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Qiang Embroidery
Li Xingxiu with an embroidered piece.
Li Xingxiu with an embroidered piece.
Photo by Jing Li, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution
“Through embroidery, women feed their families with their hands. After the earthquake, it became an even more important means to help women gain income and support their families.” —Li Xingxiu, Qiang embroiderer

The Qiang are an ethnic group numbering about 310,000 largely concentrated in Sichuan Province. Referring to themselves as Erma, “the local people,” they have lived in remote areas of Sichuan for generations. Qiang embroiders work primarily with cotton and silk threads, using 16 types of stitches to shape vivid, bright patterns representing local flora, fauna, and daily activities on clothes and household textiles.

In 2008, the province was struck by a magnitude 8 earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people. Since then, formal cultural preservation and recovery efforts in Qiang areas have combined community rebuilding with commercial enterprise and tourism projects.


Li Xingxiu 李兴秀 is an embroiderer, designer, and entrepreneur from the village of Pinggou, Mao County, Sichuan Province. She first learned the embroidery traditions of her Qiang ethnic community from her mother when she was six years old. Since 2003, her company, Qiang Village Embroidery Workshop, has employed local embroiderers to produce her designs and patterns. Following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which seriously impacted Qiang villages, she has focused on training others. In 2011 she published the first book for teaching Qiang embroidery stitches and techniques.

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