When French Embroidery Meets Han Embroidery
Han embroidery is a popular genre of embroidery in Jianghan Plain, Central China’s Hubei Province, which was once a territory of the ancient Chu State, and the origin of Han embroidery stretches back over 2500 years. Qu Yuan, the great romantic poet and politician in his time once depicted in his famous poem “Summons of the Soul” (Zhao Hun) in VersesofChu(Chu
Ci) that, “As if decorated with emeralds and jewelry, the ( Han) embroidery on the quilt make it a brilliant craftwork” and “In the (Han) embroidery garments, the beauty looks full of elegance and nobility.” Simple as the statement may be, it best voiced out the prosperity of Han embroidery in ancient China. At present, Han embroidery is turning a new page in its international exchange developments, serving as an important tool for telling Chinese stories.
Wang Ziyi, an inheritor of this cultural heritage, is one of the contemporary masters of Han embroidery in Wuhan. She grew up in an embroiderer’s family. When she was young, Wang Ziyi followed in her parents’ footsteps, studying Xiang embroidery ( embroidering art of Hunan Province, Central China) and Su embroidery (embroidering art of Jiangsu Province, Eastern China), but in the 1980s, she switched to Han embroidery. Wang Ziyi has accomplished many fine pieces, and her works from her 30 years of embroidering are of both great artistic and aesthetic value.
In June 2018, a French visitor, eager to see Chinese Han embroidery with her own eyes, flew from Lyon to Wuhan to visit the craftsmen of Han embroidery. Marylene Eyral, now an haute couture designer of Chanel, was born in an embroiderer’s family and grew up in Lyon, the Silk City of Europe. Her mother is an embroidery artist, and her father is a silk craftsman. Eyral learned a lot from her mother and naturally became an excellent embroiderer. She also developed a unique understanding of the art. Since she became a Chanel
designer, Eyral has been addicted to the exploration of beauty with silk and the charming feminine secrets of the embroidery works, which provided inspiration for her designs and innovations.
One day Eyral happened to come upon several pieces of works of Han embroidery online, which fascinated her a lot. She immediately put down her work and decided to fly to Wuhan, China, the city where Han embroidery was born and is now experiencing its renaissance. All of what she hoped was to find and see a top master of authentic Han embroidery. With the help of local governments, Eyral finally met with Wang Ziyi, one of the inheritors of Han embroidery. She was then invited to Wang Ziyi’s home and lived with her there. Soon Wang Ziyi introduced works of Han embroidery to Eyral and shared with her the experience of practicing Han embroidery.
As artists, they have something in common in the field of embroidery despite their language barrier. The aesthetic concepts of Han embroidery and French embroidery are quite similar. Both styles emphasize the romantic element and decorative function. In addition, the two different styles often have parallels in design, modeling, stitching, and materials. While discussing the differences between French embroidery and Han embroidery, Wang Ziyi showed Eyral the characteristic stitching skills of Han embroidery, which were quickly understood by Eyral. Eyral also mentioned that the ancient Chinese Silk Road brought silk materials and products to France, and even today the French silk industry benefits from old Chinese techniques and skills.
The 7-day visit came to an end so soon that both embroiderers were reluctant to part. Full of emotion Eyral said that she was looking forward to her next visit to Wuhan. Meanwhile, she invited Wang Ziyi to launch her Han embroidery arts and crafts exhibition in Lyon Museum, France.
Before meeting with Eyral, Wang Ziyi had visited Germany, Sweden, New Zealand, and other countries exhibiting her fine works of Han embroidery. At the beginning of this year, she went to 13 middle schools in the United States to showcase and teach Han embroidery. Now she hopes to visit France and have further discussions on embroidery with Eyral.
汉绣代表性传承人之一——王子怡Wang Ziyi, one of the inheritors of Han embroidery
汉绣旗袍Cheongsam with Han embroidery
A wooden bookshelf and pen container with Han embroidery 汉绣木制书架笔筒