The History of Japanese Embroidery

The History of Japanese Embroidery

Nihon shishu was traditionally reserved for very wealthy, high status individuals. In fact, in the Heian period it was reserved for creating ceremonial religious costumes the ladies of the Imperial Court, and a few others of noble rank. However, before the Meji Era (the late 19th and early 20th century), it was simply called ‘nui’ or ‘sewing’.
Eventually, more and more European techniques were absorbed into traditional Japanese embroidery, and it became ever more ornate. In time it became a widely spread art form, and began to be valued for its beauty, rather than as a purely ceremonial decoration.

  • The Symbolism of Japanese Embroidery
  • Cherry blossoms symbolise beauty and the transience of life, but also renewal.
  • Peonies represent bravery, honour and good luck.
  • Evergreen trees speak of winter and the new year, but also longevity and the ability to stand firm against adversity
  • Chrysanthemums are symbols of the Imperial family, and also rejuvenation and regal beauty.
  • Carnations mean both fascination and motherly love.
  • Cranes stand for good fortune and longevity. A pair of cranes symbolises a happy marriage.
  • Dragonflies are symbols of warriors, martial might and victory.
  • Spiders in Japanese embroidery mean industry and productivity.
  • Swallows are thought to bring good luck, fertility, and fidelity of one’s partner.
  • Dragons mean prosperity, and are said to drive away evil.
  • Butterflies evoke joy and prosperity, and often represent the soul.
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