Famous Embroidery Styles [edit this]
Embroidery is a traditional Chinese craft which consists of pulling colored threads through a background material with embroidery needles to stitch colored patterns that have been previously designed on the ground. The adoption of different needling methods resulted in different embroidery styles and technique schools. Chinese embroidery had already reached a high level early in the Qin and Han Dynasties, and silk and embroidery were the main products transported along the ancient Chinese Silk Road. The four famous Chinese embroidery styles are the Su embroidery of Jiangsu Province, the Xiang embroidery of Hu'nan Province, the Yue embroidery of Guangdong Province and the Shu embroidery of Sichuan Province.
Su embroidery has a history of over 2,000 years. It was produced on a large scale during the Song Dynasty. In the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty, Shen Shou absorbed Japanese and Western fine art sand combined them with traditional Chinese embroidery skills to create the simulated embroidery with ray effects. In the 1930s, the irregular embroidery technique was created in the Zhengze Girl's Vocationa1 School in Danyang. In 1957, the Embroidery Research Institute was established in Suzhou. Su embroidery is known for its delicacy and elegance. The design is usually very simple, high lighting a main theme. Its stitching is smooth, dense, thin, neat, even, delicate and harmonious. The thin thread is divided into up to 48 strands that are barely visible to the naked eye. Double-sided embroidery has the same pattern on both sides and uses the same embroidering method that does not show the joins in the stitches. Su embroidery products were sent to participate in the Panama World Fair in 1915. Since then, the style has become increasingly famous throughout the world.
Xiang embroidery was initiated in the Chu Kingdom of the Warring States Period. It had become the main craft in places around Changsha, capital city of Hunan Province, in the Qing Dynasty Xiang embroidery was developed from Hunan folk embroidery methods, but it also drew on the skills of Su embroidery and Yue embroidery. Xiang embroidery products use loose colorful threads to embroider the pattern and the stitches are not as neat as those of other embroidery styles. The various colored threads are mixed together, showing a gradual change in color with a rich and harmonious tone. Designs on Xiang embroidery mostly derive from traditional Chinese paintings of landscapes, human figures, flowers, birds and animals. The most common designs on Xiang embroidery are lions and tigers. The tigers appear strong and bold, revealing their power and menace as a king of animals. Xiang embroidery won the best award in the Torino World Fair in Italy in 1912 and the First Award in the Panama World Fair in 1933. Xiang embroidery is known abroad as the ideal embroidery.
Yue embroidery was entirely developed in the Tang Dynasty Ancient Chinese craftsmen used peacock feathers twisted together as the embroidering thread to stitch the ornamental designs; horsetail was used to stitch the outline to make the work more expressive. The designs of Yue embroidery are rich and complicated in content with bright colors and strong decorative effects. The embroidery is smooth and even. One type, gold and silver cushion embroidery, creates a magnificent three-dimensional effect Yue embroidery has a wide range of designs, the most common ones being birds worshipping the sun, dragons and phoenixes. Yue embroidery includes the Guang and Chao branches which have different stitching styles.
Shu embroidery products are mostly found in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province. They are made with soft satins and colored threads as the raw materials are embroidered by hand. The varied stitching methods form their unique local style' Designs on Shu embroidery include flowers, birds, landscapes, fish, worms and human figures. The products themselves include quilt covers, pillow covers, back cushions, table cloths, scarves and handkerchiefs.
Besides the four major embroidery styles, there are Ou embroidery of Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, Bian embroidery of Kaifeng, He'nan Province, and the Han embroidery of Wuhan, Hubei Province.
Edit by: Dorothy
Kungfu Tea [edit this]
Kungfu tea (Kungfu cha), the “espresso” of Chinese teas with a formidable kick, which was first sipped back in the Song Dynasty (440-479 A.D.), is still flourishing and remains an important part of social etiquette in Chaozhou. If you visit a family, you can be sure of at least one round of Kungfu tea.
Kungfu tea, to which manual skill, high quality tea leaves and water as well as appropriate temperature control are critical, brings out the best that tea, especially the fermented Wulong tea, can offer.
It is a true art form to prepare the tea. Making basic Kungfu: first, clean the teapot with boiling water to make better tea with a warm teapot. Then fill in the teapot with a big handful of tea leaves, making sure the leaves, after being soaked with hot water, will stick out the mouth of the teapot. Next, pour boiling water into teapot. The water should overflow so as to get rid of impure materials and foam, and to make mellow tea. A few seconds later, the tea should be poured into cups, which are usually arranged in a circle. The last step is to pour tea with a few rounds of circular motions into each cup so as to make sure the tea in all the cups is the same in terms of color and fragrance. To avoid creating foam, the teapot should be held close to the teacups.
Though it tastes bitter when it first reaches your mouth, it is the lingering aftertaste that makes Kungfu tea probably the most charming tea culture in China. Drinking Kungfu tea is in fact a process of aesthetics rather than a solution to thirst.
For ordinary people, after a long day of hard work, a round of Kungfu tea offers refreshment and physical relief. This is one of the important reasons why the tradition lives on. Some even use Kungfu tea to stimulate their minds and seek inspiration, a much healthier method than relying on caffeine or cigarettes.
Edit by: Dorothy
Yum Cha and Dim Sum Dining [edit this]
Eating between the main meals of the day may sound like a weak-willed dieter's fantasy, but in Canton it is a part of a dining tradition known as Yum Cha, or the “tea drinking”.
The tradition of Yum Cha is somewhat speculative, as are the histories of many social customs, but the drinking of tea itself is largely attributed to the mythological figure of Shen Nung (c. 3000 B.C.). He is the Chinese god of wind and patron of pharmacy.
Shen Nung collected hundreds of grasses and herbs to study for their medicinal properties, as well as toxicity. He tested them on himself, presumably in tea form. In doing so he is attributed the invention of tea. It wasn't until the Sung Dynasty (960-1280 A.D.) that tea drinking became popularized as something to drink for reasons other than sickness. At this point, tea became the brew for people to drink for enjoyment and relaxation, as well as health.
Yum Cha is also an occasion when families often gather to visit each other on the weekends, when everyone has time from their busy schedules. It may resemble, as a Chinese friend suggested, the Sunday brunch after church that is familiar to many religious Westerners. It is a time filled with catching up on what went on in each other's lives in the past week and what the family plans are for the near future. Many Yum Cha restaurants, in their relaxing atmosphere, share some similarities with contemporary Western cafe culture, replete with frequenters of a “chatty” bend. But they offer diners an experience well beyond the fare found at most bagel-slinging mocha-slurping coffeehouses.
Dim sum, roughly translated as “a little bit of heart” or “a little delicacy” is the edible counterpart of Yum Cha. Given the long history of Yum Cha and Dim Sum, it is not surprising that by one count, there are some two thousand items that make up the dim sum recipe canon. Of this vast repertoire, larger traditional Yum Cha restaurants often make as many as one hundred different dishes a day.
Yum Cha restaurants usually add their own home-spun favorites to the daily Yum Cha, so it is possible you may dine upon a local favorite not found outside the restaurant. Some of the larger restaurants serving Yum Cha offer two or three dining room choices, each with a different “cha wei” or tea and seat fee.
This is a one-time fee that covers all the tea you plan to drink during your visit. The cleaner the air, the higher the fare is usually the case, but one shouldn't pay more than 5 yuan for the most comfortable cushions in the house complete with clean air. The standard cha wei is 1-2 yuan per person.
Now that you've been given an introduction to Yum Cha, ask a friend if they want to go to Yum Cha (Heu M Heu Yum Cha). With points in mind, you'll blend in like a local. Enjoy.
Edit by: Dorothy
Chinese Painting of Lingnan Style [edit this]
In the twenties and thirties of the 20th century, Gao Jianfu, Chen Shuren, and Gao Qifeng were influenced by the ideas of democratic revolution, urging for reform of Chinese painting, against the conservative practice of simulating and copying, they advocated “assimilating essence both Chinese and foreign, and merging the ancient and the present”. The works of these artists were of rich flavor of life, realistic and notional, emphasis on both black ink and color.The Lingnan School made important contribution to the development of Chinese painting, and has now attracted numerous followers.
Guangdong Color Ceramics
Colored ceramics in Guangdong has a history of 300 years. At the beginning white glazed china was transported from Jingdezhen of Jiangxi and then processed in Guangzhou with colors. Since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) the products have sold well at home and abroad. Patterns of Chinese brocade are used, with rich bright colors as brilliant as gold strewn.
The art of jade carving has fine craftmanship: there are all sorts of bulky ones, and ornamental knickknacks. And the local beautiful natural colors can be artfully retained in the carved birds, flowers, bugs and fish.
The use of the knife in wood carving is neat and bold and is known and shown in the carving of redwood furniture and camphor trunks. The beams of Chen Family Temple, and the carved artistic works are prominent everywhere on the screens and doors.
It ranks with the Four Schools of Beijing, Suzhou and Hunan embroidery. Guangdong Embroidery falls into two kinds: silk embroidery and golden thread embroidery. Various stitches gives feeling of third dimension; or the golden brilliance adds to the feeling of luxury and magnificence.
Edit by: Dorothy