“Qianxi Little Flower Miao ‘Sun’ Style Baby Carrier”


Design No: CH1067
Embroidery Style: Geng Bian Xiu
Era: Late Qing Era (circa 1910)
Framed Dimensions: 595mm x 1190mm

Reference Material: Yang Zheng Wen, Miao Zu Fu Shi Wen Hua, p.30.

The Story behind the Artwork

Chinese scholars until the middle of last century spoke about Miao subgroup they called ‘Flower’ Miao. The subgroup now has been reclassified into two distinct subgroups: Big Flower Miao and Little Flower Miao. The two subgroups are known in this way because they both use flower motifs vary widely in their embroidery.

Little Flower Miao from Qianxi county, Guizhou province, have a particularly distinctive style. This baby carrier shows the style beautifully.

The top section of this piece, together with the three chief panels of the lower section, are interposed with three multi-layered bands in red, white, black and a little blue, all made from vegetable dyes. The embroidery of the bands was demanding, labour intensive and highly time consuming. Also, the task required the artist to keep extremely close control of the stitch. The three panels dyed red, white and black are decorated with big bold suns. The big suns are highlighted by the use of red shading into pink, to stress the powerful energy of the sun as the source of life for the Miao. One of the goals of the artist was to do her very best to fill those suns with vitality. Swirling clouds, smaller suns and the ‘five-petal’ flower surround the big suns, all arranged in a formally balanced way.

The sun was worshipped by the Miao. The sun pattern when used by Miao artists, as in this garment, is a record and symbol of the migration history of the nationality. Miao believe that their ancestors followed the track of the setting sun, travelling westwards, and told the story in the ancient song ‘Climbing the Mountains, Crossing the Rivers’. The song says ‘ten thousand mountains in the west, the peak of those mountains brush heaven, and by climbing those mountains and going beyond one will find a good life’.

The stitching technique used for the suns, clouds and flowers is called geng, which can only be done by very skilled craftswomen capable of holding a very steady needle. This piece uses thicker, rather than thinner, geng. The advantage of the thicker technique is that it creates good texture.

The artistic quality of this piece is highly imaginative and abstract, with a powerful impact on the eye. The garment was treasured by one family through several generations, as we can see by its faded yet still rich colour.