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Emergency call from Miao embroidery

02-26-2011 10:18 BJT

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Miao embroidery, a unique embroidery style practiced by China's ethnic Miao minority group, is one item in the first batch of those recognized as a national-level intangible cultural heritage.

For Miao people, the Miao embroidery is part folk art, part history and both are important. Unfortunately, this ethnic-styled needlework seems to be losing out to its more affordable machine-made counterparts.

The 65-year-old Pan Yuzhen is a Guizhou native. The Miao woman started her own business ten years ago in Beijing selling traditional Miao attire. Most of her customers are foreigners, coming from Germany, Britain and the U.S.

The trade has proved lucrative, and she said at least one-hundred of her fellow villagers have followed suit.

Miao embroidery, a unique embroidery style practiced by
China's ethnic Miao minority group, is one item in the
first batch of those recognized as a national-level
intangible cultural heritage.

Pan's house is piled with all kinds of clothes that she collected from her hometown.

Pan said, "The procedure involves several steps including weaving cloth, dyeing, threading, and stitching. It normally takes at least four to five years to complete one of these old Miao outfits."

The old Miao attires in her speech refer to those made with traditional embroidery techniques that prevailed before the 1970's. Now one of these pieces can be sold for over ten-thousand RMB.

But even with enough money, it still requires a bit of luck to get your hands on one.

According to Pan, even in Guizhou a hand-made embroidered piece is a rare sight.

Today, over ninety percent of Miao needlework in the market is machine-made. Many Miao artists are fearing that the art of hand-made embroidery will soon be wiped out completely, given that machine-made products cost much less.

Zhang Guiying, Miao embroidery artist, said, "Today's customers prefer cheap ones to put up on the walls, for which machine-made products cost much less. The reality is putting off a lot of the craftsmen from practicing this ancient art."

Moreover, as an embroidered dress is no longer a key part of their dowry, very few Miao girls are willing to stay at home and learn the painstaking and time consuming stitching.

Authorities in Guizhou are making a concerted effort to help keep the artistic heritage alive. Let's hope it is still not too late.

Editor:Zhang Jingya |Source: CNTV.CN

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