Artwork: Geyi Miao Baby Carrier
Design No: CH1064
Embroidery Style: Da Zi Xiu
Era: Nationalist Republic Era (circa 1940)
Framed Dimensions:
710mm x 1090mm
Reference Material: Yang Zheng Wen, Miao Zu Fu Shi Wen Hua, p.51, 85, 180, 190, 199.

The Story behind the Artwork

Geyi call themselves ‘Mu Miao’, or Wood Miao. They dwell in the villages of Kaitang, Wengxiang and Panghai in Taijiang County. They speak the northern dialect of the Middle Miao and their clothes belong to the style known as Qingshuijiang. Two specialist techniques are a hallmark of the style. One is what they call ‘piling’, a method of folded silk appliqué. The other is what they call ‘seed pressing’, a two-needle stitch with gimp thread. Seed pressing is a very special and highly laborious technique in which a core thread of silk is tied by one end to a stick and by the other end to a weight, after which another silk thread is tied onto the core thread and twisted into it while unwinding. Knots are made by a double twist of thread around the needle. The technique, while laborious, is believed to be well worthwhile for it yields very strong embroidery that will last many years.

This work is a fine classic piece in the style. Water clouds, river grasses floating on the surface of water, together with the leaves of the ‘white fruit tree’, all shown in bands, are scrolled or otherwise patterned by French knots outlined with white couched silk gimp. The gimp is made from twelve threads. Two pairs of birds are centred in the middle of the upper panel. The bird pattern is very special to the style, embroidered in French knots outlined with couched silk gimp but with a light touch in a ‘hollow’ way, using only a few lines of stitching. The opening wings of the birds are portrayed highly stylistically as four feathers, held aloft heraldically. Applied ribbon and braids divide each band. 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 colours used in the style are always green and bright red, together with white gimping. The red symbolises flowers and the green symbolises leaves. The colours of this beautiful old work have now faded with the years, lending it a calm quality. An elegant, finely worked piece, this is a rare example of the style from the period.