Shu Brocade: the Art of Stitching

Authors: Go Chengdu


Chengdu, reputed as the “Land of Abundance,” has a history of more than 2,000 years of hand-woven brocade craft.

The Shu Brocade weaving industry reached its peak during the Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279), and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties, with more designs, patterns, and colors used.
The Tang Dynasty witnessed the most prosperous period of the Shu Brocade production. The Shu Brocade handicrafts not only were luxurious articles possessed by royal family and nobles, but also became an important trading item for the exchange between the East and the West connected by the Silk Road.
The Shu Brocade of the Tang Dynasty represented the top level of ancient Chinese handcrafted silk.

The Shu Brocade features luxuriant appearance, bright color, elegant pattern and propitious design imbued with rich folklore and regional characteristics. In the Tang Dynasty, it had various patterns such as tartan, lotus, tortoise shell, beads and beasts. In the later years of the dynasty, the patterns became more diversified.

The motifs on weft-patterned Shu Brocade include lanterns, balls, lion, lark, crane, peacock, and different kinds of flowers. Typical patterns are Crane and Pine Trees, Phoenix Worshiped Birds, A Bumper Harvest, Magpie and Plum Blossoms, and Phoenix and Peony, which all have auspicious meanings.

The Shu Brocade works have a wide range of ornamental and practical applications, such as garments, quilts, pillowcases, screens, scrolls, articles of clothing, ladies' shoes, and a host of other articles of both practical and artistic use, such as tapestries. It has also become an integral part of the ornament of women in the ethnic groups of southwestern China.

To learn more about the art and history of the Shu Brocade, you can visit the Chengdu Shu Brocade and Embroidery Museum, No.2 East Caotang Road, Chengdu.
Tel: 028-87383078. The museum also showcases looms and symbolic works in a space covering a total area of over 2, 000 square meters. The precious exhibits there include some royal robes with dragon patterns. Shu Brocade handicrafts and embroidery works by modern artists are available in the museum.
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