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Su Embroidery

An Introduction to Su Embroidery

Suzhou or Su embroidery is one of the oldest embroidery techniques in the world. With a history of more than 3,000 years, Su embroidery is the general name for embroidery products in areas around Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, the place with green mountains, clean and clear water, mild climate, and smart people. Suzhou is born in the beautiful and graceful heaven of the world. For it is rich at silk, the female born in the place is all clever at embroidery as a traditional culture. Su embroidery forms its own pretty picture, rich colors, smooth line, and exquisite handicraft in the past thousands of years. So there is another graceful name for Su embroidery--- the Eastern Bright Pearl.

The craft, which dates back to the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), became a sideline of people in the Suzhou area during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Well known for its smoothness and delicateness, Su embroidery won Suzhou the title City of Embroidery in the Qing Dynasty. In the mid and late Qing, Su embroidery experienced further developments involving works of double-sided embroidering. There were 65 embroidery stores in Suzhou City. During the Republic of China period (1912-1949), the Su embroidery industry was in decline due to frequent wars and it was restored and regenerated after the founding of new China. In 1950, the central government set up research centers for Su embroidery and launched training courses for the study of embroidery. Weaving methods have climbed from 18 to the present 40

Suzhou embroidery was one of the first embroidery styles to be developed in China, but its detailed needlework and intricate images are still produced today.  It is a style characterized by brightly colored silk embroidered with well-proportioned and uncluttered representations of almost any pastoral scene, person, animal, or object. Examples of Suzhou embroidery were so detailed and intricate that many people used the pieces as artwork, and some of the oldest pieces still in existence date back hundreds of years.

Su embroidery features a strong, folk flavor and its weaving techniques are characterized by the following: the product surface must be flat, the rim must be neat, the needle must be thin, the lines must be dense, the color must be harmonious and bright and the picture must be even.

Double-sided embroidery is an excellent representative of Su embroidery, that is, the picture is repeated on both sides of the embroidered piece. The stitching on Suzhou embroidered pieces is done with silk threads that have been divided until the actual thread is almost impossible to see.  Through the repetition of stitches a very dense embroidering occurs.

Suzhou embroidery products fall into three major categories: costumes, decorations for halls and crafts for daily use, which integrate decorative and practical values, like clothing, wall hangings, and even intricate book covers dating back almost 1,000 years. 

Suzhou embroidery as a technique has continued to grow and develop.  In the years since its first appearance, many crafting schools have taught the technique, and an entire industry has developed to produce Suzhou embroidery pieces for sale both in China and on world markets.  However, Suzhou embroidery is not just a commercial enterprise; master Suzhou embroiderers have practiced their craft for hundreds of years, creating some of the most detailed and beautiful pieces.

Su Embroidery is ranked as the top of the four famous Chinese embroidery styles. Su Embroidery is famous for its vivid presentation in which the landscape is in perspective, pavilions and towers are exactly the same as their real counterparts, figures show facial expression and birds and flowers are lifelike. The best embroidery works overshadow paintings.

Whether you buy a Suzhou embroidered piece made recently or search for a piece with more history, Suzhou embroidery remains one of the world's finest techniques. Many people around the world are now discovering the beauty and artistry inherent in these pieces, and it seems clear that the market for Suzhou embroidery will remain strong for years to come.    

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