Seventy-seven artifacts piecing together Taiwan's historic legacy in embroidery - the art of ornamental needle work on silk, cotton, and other fabrics - will be on display at Spain's National Museum of Decorative Arts from June 15 through Nov. 5.
Embroidery as an art form combines the composition of cultural motifs, the matching of colors and threads, and the vast patchwork of stitching techniques. Flowers, fruits, birds, and beasts were the most commonly used motifs in Chinese traditional attire because of their decorative appeal and auspiciousness.
Embroidery also served as indicators of social rank. For instance, elaborate birds and beasts on official surcoats denoted specific ranks, whereas embroidered emblems conveyed metaphorical aspirations and blessings by means of phonetic association and symbolism. Wearing such embroidered apparel was akin to praying for happiness and good fortune.
Given its geographical location as an island southeast of China, Taiwan's isolation was aggravated by the Qing dynasty's travel ban - even imperial officials and military personnel stationed in Taiwan were forbidden to bring their wives and families over. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that several of Taiwan's ports opened up for trade, paving the way for a burgeoning immigrant society that diversified the island's economic activities.
Although Taiwan didn't grow cotton or produce silk, Taiwanese women were able embroiderers who worked on fabrics mainly imported from China as a significant source of household income. The influence of Fujian and Guangdong styles were evident in their employment of contrasting hues, brilliant tonality, and elaborate layouts.
Among the 1,000 woven artifacts in the National Museum of History's embroidery collection, seven-four artifacts have been selected for this exhibition and will be displayed in two categories - the attire of the ranked versus those worn by other social classes.
Visit the National Museum of Decorative Arts to sample the lush cultural significance of Taiwan's embroidery. With each embroidered motif on display, we wish to share copious blessings and good wishes with our international friends.
‘Fortune Embroidered - Historical Taiwanese Embroidery from the National Museum of History Collection'