The Horsetail Embroidery of Shui Nationality


The Horsetail Embroidery of Shui Nationality

by Live in Guizhou

Image Source: Tencent News

Every ethnic group in China has its unique way of designing and adorning its costumes and textiles. For centuries, a unique traditional type of embroidery, horsetail embroidery, has been kept alive by the Shui women in Guizhou province, southwest China. Horsetail embroidery is a particular craft that uses horsetail hair as a primary raw material for embroidery and is passed down from generation to generation by women of Shui Nationality.

The horsetail embroidery of Shui Nationality has an untraceable origin. Shui legend says that many horsehairs fell when one of the ancestors groomed his horse before a race. His wife thought it would be shameful to leave these solid and glossy hairs unused. She collected them and used those hairs in her embroideries and silk threads. Horsetail embroidery is a complex, time-consuming craft. Girls begin learning embroidery at about 5 or 6 years old. Some of them spend ten years on a single embroidery piece, which is specially prepared for their wedding.

The common embroidery motifs are flowers, plants, and mystical creatures from Shui folklore. Butterfly patterns are woven mostly into children’s clothing or accessories. This is related to Shui beliefs that butterflies are children’s guardians. Dragons, a phoenix, and fish also possess significant symbolic meaning and are commonly seen on a Shui handicraft.