Artwork: Miao Childen’s Shawl
Design No: CH1013
Embroidery Style: Tie Bu Xiu
Era: Late Qing Era (circa 1880)
Framed Dimensions:
985mm x 1170mm
Unframed Dimensions:
670mm x 790mm
Reference Material: Zhong Tao, Miao Xiu Miao Jin, p.55.

The Story behind the Artwork

The diversity of embroidery styles amongst the group of ethnic minorities classified under the single name of Miao is shown by this Black Miao work from Gong E village in Jianhe County, Guizhou. A base cloth of red silk has been overlaid with an appliqué of patterns cut from coloured bu (hand woven cotton). The appliqué in each case has been attached to the base cloth by means of a separate woven band of silk stitching. The stitching has been fastened to the edge to outline the design. The stitching of the woven band onto the base cloth gives a bamboo effect to the edge. The woven band would originally have been decorated with either bright gold or silver but over time this has faded.

The overall spiral design of this work represents the significant part played by water in the culture of the Black Miao. The markedly abstract motifs depicting two birdlike figures with owl heads and butterfly bodies are unusual and show a level of artistic interpretation and sophistication not always evident in works of this nature. The upper right and left of the work display animal-like motifs that appear to be a cross between water buffalo and elephants. All represent the Miao religious, spiritual and cultural philosophies as well as communicating their desires for good health and prosperity for the current and future generations.

This magnificent antique example of Black Miao embroidery, at least 130 years old, is definitely one of a kind. The effects of age add to the charm and history of this work and help us to marvel at the talents of the embroiderers of yesteryear.