embroidery is considered one of the four great embroidery
styles of China, and has been practiced in that country for
hundreds of years. The
Xiang embroidery style originated in the Hunan province of
China, where examples of embroidery have been found which
date back more than 2,300 years.
Embroidery in the Hunan province has developed
extensively in the intervening centuries, and Xiang
embroidery is a recent product of this development, and
borrows influences from other Chinese embroidery styles. While
other styles strive for perfection in their craftsmanship,
Xiang embroidery is far more akin to folk art with its loose
threads and rich colors. Xiang embroidery is still produced today, and is popular
throughout China and around the world.
of Xiang embroidery starts in the Chu Kingdom, around the
third century B.C. Excavations
of archaeological sites dating back to this period have
discovered examples of embroidery produced in the Hunan
province which use fine silk and multiple colors.
However, the Xiang embroidery style that is most
familiar to modern audiences developed during the Qing
dynasty (1644-1911). Because
of its relatively late introduction, Xiang embroidery has
enjoyed the benefits of being able to borrow stylistic
elements from the older Su and Yue embroidery styles. But despite this cross pollination of styles, Xiang
embroidery embodies many unique characteristics that mark it
a style all on its own.
embroidery is done on transparent chiffon silk.
The silk threads are dyed and then soaked in water
containing pod nuts – the oil in these nuts tends to make
the thread soft and easy to work with.
There are several distinct needling techniques used,
and their lack of precision is by design – the random or
uneven nature of this needling means that colors and
textures are often mixed together with great effect.
The most famous examples of Xiang embroidery use
tigers as their subject. Birds, landscape scenes, and people
can also be used as subjects – one of the characteristics
of Xiang embroidery is that animals and people seem to be
alive, thanks to the vibrant colors and often almost three
dimensional effect created by the thick knots and stitching.
Xiang embroidery pieces are often two sided, with
different patterns or images on each side of the transparent
embroidery has earned a place amongst its fellow styles as
one of four the great Chinese embroidery styles.
By using elements of ancient Hunan embroidery, the Su
embroidery developed around 1,000 A.D., and Yue embroidery
developed in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), Xiang
embroidery makes figures and colors come alive with vibrant
textures and craftsmanship.
Examples of Xiang embroidery are still popular today,
and can be used practically as clothing, pillow cases, and
sheets or as art pieces in and of themselves.