Chinese export embroidery

Two silk embroidered cushion covers, made for the export market. China, c. 1970. Two silk embroidered cushion covers, made for the export market. China, c. 1970. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. FE.124-1983.

For hundreds of years, mainland Chinese ateliers have been making hand worked embroidery for international markets. These forms are often worked in Chinese or Chinese related styles. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many 'Chinese' pieces sold in Indonesia, for example, were intended for Dutch customers. Chinese shawls were also embroidered for the Moroccan, Palestinian and Spanish markets.

Other pieces were exported directly to European markets, noticeably in London and Paris, catering for an international urban craze for Chinoiserie. 

A feature of late twentieth and early twenty-first century Chinese embroidery is the flooding of many local export markets with cheap, hand and machine made pieces worked in local styles. Chinese and other firms first identify regional forms and tastes for embroidered, printed and woven textiles. These are reproduced in mainland China and exported to the relevant parts of the world. Many tourists and other visitors are sold these pieces as handmade (often true), without realising the place of manufacture. Many small local ateliers, craftsmen and firms have lost their livelihoods as a result of this development. In addition, many items are sold on internet sites as 'authentic' and locally produced items.

See also bedcover (China).

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 5 July 2016).


Last modified on Thursday, 13 May 2021 18:04
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