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Cultural Heritage / Trip Ideas

Chinese embroidery: 4 styles you should know

By Minjun Xu

August 12

Chinese embroidery, with a history dating back to the Neolithic Era, has become world-famous since the opening of the Silk Road during the Han Dynasty. Here are the most famous styles.

Chinese embroidery, with a history dating back to the Neolithic Era, has become world-famous since the opening of the Silk Road during the Han Dynasty. Here are the most famous styles.

Do you know the difference between Suzhou embroidery (Su Xiu 苏绣), Hunan embroidery (Xiang Xiu 湘绣), Sichuan embroidery (Shu Xiu 蜀绣), and Guangdong embroidery (Yue Xiu 粤绣) — the most renowned styles of Chinese embroidery?

Chinese embroidery, with a history dating back to the Neolithic Era, has become world-famous since the opening of the Silk Road during the Han Dynasty. Here are the most famous styles.

1. Su Xiu 苏绣

Su Xiu [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Wang Jiankang]
Su Xiu [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Wang Jiankang]
Su Xiu is popular in areas around Suzhou, Jiangsu. With its long history of more than 2000 years, it has heavily influenced both Xiang Xiu and Shu Xiu. Crowned “Top of the Four Renowned Embroidery Styles” by collectors, Su Xiu features skillful, refined stitches, and elegant coloration.

Tips: Don’t forget to buy Su Xiu costumes and handkerchiefs during your trip to Suzhou.

2. Xiang Xiu 湘绣

Xiang Xiu [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/He Dongping]
Xiang Xiu [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/He Dongping]
Xiang Xiu, also known as Hunan embroidery, is crafted in areas around Changsha, Hunan. Taking traditional Chinese paintings as the primary inspiration, Xiang Xiu usually uses wool as a main material and emphasizes the contrast of light and shade, thus producing a three-dimensional effect.

Tips: Ancient Xiang Xiu crafts have been unearthed in Mawangdui (长沙马王堆汉墓). If interested, go and visit the Hunan Provincial Museum.

3. Shu Xiu 蜀绣

Shu Xiu [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhou Hui]
Shu Xiu [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhou Hui]
Shu Xiu, also called Chuan Xiu, originates from areas around Chengdu, Sichuan. Shu Xiu emphasizes even stitching, delicate coloration and local flavor. Together with Shu tapestry (蜀锦), Shu Xiu is considered precious treasure of Sichuan.

Tips: Nowadays, Shu Xiu is mostly found on quilt covers, pillow cases, and Cheongsams. A nice cheongsam with refined Shu Xiu stitches can be a good souvenir from China.

4. Yue Xiu 粤绣

Yue Xiu [Image Credit: Southcn.com]
Yue Xiu [Image Credit: Southcn.com]
Yue Xiu, crafted in areas around Chaozhou and Guangzhou, consists of two branches: Chao Xiu (潮绣) and Guang Xiu (广绣). Yue Xiu features primary colors and subtle shading. Since many Yue Xiu artisans were originally men, early Yue Xiu crafts in were less delicate compared to the other three embroidery styles.

Tips: The Palace Museum in Beijing boast the largest Yue Xiu collection.

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