Embroidery of Miao Ethnic Group

The Miao embroidery with skillful needlework

Embroidery refers to a kind of traditional handicraft, which weave figures on fabric with a needle threaded by colorful string. Embroidery skills are commonly used in Miao people’s life. From teenage girls to old women graying at the temples, almost every woman is good at embroidering. The clothes, trousers, skirts, shoes, hats, socks, scarves, handkerchiefs and belts of their rich dress, and even common dress and articles for daily use are embroidered with elegant figures and designs. 

The Miao embroidery has very long history and lasts a long stream. Historical records after the Tang Dynasty have many descriptions about it. It was accomplished by Miao women with joint efforts in a long time and passed on by generations. It has very high artistic value and is a very important component not only for the Miao culture, but also for the Chinese national culture. The Miao embroidery has very strong national style and local character. There are different ways of embroidering, and commonly used ways are: flat embroidery, plaited embroidery, knit embroidery, wound embroidery, crape embroidery, stitching embroidery, stretching embroidery, rolling embroidery, embroidery with split thread and sticking embroidery. Flat embroidery is the most commonly used methods. It is to embroider with two needles together. It’s simple, ingenious and flat, which is suitable for embroidering small figures; plaited embroidery is to plait 8-12 colorful silk threads into a “braid”, and circle and sew it around on cloth. Knit embroidery is to insert needle in the cloth, round thread on the needle and take out the needle; stitching embroidery is to stitch regularly all kinds of geometric figures and deformed flowers, birds, butterflies, etc. The structure should be balanced and symmetric according to the latitude and longitude lines of the cloth. Sticking embroidery is to dip such materials as silks and satins into all shapes of little pieces, join the pieces together into designs and figures on cloth, and lock-stitch the border. This kind of embroidery is rough and tasteful, and is often used on big designs and figures; crape embroidery is complicated. The first step is to plait colorful silk threads into braid like plaited embroidery, and the braid is contracted organically into figures according to the structure. Embroidery with split thread is to split thread, which is already very subtle, into several plies, and thread a needle with it to embroider all kinds of designs. This makes the designs more delicate, fine and smooth. The Miao embroidery usually use paper-cut as the base shape, and some are also embroidered spontaneously. The shapes, colors and structures are elaborately designed beforehand. Figures like unicorn, dragon, phoenix, and fish, frog, bird, butterfly, geometric figures and plant figures, which are familiar in daily life, are adopted.

One of the characters of the Miao embroidery is that its color is rich and sprightly which makes people feel bright, clear and passionate. Red and green are main colors in the Miao embroidery and they are supplemented by other colors. The designs are dense which makes the colors more gorgeous, rich and splendid. Another character is that the shapes and lines are exaggerated and vivid. Figures of the Miao embroidery come from daily life, but they don’t simply reflect life. It is on the basis of careful observation and experience by the Miao women to images of flowers, birds, worms, and fish. Through artistic abstraction, it is bravely exaggerated and deformed which expresses the aesthetic feeling and ideal of the creators. For example, the fish with round head, fat body, small mouth and big eyes is very vivid and lovely; the third character is that the shapes are symmetric and harmonious, and the patterns are natural. Dragon, phoenix, flower, grass, worm, fish, etc should all be symmetrically arranged, especially in stitching embroidery; the forth character is that different patterns of images are put together freely, which is full of temperament and interest. The Miao embroidery is not bound by natural images, time and space, and it pays much attention to the expression of temperament and interest. Every picture is poured out completely by creators’ imagination and affection. Blossom of peach, plum and chrysanthemum can exist together and animals in the world can live together, which is full of heavy local color and strong artistic appeal.

In additional to embroidery, the wax printing of the Miaos is also very famous and enjoys good fame worldwide.