Xiuqiu, also known as silk ball or emboridery ball, is a traditional handcraft made by people of the Zhuang ethnic group in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and passed widely through generations. Xiuqiu is made of silk cloth, traditionally in three colors of red, yellow and green, and has twelve connected petals. Each petal represents a month, and has an image of flowers, plants, or birds on it.
Pao Xiuqiu(Xiuqiu Tossing)
In Chinese, “pao”means “to toss”. In ancient times, Xiuqiu was used to symbolize love. As such, if a girl handmade an embroidery ball and gave it to a boy - it meant that she had given her heart to him, such sweet gesture. If a girl was in seek of a fated life partner, she would toss the ball high where a bunch of boys were. The boy who caught the Xiuqiu would become the husband to-be. Nowadays, Xiuqiu tossing is a traditional game in festivals marking the blooming season or harvest time. There are various ways of playing this game. One way is for two teams, usually boys versus girls, to toss the silk balls at each other hoping that the opposing team would drop the ball. If the ball drops, the losing side will be required to sing or perform in other ways as a forfeit.
There is a popular tale of Xiuqiu why it is regarded as the token of love. Long long ago, there was a poor family living in the town of Jiuzhou, Jinxi county. The son of the poor family A Di fell in love with the girl, A Xiu, at the neighbor village.
One spring, when A Xiu was going to the market, she was spotted by a rich and powerful bad young man. This bad guy wanted to marry A Xiu, however A Xiu did not agree even for the sake of her life. When the young man found out A Xiu was deeply in love with A Di in the neighbor village, in order to make A Xiu forget A Di, he bribed the local official who charged the death penalty on A Di on groundless reasons and put him in prison to await the punishment in autumn.
When the news came to A Xiu, she cried her eyes blind. She started to sew a Xiuqiu for A Di stitch after stitch. The needle pierced her finger and blood started to flow over the Xiuqiu. When soaked by the blood, the flowers, grass and birds on the Xiuqiu were more vivid than before. After 81 days, the Xiuqiu which was filled with A Xiu’s love for A Di and soaked in A Xiu’s blood was completed.
She bribed the warden of the prison with all of her money which came from selling her jewelry and deposits at home. In the company of her families, she visited A Di, whom she missed day and night in the cold and dark prison. When she saw A Di was tortured to a living skeleton, she was desperate and she hung the Xiuqiu across A Di’s neck.
At this point, a miraculous light flashed and A Xiu, A Di and her families disappeared. When they awoke, they found themselves at a beautiful and rich land at the foot of a mountain, far away from the villains. Later, A Di and A Xiu got married and they gave birth to one boy and one girl. After their hard work, they lived happily ever after.
The skilled craft, rough style, colorful shade and harmonious composition of Xiuqiu not only carry the deep historical memories of the Zhuang people, but also embody the unique aesthetic attitudes and unadorned ethnic beliefs of the Zhuang People.
Till today, whenever the mid－autumn night comes around, in some villages of the Zhuang ethnic group in Guangxi, you can hear the melodious songs and fife playing on the banks, in the mountains, in the trees and on the lawns. Couples of lovers are coming and going among the bamboo forest and the woods. From time to time, delicate Xiuqius are sweeping across the night sky like meteors one after another. Xiuqiu has become a cultural symbol of the Zhuang people.