Yue Yuan Gallery & Decor joined forces with China Cultural Centre in Sydney to present a fascinating exhibition, The Charm of the East 東方之韻 – Selected Suzhou Embroidery Artworks Exhibition 中國蘇繡藝術精品展. This art show features 36 stunning pieces of China’s renowned Su embroidery artworks. Suzhou is on the Southeastern edge of Jiangsu; whereas my beloved late grandmother’s hometown Nantong, is also in Jiangsu province. Therefore, I have sentimental feelings about everything from this region. To say that I was excited when receiving this invitation for the opening night was an understatement, I was ecstatic!
From the moment Kent and I stepped into China Cultural Centre’s exhibition room, a young woman’s Guzheng (Chinese zither) performance transported us to the orient! Due to Sydney’s latest COVID-19 restrictions, no food nor drinks were provided at the event. The number of guests was strictly limited. We were encouraged to wear masks, and social distancing was strongly suggested. I spotted a few guests in traditional Hanfu, some in modern cheongsam. I would also love to wear my Chinese outfit for the occasion, but all my contemporary chipao (qipao) were way too summery! So I went for a Western look instead, a fur cape to channel a bygone era’s charm.
When all the guests arrived, Sherry, the host of the event introduced the Director of the China Cultural Centre in Sydney, Mr Xiayong Xiao to us. Director Xiao kicked off the opening by giving us a welcoming speech. He mentioned that ‘Su embroidery with its vivid charm representing the graceful beauty of the regions south of the Yangtze River, is telling the thousand year history through fingertip craftsmanship…’ I thought it was a lovely introduction. Very poetic.
The next guest who gave us a talk was Councillor of the City of Sydney Council, Mr Robert Kok. There were two things from Councillor Kok’s speech that I was rather moved by… First, as a Chinese Australian, he shared with us how impressed and proud he was, of China’s ancient history and rich culture each time he visited China. Mr Kok also pointed out that ‘Australia and China’s relationship traces back to the Colonial time…’ And ‘how important it is for the two countries to rebuild a good relationship.’
The last speaker of the night was Ms Raphi Wei, the founder of Yue Yuan Gallery & Decor. There was some important and interesting information Raphi shared with us… ‘Suzhou embroidery, commonly called Su embroidery, with a history of over 2,600 years originated in Suzhou. It is also one of the four major embroideries in China.’ Not only that, ‘…it was among the first included in the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of China.’ I’m sure after this exhibition, many of us (I know I do) would wish to visit Suzhou, the picturesque embroidery paradise.
Ms Wei also announced that, one of the artworks from this show would be donated to the China Cultural Centre in Sydney. It was Zelin Luo’s embroidery creation of China’s famous Calligraphy of Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion. Before Ms Wei finished her talk, she proudly named the artists who participate in this exhibition. And they are:
Qinhua Yao 姚琴華
Qiuying Yao 姚秋英
Fengjuan Pu 濮鳳娟
Qunying Chen 陳群英
Zelin Luo 羅澤霖
Tao Yao 姚濤
These artists not only inherit the traditional skills; they showcase that they could too, giving their needle and thread work a modern, innovative look. For example, Tao Yao’s Persian Cat (one of my favourites), Ship of the Desert, and Zelin Luo’s Betta Fish are as lifelike as photographs. Qinhua Yao’s Enchanting Notes and Qunying Chen’s Colorful Flowers are as vibrant as Western oil paintings. Fengjuan Pu’s Lotus even pay homage to Monet’s Water Lilies!
Besides the creations from these Su embroidery artists, there are silk Kesi screen fans from Yue Yuan Gallery & Decor’s own collection. Some of them were displayed on beautifully handcrafted wood stands, others simply hanging grouped on the wall – what a great idea for interior decoration! They are so exquisite! I adore them all! To tell the truth, I have already purchased two Kesi fans from this collection, and I’m holding myself back really hard not to pick more!
After the speeches, I took the opportunity to thank the speakers and had pictures taken with Raphi and Sherry. We complimented each other’s outfits. These two elegant ladies surely inspired me to wear more Chinese-style attire.
Before I wrap this post, let me quote part of Director Xiao’s speech… ‘We hope this exhibition could be a fantastic opportunity for the Australian audience to explore the glamour of this traditional skill, and appreciate the continuous inheritance of craftsmanship of the folk artists. And to promote mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries.’
Showing typical Chinese hospitality, when leaving, all guests were gifted food and an embroidered bookmark or silk scarf. The Charm of the East – Selected Suzhou Embroidery Artworks Exhibition is showing at China Cultural Centre in Sydney right now until 21/08/2022. Thank you Yue Yuan Gallery & Decor for your kind invite, and thank you China Cultural Centre in Sydney for a wonderful event. Kent and I had an amazing time, and we hope to see you again soon!