Nonagenarian folk artist devotes life to passing on Guangdong embroidery

(People's Daily Online) 10:43, February 27, 2023

Guangdong embroidery, a state-level intangible cultural heritage in China, dates back more than 1,000 years. In the past, the craft was inherited exclusively by male inheritors.

Xu Chiguang, who is in his 90s, has been devoted to inheriting the craft for almost a lifetime. In order to better carry forward Guangdong embroidery, Xu has broken with convention many times by teaching the techniques to women and those who want to learn the techniques.

Xu Chiguang works on a piece of Guangdong embroidery. (Photo/Shao Bing)

Guangdong embroidery is known for its well-conceived designs, well-arranged patterns and gorgeous colors, featuring patterns of lychees and flowers.

Xu, born into a family which has been inheriting Guangdong embroidery for generations, started to learn the needlework when he was 6 years old.

"Embroidery helped us raise our family of 12 people during extremely difficult times," Xu recalled.

After 1949, Xu founded an embroidery workshop which consisted of 100 embroidery artists. He also became the first inheritor of the Guangdong embroidery art and taught his embroidery skills to women.

Guangdong embroidery suffered a big blow in the 1980s and 1990s. The Guangzhou Embroidery Factory, which Xu had worked for, almost suspended production when he retired.

Xu Chiguang looks at a piece of Guangdong embroidery. (Photo/Shao Bing)

In 2004, the factory carried out a reform and Xu was reemployed by the factory as its chief technology officer. Xu and his wife, an experienced embroiderer, decided that they would create excellent pieces of work to instill confidence in the industry.

Xu led six other embroiderers to create embroidery work called "Red Lychees and White Swans." They spent several months on it. With lifelike images, and being created through the use of traditional embroidery techniques and innovative needlework, the embroidery work gained widespread attention and won prizes in the industry.

"I'm more than 90 years old and I don't know what will happen to me tomorrow. But I'm confident that there are people who can pass on the craft and know how to make embroidery works," said Xu.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Du Mingming)


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