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Cultural Heritage / Trip Ideas

Beijing embroidery: an imperial needle art

By Weiwei Guan, Luyang Wang

November 27

Beijing Embroidery, also known as Imperial Embroidery, was used only on imperial robes during the Ming and Qing dynasties. With more than 1,000 years of history, Beijing Embroidery is known as one of the eight exquisite handicrafts of Beijing.

Beijing Embroidery, also known as Imperial Embroidery, was used only on imperial robes during the Ming and Qing dynasties. With more than 1,000 years of history, Beijing Embroidery is known as one of the eight exquisite handicrafts of Beijing.


In the past, you could only find Beijing embroidery in the imperial palace during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1636-1912) dynasties. Now, its artworks can be seen in ordinary Chinese households.

Known as one of the eight exquisite handicrafts of Beijing, Beijing embroidery has a history of more than1,000 years.

67-year old Liu Xiuhua is an inheritor of Beijing embroidery. She started to learn the craft from her father in law at the age of 22. Liu’s father in law, Ning Guoxi, was a master of Beijing embroidery. His teacher used to embroider dragon robes for the emperor at a workshop then called “Zao ban chu” in the Qing dynasty.

67-year old Liu Xiuhua is an inheritor of Beijing embroidery. [Photo: China.org.cn]
A great artwork always takes time and patience. “It takes at least three years to fully learn the secrets of Beijing embroidery”, Liu said.

If different people were told to embroider a piece with the same elements, each person’s would always look different. Patterns on a well-made piece should look alive. “Beijing embroidery is dignified and generous, not garish”, Liu said, “Matching colors is another technical secret of Beijing embroidery”.The stitching methods of Beijing embroidery include Pingrong, Kirin, Grain, Lasuo and Bajin. Bajin stitches are hardly seen these days, since the stitching methods are usually kept in the artists’ mind without any written record.

Liu Xiuhua teaches her students about Beijing embroidery. [Photo: China.org.cn]
“Beijing embroidery is one of the quintessential parts of Chinese culture. It will be my fault if I fail to hand the craft down. Now I’m teaching you in the hopes that you can do as I did.” Liu Xiuhua has always kept her teacher’s will in mind. Until now, she has taught over one hundred students.

In 2014, Beijing embroidery was listed as an item of China’s national intangible cultural heritage.

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