“Guiding Little Flower Miao Women’s Formal Jacket Sleeve”


Design No: CH1132 (A)
Embroidery Style: Shu Sha Xiu, Po Xian Xiu, Jiao Xiu
Era: Nationalist Republic Era (circa 1930)
Framed Dimensions:
570mm x 720mm

Reference Material: Yu Wei Ren, Zhong Guo Min Jian Mei Shu Yi Chan Pu Cha Ji Cheng: Gui Zhou Juan (Part One), p.99.

The Story behind the Artwork

The Miao are four quite distinct nationalities, each with its own language and history. The Miao from Guiding County, Guizhou, call themselves ‘Meng’. Officials of the Qing dynasty chose to call them ‘West Miao‘, ‘West Home’, ‘Lao Xiguai’, ‘Zai Jiang Miao’ and ‘Flower Miao’. The Guiding Miao so far have kept their own culture, language and style of dress in spite of the growing weight and power of the surrounding Han culture. Miao religious heritage is polytheistic, with many gods and demi-gods. Magic is important both in their daily life and the decoration of their clothing.

The clothing style of the Guiding Miao has been classified by academics as the ‘Lubou River’ style, vivid and fresh, featuring the use of multiple techniques of embroidery. A few of those techniques are cross-stitch, half-cross-stitch, satin stitch, French knot and appliqué.

This jacket sleeve from a Guiding Miao women’s formal jacket is of exceptional quality. A striking feature is the central blank oblong, which suggests a core to the work that is bold yet peaceful. Gorgeous depictions of flowers, plants and butterflies, representing the beliefs and agricultural lifestyle of the Guiding Miao, fill much of the rest of the work. The butterflies, which are abstract, precise and strikingly elegant, embody the Butterfly Mother, the goddess at the basis of the creation story of the Miao.

The whole piece is a feast for the eye. Also its rich colour palette, superb skill and imaginative interpretation of ancient motifs are meant to convey religious, magical, tribal and personal meaning. It is unusual to find a work of this quality which epitomizes not only the traditions of Miao embroidery but also the very accomplished skills of a consummate craftswoman and artist.