Silken Threads
Embroidery ranks among the oldest art forms known to mankind and remains one of the most enduring means of human expression. Although the art of needle and thread likely arose from the utilitarian sewing together for hides and fabrics to create objects for practical use it developed into a culturally significant art from practiced among virtually all the peoples of the world.
Although the techniques and materials utilized by embroiderers have changed over the millennia, from prehistoric times to the present day humans have continuously employed needle and thread to beautify their surroundings, articulate personal feelings and aspirations, and reinforce social, political, and religious ideals and convictions.

The most expensive of the metallic threads used for embroidery were made from solid gold, while others were made by wrapping gold foil or gilt paper around silk threads.

The dragons are couched with gold-wrapped threads, while the auspicious motifs scattered through the clouds are embroidered with silk floss in straight satin as well as long and short stitches.

Made from polychrome silk woven with iridescent peacock feather-wrapped threads on the dragon's body.

left) Seed Stitch
right) Diagonal Satin Stitch

Counted Stitch

Couching Stitch

Embroidery on Costume

Embroidery on Chinese Court Costume
The dragon motif is one of the oldest in Chinese decorative arts. Dragon robes represented the quintessential East Asian court attire during the late dynastic period. The elaborately embroidered dragon robes that characterized Ming and Qing court attire with the dragon, symbol of the emperor, flying in the cloudy heavens above the rocks and waves that represented the earth presented a schematic diagram of the Chinese political and cosmological order.

For their weddings and the most formal ceremonial occasions, Chinese women wore a sleeveless vest such as this over a dragon patterned jacket. The xiapei was typically decorated with a profile dragon and lishui, as well as an insignia badge corresponding to her husband's rank.

Uncut Dragon Robe
Starched on the reverse side, the fabric then was embroidered before being cut and sewn. On this robe, the dragon was exquisitely couched with gold thread, while the clouds and the diagonally rising water were embroidered densely in seed stitch.

Japanese Costume Embroidery
Japanese robes typically are more subtly decorated with distinctivel Japanese techniques such as shibori(tie-dyeing), ink-painting, and exquisite embroidery. Japanese counterparts tend to utilize less stitchery, often leaving more of the ground fabric visible as a part of the design and combining embroidery with other ornamental techniques, such as dyeing and painting. Japanese embroidery springs from the East Asian needle working tradition that developed in China and Korea, yet it achieves a visual effect quite unlike that characterizing the works produced in neighboring countries.

The decorative pattern on this wedding robe was largely created by dyeing and painting on the base fabric. Small details, such as the cranes' red crowns, were highlighted with embroidery.

This uchikake is embroidered with longevity symbols such as cranes, pine trees, and turtles.

With its vibrant red background, golden turtles, and white cranes, the robe creates a dazzling visual impact through the bold juxtaposition of colors.

Insignia Badges
Insignia Badges became primary visual symbols of the Chinese bureaucratic system, which was closely emulated in the tributary kingdoms of Korea and Vietnam. Civil officials were designated by bird patterns and military officers by four-legged animals. The various motifs displayed on insignia badges provided clear, visible pronouncements of the wearer's precise rank within the governmental bureaucracy or aristocracy and thus his or her social status.

This badge features a mythical xiezhai, which identified the wearer as a court censor.

The double crane insignia distinguished the wearer as a first rank civil official. Whereas the majority of the insignia from the Ming dynasty were woven in kesi(silk tapestry) or brocade, this badge provides a rare example of an embroidered Ming rank insignia.

East Asian Furnishings

This exquisitely embroidered silk panel shows typical accouterment of a refined scholar, including a dragon-patterned blue-and-white porcelain vase holding a flowering peony, a brocade-covered box, a censor on a stand, an incense container, and two wrapped scrolls.

The white lotus flower blossoming is embellished with tiny seed pearls.

Embroidered Standing Screen
Throughout East Asia, screens served important social and cultural functions by defining and emphasizing the status of the user, physically separating the genders, creating an appropriate backdrop for religious and ceremonial occasions, and reinforcing cultural ideals through the choice of subject matter for their decorative schemes.

This embroidered folding screen depicts pairs of birds in a flowery garden setting

This exquisite embroidered panels depicts a romantic afternoon scene featuring white herons with autumn flowers and grasses in a marshy setting.

A newlywed couple would have hung this banner on the wall of their living quarters.

This wedding banner depicts paired mythical dragons and phoenixes, which represent the union between a male and female.

As the Chinese words for 'bat' and 'fortune' are homonyms, a bat symbolizes good fortune.

The Chinese character(囍) means 'double happiness'

East Asia Buddhist embroidery
Immensely influential in shaping traditional East Asian art and culture, Buddhism remains one of the most widely practiced religions in the region. The Buddhist religion not only introduced specific motifs into the East Asian embroiderer's vocabulary, but also more generally influenced the design and execution of textile ornament in the region.

'Thangka', which in the Tibetan language literally means 'that which can be rolled up', refers to sacred paintings and embroideries displayed in the temples, monasteries and domestic shrines of Tibet, Mongolia, and Nepal.

The diadem(ring-na) was embroidered in China for wear by a Tantric Buddhist monk or oracle during rituals and ceremonies such as initiations, funerals, and exorcisms. Each of the five panels depicts one of the Five Transcendent Buddhas(五智如來), divine beings who have overcome the cycle of rebirth and suffering through the attainment of spiritual knowledge.

Vairocana, in the dharmachakra(wheel-turning) mudra

The design scheme of myriad Buddhas graphically represents the idea that Buddhas can appear endlessly in countless universes throughout time. Although no twenty of the gently smiling Buddhas applied to this hanging are identical, each is shown seated on a lotus throne and framed by a flaming nimbus that indicates his divinity.

This embroidered panel depicts carved-stone guardian figure at Seokguram hermitage(石窟庵). The area to be embroidered first was painted on a base fabric of thunder line-patterned silk, then the figure was embroidered in long satin stitches in gradations of color ranging from gray to copper. The result fully captures the majesty and the lively sense of movement embodied by the original carving.

The Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum
Credits: Story

The Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum, Sookmyung Women's University

Credits: All media
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