cantonese Embroidery): Yue Xiu is crafted in Chaozhou, Guangdong Province. It is composed of intricate but symmetrical patterns, vibrant colors, varied stitches and a defined weave. Its use of primary colors, light and shade are reminiscent of western paintings.
Shu Xiu (Sichuan Embroidery): Shu Xiu originates from areas around Chengdu, Sichuan Province. It is oldest known embroidery style in Chinese embroidery history. Its raw materials are satin and colored silk, its craftsmanship painstaking and refined. The emphasis is on even stitching, delicate coloration, and local flavor. Sichuan embroidery is used to decorate quilt covers, pillowcases, garments, shoes and painted screens.
Modern Chinese embroidery
Today most handwork of Chinese embroidery has been replaced by machinery, but some very sophisticated and precious production are still hand-made. As a carrier of national culture, Chinese embroidery is far more than the needlework. It is the show window of many other Chinese art forms including Chinese painting, philosophy, calligraphy, literature, folk custom and so on.