Miao Embroidery

Miao Embroidery

Miao embroidery is peculiar to the Miao ethnic group inhabiting Southwest China's Guizhou Province. Leishan County, Guiyang City, and Jianhe County are the three regions known for their extraordinary Miao embroidery. But the design and craftwork of embroidery in these regions are different.

Leishan Miao embroidery

With 83.6 percent of its total population being comprised of the Miao ethnic group, Leishan County in southeast Guizhou Province is one of the major Miao-inhabited areas. The traditional Miao attire, featuring fine embroidery and silver adornments has been passed down well into today in Leishan.

There are different ways of embroidering in Leishan. Two-needle embroidery is the one most commonly used. It is to embroider using two needles together. Another one commonly used is 'plaited' embroidery, which is to plait 8-12 colorful silk threads into a "braid", and sew it through the cloth. Leishan people make bold and expressive embroidered motifs through symbolism, metaphor, and exaggeration.

Huaxi Tiaohua (Huaxi cross-stitch work)

Tiaohua is based on cross-stitching. Huaxi Tiaohua was developed by Huaxi Miao, one of the four branches of the Miao ethnic group. The remaining three branches are the Yisha Miao, Qiaogang Miao and Shidong Miao. The Huaxi Miao-inhabiting Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province, is known for cross-stitch work.

Originally Huaxi cross-stitch work featured single texture and silver color. But in the late 1960s, it became rich in texture and bright in color, and a variety of patterns were gradually developed. The frequently used patterns of Huaxi cross-stitch work are animals, plants, snowflakes, copper drums, lanterns, the sun, rivers, pavilions, and bridges. Being without written languages, the Huaxi Miao people found embroidered motifs a convenient vehicle to carry their folktales, store their history and honor their ancestors. Huaxi cross-stitch work has also become a unique embroidered ornament for these Miao.

Jianhe tin embroidery

The tin embroidery in Jianhe County has a history of over five hundred years. This technique is very time consuming and hard to master. Silver-colored tin threads are embroidered onto navy blue cloth, and black, red, blue, and green silk threads are embroidered into colorful flowers. The bright tin embroidery matches well with the silver ornaments of Miao girls.

Miao embroidery is artistically pleasing but the number of Miao embroidery masters has been decreasing as less young people wear their traditional costumes. Faced with the dilemma of dying out, Miao embroidery can be secured and passed down to successive generations only when more measures are taken to protect this technique.