Revival of ancient Su embroidery craft gains momentum in Jiading

A live lecture on Su embroidery, an intangible cultural heritage project in Jiading, was presented on March 5 by the district’s leading representative of ancient craftsmanship.

Speaker Chen Bixian explained the production processes involved in Su embroidery, introducing the heritage and protection of sewing craftsmanship in Jiading, and sharing her stories about it.

Coming from a family of embroiderers, Chen has studied Su craftsmanship since childhood. Although born in the 1990s, Chen has been dedicated to this traditional craft industry for over 20 years.

As a native resident of Jiading, some of her inspirations came from the Qiuxia Garden and the paintings created by Lu Yanshao (1909-1993), a Chinese art master born and raised in Jiading.

Ye Danlei / Ti Gong

Chen Bixian, heiress of Su embroidery, weaves using the fine silk and gold thread tapestry method known as kesi.

While learning Su embroidery, Chen also visited renowned masters of kesiChinese silk tapestry, to learn the craft and never stop exploring and innovating to “design” the embroidery and create unique techniques.

One of his favorites is the sparrow, an ink and water-painting style embroidery from Jiading. Chen first split the embroidery floss, then applied blank space, coke ink, and deep or light color shades commonly seen in traditional ink and ink paintings to the product. the water.

Revival of ancient Su embroidery craft gains momentum in Jiading

Ye Danlei / Ti Gong

One of Chen’s favorites is the sparrow, an ink and water-painting style embroidery from Jiading.

It takes a long time to grasp the skills of Su embroidery, including the practice of sewing and the cultivation of artistic aesthetics. Even if the embroiderer masters the trade well, it takes months or even years to embroider a complete work. As a result, embroiderers must achieve high levels of skill and patience.

“After the emergence of modern machines, fewer people, especially young people, are willing to engage in this time-consuming and laborious work. The average age of embroiderers in many workshops is over 70,” said Chen said worriedly.

“Jiading has Gu embroidery, woolen embroidery and old-fashioned cotton embroidery, but no Su embroidery. If we don’t inherit it, there will be no Su embroidery in Jiading.”

Invested in a desire to revive Su embroidery, Chen devoted himself to promoting it not only in Jiading, but also to launching handicraft courses at universities such as Donghua and Shanghai Jiao Tong in Shanghai. She also held exhibitions for many years at Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai Library and Maple Ink Museum of Art.

In addition, it cooperates with brands such as Mercedes-Benz to design and embroider auxiliary products. His works have been exhibited at the China International Import Expo and sent overseas as a national gift.

“Many people think that Su embroidery products are expensive, but in fact, that’s not true,” Chen said. “To bring Su embroidery to life, we combine embroidery technique with daily necessities to make practical products such as fans, wallets, handkerchiefs, mirrors and masks which are deeply loved by young people.”

Among Chen’s students, in addition to professional embroiderers who wish to become his apprentice, there are many amateurs who are attracted to embroidery. Even some young white-collar workers were introduced to the craft by psychotherapists as a way to relieve pressure by making embroidery products. Chen also teaches Su embroidery techniques to groups of unemployed and disabled people throughout the city so that they can master a craft to earn a living.

Revival of ancient Su embroidery craft gains momentum in Jiading

Ye Danlei / Ti Gong

Revival of ancient Su embroidery craft gains momentum in Jiading

Ye Danlei / Ti Gong

Silk fabrics made by Chen and his students.

“Some special children are color sensitive. They have a tender heart and are ready to take up embroidery. They may have a different world in their eyes than ours, but you can see their talents through the embroidered pieces. “, Chen said.

Besides teaching offline, she also introduced Su embroidery to the live broadcast studio and attracted a large number of embroidery enthusiasts.

In November 2021, the Su embroidery technique applied by Chen was listed in the 11th batch of Jiading Intangible Cultural Heritage Products. She decided to make the protection and promotion of Su embroidery her life’s career.

She is currently planning activities to introduce Su embroidery to communities and plans to cooperate with schools to set up lectures and experience classes.

“It’s a pleasure to see my work recognized, but I know it’s only a small step and I still have work to do. I will inherit Su’s embroidery techniques with admiration and the spirit of the ‘handicrafts,’ Chen said.

Revival of ancient Su embroidery craft gains momentum in Jiading

Ye Danlei / Ti Gong

Su embroidery is making a comeback

With a history of over 2,500 years, Su Embroidery is famous for its lovely design, harmonious colors, crisp lines, vivid needlework and fine workmanship.

Originating in the city of Suzhou in the neighboring province of Jiangsu, this art became popular along the Yangtze River Delta region.

During the Three Kingdoms period (AD220-280), Sun Quan (AD182-252), founder of the state of Wu, once ordered Prime Minister Zhao Da’s sister to embroider an atlas map that would be “a brocade with all states.”

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Yangtze River Delta region became the center of the silk weaving industry where Su embroidery, also called needle-drawn painting, became popular.

Jiading has retained the traditional craft of Su embroidery and formed a unique style of ink painting under the influence of paintings by Lu Yanshao, a renowned artist from Jiading.

In addition to making their embroidery, the heirs of Su craftsmanship initiate various charitable activities, aimed at displaying the folk art of Jiading and developing the culture of Jiangnan (regions south of the lower Yangtze River).