Guangzhou Embroidery Across the Ocean

Cantonese embroidery fan (1)

Cantonese embroidery, the pride of Guangzhou. With its divine skill and splendid scenes, this embroidery adorns official robes and sleeves, graces pouches and fragments, and travels across the oceans.” – A folk rhyme from Guangzhou in the late Qing Dynasty and early Republican period.

Guangzhou Embroidery

Among China’s exported embroidery products, those from Guangdong were the most numerous. – From the “Southern Ocean Exposition Report” of 1913.

cantonese embroidered shawl

Cantonese Embroidery, also known as Guang Embroidery, refers to the embroidery craftsmanship from the Pearl River Delta region with Guangzhou as its center. Since the opening of Guangzhou as a treaty port, the demand for Cantonese Embroidery in the robust domestic and foreign markets led to the industry’s boom. Shops specializing in Western goods, costumes, embroidered paintings, fans, shawls, and panoramic embroideries gathered in Guangzhou. 

Cantonese embroidery fan (1)

Large quantities of Cantonese Embroidery were popular overseas: foreign export fans often featured Cantonese embroidery designs; decorative items and daily necessities such as seat screens, hanging screens, and bed adornments were often embroidered with traditional Chinese motifs like flowers, birds, pavilions, and towers, becoming a touch of oriental charm in Western homes; high-quality shawls were particularly popular among Southern European consumers; traditional Chinese dresses even became fashionable exotic clothing in the eyes of Westerners. 

Cantonese embroidery fan (2)

Besides, merchants from Hong Kong and Macau, as well as overseas Chinese, would purchase religious items and other embroidered goods from Guangzhou. From the 1950s to the 1980s, practical items like large Cantonese Embroidery shawls remained popular in overseas markets, with the majority of production being exported. Decorative items represented by embroidered paintings, which adapt to the aesthetics of the new era and present more diverse themes, have innovated in needlework. Many of their exquisite masterpieces have demonstrated the extraordinary charm of “Made in China” at international exhibitions.

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