Shanxi folk embroidery

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Updated: 2012-03-12

Shanxi’s folk embroidery is known for its unique art, simple patterns, colors, compositions, and diverse, delicate needlework. The embroidery is mainly done by rural women and is most represented by the work in Xinzhou, in northern Shanxi, and in the southern part.

Xinzhou embroidery

Embroidery is very popular with the people in Xinzhou. The work of Daixian county is known for its elaborate, elegant design, that of Wutai county has been praised for being both pretty and dignified, while that of Xinzhou, Dingxiang and Yuanping is known for its simplicity and prettiness.

Xinzhou embroidery is largely used for clothing, daily use articles, and sacrificial items.

Southern Shanxi embroidery

In southern Shanxi rural areas, articles for daily use, garments and caps are often decorated with embroideries. They include clothes neckbands, wristbands, skirt brims, shawls, caps, shoes, quilts, pillows, wedding curtains, funeral curtains, table circles, and chair cushions, decorated with diversified embroidery patterns.

In southern Shanxi, embroidery is very popular in Linyi, Wanrong, Xiangfen, Hongdong, and Jixian counties and in the cities of Linfen and Yuncheng. In these areas the patterns mostly have a theme with folk subjects, such as a peacock showing its tail, magpie on a plum tree, a pine tree and crane for longevity, two dragons playing with a pearl, or a phoenix amid peonies. Other popular elements are melons and other fruit, vegetables, fowl, beasts, landscapes, pavilions, terraces, and towers.

The embroidery here is mainly done by ordinary rural women and the traditional skills are handed down from one generation to another, or taught to one another. Girls here being learning the embroidery methods in childhood, and are influenced by family members. As they grow, embroidery becomes an important part of their life and they keep obtaining experience and skills through practice and, under the guidance of their elders, create their own patterns and contribute to the unique southern style of embroidery.

The folk artisans here are good at applying diverse techniques to express themes, so their work may be realistic, romantic or exaggerated in infinitely decorative ways with local features.

Southern Shanxi folk embroidery also has different kinds of vivid expression in a wide range. The flower hats for children are one such example and are designed for different ages of children and for different seasons. They have charm, brilliant colors, and exquisite needlework. Some even have floppy ears, eyes, or a tongue on them, making the hat an amazing piece of folk handiwork.

Southern Shanxi embroidery has a long history, rich local features, and precise composition that displays both national style and regional characteristics.