(ENG) Guizhou Miao embroidery refers to various artisan embroidery techniques crafted by ethnic minorities in Guizhou province in China. As a traditional craft, Miao embroidery was first listed in the inaugural register of the National Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2006. It not only involves distinctive craftsmanship but also embodies the history, culture and lifestyle of the Miao communities in Guizhou. As they have had a long history of migration, the Miao are skillful at documenting their social and cultural history and life events through their clothing. Almost all traditional crafts that have ever emerged in Chinese history, for instance, weaving, embroidering and dyeing, are preserved by Miao embroidery, creating a vibrant living cultural heritage.
Traditionally, Miao men were responsible for farming and fishing, and women were responsible for weaving and collecting food. Women’s techniques in weaving, embroidering and dyeing were especially emphasized and these skills were collectively referred to as “female needlework”. Girls began learning embroidery techniques at a young age, listening to the stories told by their elders and gaining an understanding of their tribal history. After becoming proficient in embroidery techniques, young women would make their own wedding costumes in accordance with their tribal history, legends and myths, customs and norms. Designing, weaving and stitching is a time-consuming and laborious process, and the making of a wedding costume takes a considerable amount of time to finish. Other than their own wedding costumes, Miao women also needed to make love tokens for their future husbands, which included belts, wallets and small embroidered bags as well as baby carrying belts, bibs and clothes for their future children. Most women could no longer engage in “female needlework” after getting married due to the demands of their daily responsibilities. The little time they could spare for embroidery was used to make small objects for using as part of their daily lives. The intricacy and effort paid to smaller embroidered objects cannot be compared to that of the embroideries they have previously produced. As a result, exquisite Miao embroideries such as those in this virtual museum are rare, and those that are intactly preserved after decades are especially precious and exceptional.
China, possessing quite a number of unique and diverse cultural heritages, is well-known for its rich history and cultural background. Unfortunately, these cultural heritages, including Miao embroideries showcased in this virtual Museum, are vanishing due to a combination of natural and man-made factors. Digitalization provides a solution for the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage. The current project digitalizes the unique intangible cultural heritage of Guizhou ethnic minorities and creates a virtual “Online exhibition centre” to showcase the collection. Through visiting this virtual museum online, it is hoped that both Chinese and international visitors’ understanding and appreciation of Chinese cultural heritage can be enhanced. To ensure the quality of the virtual museum, the selection of Miao embroideries exhibited are provided by the Guizhou Lanmama museum and are all representative work of each embroidery technique of different eras from branches of each major Guizhou Miao tribe.
This virtual museum is a collaborative project between the University of Hong Kong and the Guizhou Lanmama museum. We would like to express our most sincere gratitude to the Guizhou Lanmama museum for providing access to their valuable collections and detailed information, as well as their assistance in making high-quality photos. We also want to give special thanks to the Knowledge Exchange Office, the Faculty of Education and the library of the University of Hong Kong, all of whom significantly contributed to the planning and coordination of this project. The virtual museum was supported by the University of Hong Kong’s Knowledge Exchange Fund granted by the University Grants Committee and we would like to express our profound gratitude to the Fund for their trust and support. Originally, a physical exhibition of Miao embroidery was intended to be installed at the University of Hong Kong library, however, this had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the cancellation of the physical exhibition, we would like to deeply thank the University of Hong Kong library for all the preparations they had made for the exhibition. Finally, we would like to cite “One Needle One Thread” as the reference used for translation and offer our great appreciation towards its author, Tomoko Torimaru. The establishment of this virtual museum and the goal of promoting and bringing precious Chinese cultural heritage to the public could not have been achieved without the help of the aforementioned.