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Yue Embroidery

An Introduction to Yue Embroidery

Yue embroidery also called Guang embroidery. Yue embroidery is a general name for embroidery products of the regions of Guangzhou, Shantou, Zhongshan, Fanyu and Shunde in Guangdong Province. It is the oldest of the four most famous Chinese embroidery styles. Yue embroidery is sometimes called Cantonese embroidery because of its origins in the Guangdong province (the heart of Canton China).

Dating back several centuries, The designs produce ith this style are complicated and have a variety of stylistic accents to draw attention to the central subject. It is also a style marked by smooth embroidery, with very little of the three dimensional texturing found in other styles.  With bright colors and a variety of different threads used, Yue embroidery is perhaps the most eclectic of the four major Chinese embroidery styles, and it is still produced and widely available today.

According to historical records, the style developed and matured during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) more than 1,000 years ago, and is said to have originated from the work of an ethnic minority group in the Guangdong area. The style was quickly adopted by many artisans, having undergone many changes and refinements during the intervening years. There has also been supposition that Yue embroidery was developed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).  However, it is more likely that the style enjoyed resurgence in popularity during this period, since pieces produced in the Yue style have been found which predate the Ming Dynasty

Yue embroidery is best known for its ingenious design that integrates auspicious symbols and good wishes into embroidery works, and that draws on the merits of various art forms like painting and folk paper cutting etc. The Yue embroidery works collected in the Palace Museum are the most representative ones in the largest number.

Yue embroidered pieces can be done on silk or cotton. Early Chinese Yue artisans used peacock feathers, which had been twisted together as their thread, and this uniquely colorful material is still used as an accenting thread and as a way to blend separate objects in the design together.  Another unique thread used is made from the tail of the horse; this coarse material is used to stitch an outline to the piece, which invites the eye to linger on the patterns, colors, and objects, making up the main design.  This main design may be produced with either silk or cotton threads, and often features multiple objects or animals such as birds or dragons.  

Although Yue embroidery is smooth, Yue crafters sometimes use gold and silver thread to create a three dimensional impression in their designs. As Yue embroidery has developed, it has often borrowed stylistic elements from other Chinese embroidery styles. Yue embroidery can also be sub-categorized into the Guang and Chao styles. These two styles are considered a part of the Yue embroidery "family" and have their own distinct stitching techniques. 

The Yue embroidery style is rich and vibrant, and includes many different colors and patterns. It is one of the most eclectic of styles, and yet the works produced are intricate and unbelievably detailed. While older pieces are highly prized by collectors, modern Yue pieces add color and interest to any home. Yue embroidered pictures are mainly of dragons and phoenixes, and flowers and birds, with neat designs and strong, contrasting colors. Yue embroidery has been used in many different ways, in pieces ranging from bridal gowns to wall hangings. For example, floss, thread and gold-and-silk thread embroidery are used to produce costumes, decorations for halls and crafts for daily use.

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