“Zhijin Miao ‘Bird’s Eyes’ Pattern Baby Carrier”


Design No: CH1082 (B)
Embroidery Style: Shuo Bian Xiu
Era: Nationalist Republic Era (circa 1920)
Framed Dimensions:
490mm x 510mm

Reference Material: Yu Wei Ren, Zhong Guo Min Jian Mei Shu Yi Chan Pu Cha Ji Cheng: Gui Zhou Juan (Part One), p.100-1.

The Story behind the Artwork

Miao embroidery from Zhijin County, Guizhou, is unique in terms of its technique and use of colour. This work is an excellent example. A panel from a formal baby carrier, or bei shan, it was worn by the women of a Miao clan when celebrating festivals. A baby carrier of this quality was something every Miao mother felt obliged to possess, because of its significance in showing her love for her baby while at the same time protecting the baby from evil and bad luck.

The base cloth is handwoven calico, dyed red. The main decorative motifs embroidered on the base are two very powerful symbols: bird’s eyes and pomegranates. The pomegranate in Miao culture represents all things relating to human reproduction and the desire for future generations for the clan. The bird’s eyes serve as emblems for the whole bird. The bird is one of the oldest features of Miao spiritual life, and plays a key role in their ancient worship. The two songs ‘The God of Thunder and Jiangyang’ and ‘Dragon Daughter and Fish Man’ tell the tale of how the bird saves mankind. The artist when making this work used the bird to say that life goes on for eternity.

The pomegranates are outlined in green silk flat embroidery, edged in turn with white silk locked-edge embroidery. The bird’s eyes inside the centermost pomegranate are white locked-edge embroidery, while all the other bird’s eyes are gold locked-edge embroidery. Locked-edge stitch required the artist to keep extremely close control of her needle; the stitch is not only very laborious but demands a high level of skill. The colour combination is sophisticated and luxurious.

Very few pieces of such high quality and style have survived from Zhijin. This spectacular piece is a rare collector’s work.