China

From the Land

Patchwork, Heilongjiang Province

“Painters use brush and ink; I use needle and colorful threads. When I create a piece of work, I put my good wishes into it. I always say that my life is in the colorful thread.” —Jin Yuanshan, patchwork artist

Patchwork combines functional and aesthetic dimensions. It is used to cover holes in cloth that has worn thin or to add more layers for warmth. It is also used to create beautiful patterns by sewing patches of either regular or irregular shape. According to legend, patches sewn on the clothing of children bestows happiness and health. A wide variety of items in China—including bags, bedding, cushions, and ornamental items—feature patchwork. More than half of China’s ethnic groups practice some form of patchwork.

FESTIVAL PARTICIPANTS

Originally from Harbin in Heilongjiang Province and ethnic Korean, Jin Yuanshan 金媛善 first learned patchwork/quilting from her mother and grandmother. Her patchwork designs are influenced not only by her Korean heritage but also by the traditional needlework of other ethnic groups she has researched. Her designs have been featured in patchwork exhibitions in Japan, South Korea, and the United States. She has lectured at Tsinghua University’s Academy of Art and Design in Beijing.

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The artist made this quilt for her grandson, writing in a letter to him in 1999: "It took grandma five years to sew the quilt stitch by stitch. There are grandma's dreams, love, and expectations in the stitches. Grandma will always love you." Photo by Li Yan, courtesy of Jin Yuanshan

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Jin Yuanshan leads a hands-on patchwork activity during an exhibition of her work. Photo by Li Yan, courtesy of Jin Yuanshan

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This wall hanging by Jin Yuanshan was inspired by the clothing worn in the ethnic Miao village of Shidong, Guizhou Province. Photo by Li Yan, courtesy of Jin Yuanshan