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Chinese Embroidery

Chinese Embroidery is a well-known traditional Chinese handicraft. It has a long history, spanning over 3000 years.

People embroider beautiful pictures and patterns on a piece of silk or cloth, with threads of silk, wool or cotton. There are four provinces that are particularly famous for this handicraft: Jiangsu, Hunan, Guangdong and Sichuan.

Suzhou Embroidery, also named Su Xiu, has a history of 2000 years. The artists in Suzhou may be able to use a needle in up to 40 different ways and use 1000 different types of threads to make flowers, animals, birds etc. on a piece of cloth. Suzhou Embroidery is not only beautiful, it is exquisite and refined. Su embroidery weaving techniques are characterised by the following: the product surface must be flat, the rim must be neat, the needle must be thin, the lines must be dense, the colour must be harmonious and bright and the picture must be even. In 1986, Suzhou Embroidery Art Museum was founded in Suzhou, which has also become a display of Suzhou embroidery history and remains popular among the Chinese people and tourists alike.

Hunan Embroidery, also named Xiang Xiu, has a history of over 2000 years too. The artists of traditional Chinese painting are involved in designing pictures and patterns, so the embroidery in Hunan has an air of traditional Chinese painting. It is distinct for its elegant black, white and gray designs. The emphasis of Xiang Xiu is on contrasts of light and shade that highlight the texture of the pattern to give a three-dimensional effect.

Guangdong Embroidery, or Yue Xiu, is believed to be 1000 years old. It tends to be colourful and bright with neat patterns, often with a dragon and phoenix dominating the design. The famous and prominent works are "Hundred Birds Pay Homage to the Phoenix" and "Screen of Nine Dragons". Yue Xiu is composed of intricate patterns, vibrant colours, varied stitches and a defined weave. Its use of primary colours, light and shade are reminiscent of western paintings.

Sichuan Embroidery, named Shu Xiu, can date back as early as 1000 years ago. With over one thousand needlework techniques, artists are able to create flowers, birds, fishes and insects, as well as landscapes and human figurines. Some Sichuan Embroidery works include "Hibiscus and Carps" and "Roosters and Coxcombs". Its raw materials are satin and coloured silk, its craftsmanship painstaking and refined. The emphasis is on stitching, coloration, and local flavour. Sichuan embroidery is used for decorations on quilt covers, garments, pillowcases, shoes etc.

There are also other famous embroideries besides the above four types. They are made in Beijing, Wenzhou, Shanghai and by the Miao ethnic communities.

Embroidery is used in many different ways, such as clothing, quilt covers, pillowcases and bed sheets. It can also be displayed as an art work or used for decorative purposes. Nowadays, most handwork has been replaced by machinery, but some very sophisticated products are still hand-made. Nevertheless, Chinese silk embroidery remains to this day a skill to be admired and will no doubt remain a popular handicraft in Chinese culture for many years to come.