Yi Embroidery in Yao’an County, Chuxiong


Yaoan County ’s(姚安县) folk embroidery can be divided into two categories: Han embroidery in plain district and Yi embroidery(彝族刺绣) in mountainous area. At present, the earliest embroidery products of Yi minority in mountainous areas can be found is a set of silk garments of Yi people with a history of more than 200 years,which is kept by a family in Zuomen township. According to the embroidery workers of that garment, Yaoan’s embroidery of Yi people must have been produced at least several hundred years ago. The embroidering method mainly is the convex embroidery, also has the variant embroidery, the characteristic is strong three-dimensional feeling, and the color is gorgeous.

Yi embroidery in Yaoan County
Yi embroidery in Yaoan County

Embroidery Skills

Yi embroidery was first used in costumes, and the colorful costumes show their profound embroidery skills.The Yi people worship black, tiger and fire, so the embroidery of Yi people usually adopts camellia red, plum red, purple black, pink, red, green, yellow and other colors, which can not only contrast with the background color of clothes, but also highlight the brightness of flowers, the vitality of the tiger and the hotness of fire. 

The embroidery patterns of Yi people are decorated with animals, plants, landscapes, celestial phenomena and various abstract geometric patterns, which symbolize the beauty and ingenuity of Yi women, the totem “tiger” represents their belief, and the most important festival — “Torch Festival“.

Embroidery  Methods

Yi embroidery in Yaoan County mainly has three kinds of embroidery methods: one is to directly embroider patterns on cloth and embroider whatever you like. This kind of embroidering method mainly appears in the Zuomen, which is generally used on the front of men’s clothes and the headscarf.The other one is that first cutting paper into a variety of major design paste on the cloth, then according to the pattern embroidery out of the main figure, At last, the embroiderers play their own role according to their understanding of the pattern, this embroidery method known as convex embroidery.  Still have a kind is an variant embroider, formal have card cloth embroider and mat embroider, the characteristic is to use auxiliary cloth more.

Li qiongxiu, the Yi embroidery inheritor of intangible cultural heritage
Li qiongxiu, the Yi embroidery inheritor of intangible cultural heritage

Historical Significance

Yaoan Yi embroidery art, as a kind of materialized spiritual product, is a window to see the picture scroll of a nation’s history and culture, social life, and an important part of national culture. Yaoan people build the complicated culture into a huge systematic project to maintain and inherit history, which is interpreted in the delicate needle and line, displayed in the embroidery products, and supported the national totem in the pattern art.

Chinese Version: http://www.yaoan.gov.cn/Pages_36_21479.aspx

Translated by Bella Ren/任新月