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The Innovation of Master Huang Min's Shu Embroidery

Chongqing- Shu embroidery, also known as Sichuan embroidery, was a general name for the elaborate silk needlework. It ranks along with the embroideries of Jiangsu, Hunan, and Guangdong as one of China’s four most famous schools of embroidery. Shu embroidery is noted for its needlework techniques, with over 130 varieties in 12 categories. It’s also a national cultural heritage in Chongqing.  

Shu embroidery was originated in Sichuan. The ancient western Sichuan Plain was an area thriving in mulberry planting and silkworm-breeding. The embroidery business is quite flourishing among the folks in Sichuan. By the Western Han Dynasty over 2,000 years ago, when the Shu embroidery was listed as a tribute item to the royal family, it had formed a considerable scale and shown perfect craftsmanship.

To finish a piece of Shu embroidery, the designers need to supply a pattern draft, which is copied on the silks or satin. The embroidery craftsmen choose silk threads of different colors and the stitching techniques according to the pattern to be embroidered. The embroidery requires fine workmanship, and it takes several months or even years to finish an embroidery work. During such a long work time, the embroidery workers must always concentrate their attention on their work and be in a peaceful state of mind. Even a little carelessness will spoil the pattern and waste the previous efforts. 

Exquisite embroidery works by Huang Min

Exquisite embroidery works by Huang Min

Huang Min, who has devoted herself to Shu embroidery, is a representative inheritor of national intangible cultural heritage. She started to learn different kinds of basic stitches and different styles of Shu embroidery skills when she was only 18, and since then she began her 35-year embroidery career. Among all her masterpieces, the large-scale double-sided embroidery Panda in Jiuzhaigou was presented as a gift by the Sichuan Provincial Government to the Macao Special Administrative Region for celebrating the return of Macao.

Two-faces embroidery works by Huang Min

Two-faces embroidery works by Huang Min

Mrs.Huang said that for the completion of art in any form, the craftsman must own good eyesight and skillful hands. And above all, he/she must have artistic attainments and good appreciation. It is a kind of artistic creation to complete an embroidery article. And Huang herself has been pursuing this all her life.

Huang Min is creating Shu embroidery on a piece of Xia Bu

Huang Min is creating Shu embroidery on a piece of Xia Bu

When talking about the key for embroidering, “he/she must have his own thoughts ” was all she said. In fact, this is what Mrs. Huang has been after she uses her creativity to make a different Shu embroidery creation. She is the first person to use Xia Bu, a cultural heritage grasscloth fabric from the Ronchang District in Chongqing, and Shu embroidery to form a montage contrast of visual effect. And throughout her embroidery career, Mrs.Huang keeps encouraging her students to brings fancy inspiration from other fields back to Shu embroidery.

An abstract art works of Shu embroidery by Huang Min

An abstract artwork of Shu embroidery by Huang Min

As the inheritor of Shu embroidery culture, Mrs. Min believes that the development of intangible cultural heritage needs to absorb the components of other arts and civilizations, like architecture, graphic design, and domestic culture. “Due to the art education popularization, the younger generation has more and more new concept and thoughts about traditional culture. I have many students with modern perspectives when embroidering, although I don’t understand all of those ideas, I encourage them to turn their ideas into reality, and I think that’s the most important thing about the heritage of our glamorous culture and art.”

Huang Min is giving lecture to her students. It's also a way to inherit the Shu embroidery.

Huang Min’s Shu embroidery class.

(Intern Caro Fang also has contributed to this article.)

 

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