Embroidery is the traditional handicraft of Miao Hmong ethnic people. As the essential ornament of Miao costume, embroidery is used almost every part of Miao Hmong clothing. Miao Hmong embroidery has a long history inherit from generations to generations by Miao Hmong women.
A Legend about Miao Hmong Embroidery
There is a legend about Miao Hmong embroidery. It is said when Miao Hmong were migrating to south China driven by the tribe of Huang Di and Yan Di, a female leader named Lan juan used colorful threads to embroider on her clothes what Miao Hmong ancestors experienced as a way to record history since there were no written transcripts. When crossing the Yellow River, she embroidered with yellow threads, when crossing the Yangtze River, she embroidered with blue threads and when tramping over mountains, she also embroidered it to make a mark. She embroidered from the beginning of the immigrating till they finally settled and so her clothes were full of embroidery from collar to the bottom of her dress. Thereafter, as tradition when a Miao Hmong girl gets married, she will dress in her embroidered clothes to recall homeland and honor their brave and intelligent ancestors.
Diffident Miao Hmong tribes have their own distinctive embroidery styles, which is probably because they are geographically isolated. Miao embroidery is also very different from that of Han Chinese not only just in style and techniques, but for Han Chinese embroidery is treated more of a commodity whereas Miao Hmong embroidery is more of a tradition, diligent work and devoted heart of Miao Hmong women.
Embroidery—Part of Miao Women’s Life
At the age of 7, Miao girls start to learn embroidery under the guidance of their mothers and sisters. When they’re 15 or 16, they will be fully fledged. They start to embroider small and simple works and as they get more experienced they start to embroider their wedding dress. Their dreams about beautiful lives are expressed through colorful silk threads.
There is a saying among Miao Hmong tribe: “Compare human with human, flower with flower.” It means if you want to choose the best Miao Hmong girl, you need to compare not just their singing and dancing, but their embroidery skills as well. From this, we know how important embroidery is to Miao Hmong women.
Miao Hmong embroidery not only has artistic value but is also an important component of Miao Hmong culture. However, nowadays it faces great challenges with the impact of modernization as less and less young Miao Hmong women learn embroidery as they would work in cities and earn more money. We wish we could help them preserve their tradition and culture through this platform.
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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4 thoughts on “Miao Hmong Embroidery – Pictorial Record of History”
Very interesting. I am Hmong American. My mother taught me how to do cross stitch when I was 8 years old. It takes a lot of patience and hard work to finish an outfit. It is also back-breaking work because you’re sitting for hours with your back bent over your cloth. I admire those who have the talent and patience.
Hello MiaoBao, nice in having you to share with us your first hand experience. Yes, it is really hard work. Cross stitch is just one of so many different stitches for Hmong embroidery. Hmong women are not just gifted and talented, they work very hard as well. The finished ones are beautiful and stunning and make you excited, aren’t they?
I’m Hmong American too. I’ve spent plenty of times as a kid watching my mom and grandmothers working on their embroidery, wondering what they’re doing. It was only 2-3 years ago that I decided to take up embroidery myself. I tell you that it’s not easy being self-taught.
Nice to hear that you took up embroidery yourself. It’s not easy at the beginning, especially self-taught, as it requires skilled techniques and great patience,but that’s just why it is amazing and precious,isn’t it? Hope you could insist on and never give up. Best wishes for you!