Following the patterns of history

A thread that binds generations of Suzhou craftswomen continues to weave ever beautiful designs, Deng Zhangyu reports.

By Deng Zhangyu | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-26 06:43
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An embroidery work depicting a landscape showcases the craftsmanship of Zou Yingzi, a master known for her unique stitching style. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The embroidery in Suzhou reached its golden age during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), incorporating elements of the literati paintings that were popular at the time. The craft became a favorite in the court of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and was used in the tailoring of robes and decorations coveted by Chinese royalty. It was during this period that the name "Su embroidery "was first coined.

"It is an art form created by women who live in a city that boasts an artistic lifestyle," says Zheng.

In 1954, the Suzhou Silk Embroidery Research Institute was established, and many innovations in silk embroidery techniques soon followed. Products made using Su embroidery were among the most popular handicrafts exported overseas.

Embroiderer Zou remembers that, in the 1980s and '90s, she and her mother made lots of Su embroidery items to be sold overseas — Japan, South Korea and Europe — to earn money. But her father encouraged her to stitch for the sake of art. At the age of 19, Zou learned how to paint, and spent months learning other embroidery techniques from an established embroiderer.

Now, she is able to proficiently apply various stitching techniques to different parts of her creations. Techniques to stitch a cat's eyeball, its hair and its tail are different.

"Su embroidery has very flexible stitching techniques. It varies based on the picture we make," says Zou, whose works are now widely collected by museums in China.

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