A Brief History of Chinese Embroidery 8. World-Wide Influence of Chinese Embroidery

Both the eastern Asian area, which has always been under the influence of Chinese culture, and Europe, which has been connecting with China due to water and land routes of the Silk Road since the Han Dynasty, were overwhelmed by the long history and exquisite craftsmanship of Chinese embroidery that has made desirable contributions to international culture and art.

In the thousand years since the Han Dynasty, ringing camel bells on the land route of the Silk Road as well as the rise and fall of the sails on the water route have been bearing natural resources from China, linking the civilizations of the Orient and the West.

Also starting from the Han Dynasty, Chinese silkworm breeding and techniques of embroidery were spread to Japan, a close neighboring country of China. In the Tang Dynasty, the dragon robe of the Emperor of Japan at that time was basically the same as that of the Chinese emperor, i.e. red fabrics were embroidered with Twelve Symbols of Sovereignty, such as the sun, the moon, the star, mountain, and pheasant, with the same connotation. In the Edo period in Japan, Japanese females of the samurai class often wore long robes with motifs of Chinese classic literature. It is not too much to say that Japanese traditional embroidery art is deeply influenced by China, whether in terms of embroidery techniques or themes for embroidery creation.

During the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty (1711–1799), hoops of Chinese embroidery were spread to Britain and France, etc., having replaced iron and wooden slate frames and promoted the development of small embroidered crafts.

As believed by Western scholars of art history, Chaozhou Embroidery, a branch of Guangdong Embroidery as one of the four famous embroidery schools in China, as well as gold inlaid painting on Chinese lacquerware, exerted a major influence on art tendencies in Europe, such as European paintings and handicrafts in the 17th and 18th century. European oil paintings displaying the magnificent lives of the imperial court drew on the techniques of embroidery by means of gold and silver threads, using golden color to bring about major outlines, give prominence to the theme and demonstrate bright light. In the field of architecture, Chaozhou Embroidery also exerted an influence on famous Rococo art style which was portrayed with lots of gold threads.

Rococo art style
Rococo art style

In modern times, Chinese embroidery has been an important commodity for European merchants to conduct trade in the Far East. There are not only ordinary embroidered crafts from China that were mass produced for export, but also high-grade embroidered works with family crest ordered by aristocrats.