Introduction about Chinese Embroidery

8 芙蓉鲤鱼图 (蜀绣) 绣作者邵晓琤


The beginning, development, and evolution of Chinese embroidery do not seek for grand brilliance, but its beauty and vibrancy enjoy a long history. It is vividly represented in the spiritual and daily lives of hundreds and thousands of people, reflecting their pursuit for beauty and love for life. The different styles of embroidery techniques handed down from generation to generation are like sweet spring water, keeping the gentleness of human nature from going dry. A partial examination of Chinese embroidery will be enough to enable you to form an understanding of it. Whether you enjoy turning out embroidery with needlework at your leisure or endeavor to create beautiful designs with your fingertips, some background knowledge is always helpful.


Chinese embroidery has a long history. All the dynasties had their own representations of embroidery that reflected the craftsmanship, social life, spirit, and culture of those historic periods, which cherished the splendid several thousand years’ history of China. So much of the emotion and wisdom of the embroiderers are embodied in the form, patterns, needlework, structuring, and the selection of thread texture, color, and material of each piece of embroidery. Their meticulous design from conception to application reveals a very high artistic value.


However, how does one appreciate a piece of nice embroidery? Each exquisite piece of embroidery can be appreciated roughly from several aspects:


Evenness: Threads appear neat without being too sparse, thick, and tight.


Flatness: Needlework is marked by evenness, clear outlines, and smooth and neat threads without showing the fabric.


Harmony: Colors are interesting and complement each other.


Light: The brightness of a lustrous color fabric surface is enhanced through skillful needlework and strict craftsmanship.


Smoothness: Vivid patterns, practical arrangement of thread directions and curves that are free from stiffness.


Fineness: Finely arrayed threads without any trace of stitches, as if the embroidery is painted onto the fabric surface.


Ingenuity: A variety of needlework is combined, while embroidering techniques are rich, varying, and natural, showing the meticulousness of the embroiderer. Each detail of craftsmanship can be incorporated perfectly with patterns.


Meticulousness: No painting-manuscript is seen on the fabric, no color is applied, and no background color can be referred to, except outlines. The embroidery is completed purely with the help of needle and threads. Though not the painting, the embroidery is nicer than the painting, possessing very talented artistic craftsmanship.


Cleanness: Free from color-loss, color-fading, dirt, and damage.


Uniqueness: With traditional features of excellent embroidery schools, they have patterns different from those sold in the market. Special threads are applied for creation plus complex craftsmanship and process, hence displaying a unique style.


Daily use embroidery is supposed to be attractive, practical, solid, and washable.


Embroidery for appreciation, apart from being beautiful due to exquisite craftsmanship, should also be infuse with the artistic appeal of Chinese and Western paintings, marked either by the appreciation of embroidery, or by the elegant style of noted painters.


Chinese embroidery is characterized by diversity, various schools, plentiful needlework, and evolving styles. Unlike other kinds of embroidery, it is not easy to turn out fixed illustrations of needlework, write books concerned, and popularize it among readers in terms of Chinese embroidery. Therefore, while writing this book, I endeavored to express, with simple illustrated examples, most of the needlework of Chinese embroidery. This includes the needlework that can be maneuvered by the independent needlework and combined ones derived from a variety of needlework. This way, readers can understand and experience through factual examples and perceive methods concerned in the course of trying to embroider in person, in addition to comprehending by analogy and stimulating the imagination and creation of the individual. In this way, it will not be difficult to produce ideal embroidery.


Examples of needlework techniques are arranged according to the evolution of embroidery, in order to make it convenient for readers to get to know the style of different schools, as well as their development in each stage and the chronological order of those kinds of embroidery along with their history. This way, readers can learn techniques of embroidery and also increase their knowledge of its history. Meanwhile, there are comments of appreciation and analysis of high-quality Chinese embroidery and introduction to the basic knowledge of embroidery collection. I believe readers can enjoy reading it, experiencing it, and learning from it. This is my sincere wish in writing this book for you all.