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Scintillating Silk



  Situated in Jiangsu Province, in aplace of fertile land and mild cli-mate, with natural conditions idealfor the cultivation of the silkworm,for many hundreds of years Suzhou has re-mained a center of silk production, and theancient city has long been famous for a par-ticular fine style of textile crafting Suzhouembroidery.
  
  Needles and colorful threads of fine silkare applied by skilled hands to create ele-gant and delightful patterns on not only silk,but also satin and cotton cloth. A renownedChinese handicraft, Suzhou embroiderieshave long been presented as state gifts todistinguished visiting foreign guests.
  
  A Stitch in Time
  
  The earliest historical records concern-ing Suzhou embroidery, referencing thedecorations of garments of the State ofWu, date back to the Spring and AutumnPeriod(770-476 B.C.).The Song Dynasty(960-1279) witnessed the popularizationand rapid development in Suzhou embroi-dery craftsmanship. In rural areas, almostall households farmed silkworms and em-broidered, while in urban areas mills andshops specializing in embroidery and relat-ed materials were abundant. Not only wasembroidery a means to make a living, theartful craft was also a way for young ladiesof distinguished families to pass the timeand express themselves. Thus came to beparticular styles with names such as "popu-lar embroidery," "boudoir embroidery," and"palace embroidery."
  During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644),the southern regions on the lower reaches ofthe Changjiang(Yangtze)River became thecenter of silk handicraft production.
  Artists of the Wu area, like Tang Yin(Tang Bohu) and Shen Zhou, further de-veloped Suzhou embroidery. Embroiderersreproduced their paintings using needles.These works were so vivid and elegant theycame to be referred to as "needle paint-ings" and "surpassing even nature." Sincethose long past days, Suzhou embroideryevolved a unique style of needlework, col-oring and pattern.
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