Embroidery is a handicraft that existed a long time ago in Vietnam. The history of this traditional work is connected closely with the spiritual history of Vietnamese women in the past.
From the first century, besides the embroidered flag “Requiting country’s debt and home’s revenge” by the rise of heroine Hai Ba Trung, Vietnamese women also used embroidery to decorate the house, and to show confidence, sentiment, as well as to beautify themselves.
However, until now, nobody knows when the embroidery of Vietnam was born. Who was the first person who created and changed the normal sewing work to become an embroidery art?
There is a legend about hand embroidery in Vietnam, that is at the beginning of the 17th century, the embroidery of Vietnam had marked a turning-point of development. At that time, Mr. Le Cong Hanh (born on 18/01/1606- died on 12/06/1661) lived at Quat Dong village, Thuong Tin Dist, Ha Tay province had collected experiences and techniques of folk embroidery of Vietnam to disseminate the handicraft art widely.
Until the era of feudalism, embroidery was one of careers serving kingly and aristocratic circles. Embroidery products were made from fabrics created by Vietnamese craftswomen. Threads used for embroidery at that time included natural dyes, such as: Tinctorial yam, Indigo, Indian almond pod, paletuvier water, leaves of phrynium, grindstone, flamboyant… Many foreigners have admired Vietnamese embroidery: “Seeing the amazing transformation of the simple dyes after the tinting process was truly magical.”
Traditionally, embroidery had been done by Vietnamese women, according to Confucianism that girls have to acquire four virtues: “Industry, appearance, speech, behaviour”. As our ancestors often said:
“Men read books and recite poems. Women have to do embroidery and sewing.”
Almost all women in the country knew how to embroider. However, concentration and professional character started in Hue a long time ago. When the Nguyen Dynasty constructed at Hue, Mrs. Hoang Thi Cuc, mother of Bao Dai King, accompanied by Nam Phuong Queen, combined the advantages of European embroidery techniques with quintessence of Asian embroidery art and highlighted it to become royal embroidery art, related to charming, fine, meticulous characters of Hue women.
Gabrielle, a female French scholar specializing in the study of Oriental Cultures, wrote: “In many places, people have transmitted through generations, an extraordinary art by painting in threads, making lotus flowers bloom on silk, butterflies hovering on blue water surfaces. Vietnamese embroiderers are more skillful than the Chinese in their use of sewing with the fine lines and their methods of mixing colors…”
Hocquard, an author, had said about embroidery at the end of 19th century: “The Vietnamese embroiderers were very clever in distributing color on silk to create the harmony on embroidered pieces without any hard contrast.”
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