An Ancient Craft
Originating 2,000 years in eastern China, embroidered silk was for centuries reserved for use by the Imperial Court. Being both tough and finely detailed, it later found an unusual application in battlefield maps. Today, after years of decline, this art is being revived and is still practiced entirely by hand. Thin needles ("brushes") and fine thread ("colors") are used to "paint" vibrant images of landscapes, people, flora and fauna, and extraordinary renditions of photographs and paintings.

Unlike oil or watercolor, embroidered silk shimmers subtly and changes hue as it catches light, and produces remarkable 3-D effects.

SiXin Artisans
Their skills have been handed down from mother to daughter for generations. Mostly rural women, they start in their teens and spend years training and practicing. They learn over 40 types of stitches and how to choose, match and blend colors. For the finest detail, they learn to split a thread down to 1/16 of its thickness and thread it through an ultrafine needle.

They are recruited by master artisans who typically run studios of 10-20 people. Members of our SiXin teams have at least 10 years of experience.

Creating a SiXin is a collaborative effort. The master designs the structure and details of a new SiXin, and then assigns tasks to her team. She keeps the most delicate work – sculpting faces, eyes and hands, and final finishing – for herself. Master artisans enjoy an unusual benefit: since fine thread will fray against rough hands, they must limit how much housework they do.