Suzhou or Su embroidery is one of the oldest embroidery techniques in the world, with origins stretching back more than 2,000 years. 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.
There are records of detailed embroidered pieces being produced in the Suzhou area around 200 BC, and of embroidered silk being used as maps in the second and third century AD. But it was during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) that the Suzhou style became prominent. With finely spun silk thread embroiders from the Suzhou area were able to create images that were said to have rivaled nature, and it became very stylish to have Suzhou embroidery in the home. Embroidery spread to other provinces throughout China, and soon embroiderers all over the country were working were working in the Suzhou style. Although other techniques of Chinese embroidery have appeared over the years, it is the Suzhou style that has set the standard for other styles.
Suzhou embroidery consists of very detailed representations of almost any subject embroidered onto fine silk with silk thread. One of the distinctive features of Suzhou embroidery is that some pieces two-sided; 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 has been used in 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.
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.
- Chen Tao -
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