Embroidery, traditionally done by hand, is one of the wondrous arts of Vietnam that is visually unique and delightfully special.
It’s not actually known when embroidery art arrived in Vietnam. Le Cong Hanh, who was Vietnam’s envoy to China during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), is often credited as the founding father of the art at the beginning of the 17th century. It is believed that Le Cong Hanh combined both Chinese and Vietnamese artistry to create the unique embroidery techniques used in modern-day Vietnam.
Today, appreciators of Vietnamese embroidery can see themes such as nature, landscape, flowers, animals, and scenes of religion and Vietnamese history. Normally displayed in a framed format to be hung on walls, the embroidery work can also be used on screens, fans, curtains, and other decorative items.
Perfume River had the opportunity to visit an embroidery workshop outside of Hanoi where experienced and apprentice Vietnamese artisans, young and older, sat and meticulously embroidered a variety of subjects, from simple to intricate. We marveled at the different stitching techniques used to create a variety of depth and light effects.
We also visited the creative space and showroom of XQ Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. An authority in hand embroidery art and history, XQ has several branches throughout Vietnam as well as in the USA and Russia.
In the end, we learned that Vietnamese hand embroidery is deeply connected to music, painting, and poetry. Subjects of nature, people, still life, and history are but elements of the human condition, and it is through the patient work of hand embroidery that allows us to meditate on the human condition and the world we live in. It was an important lesson for us: Vietnamese hand embroidery is, in fact, quiet meditation.