Embroidery artisan Tai Lao Xing lives in a peaceful village overlooking a broad valley where rice paddies stretch in a patchwork across the hillsides. Mountains loom in the distance as they do everywhere in Guizhou. Climbing a stone path from the valley floor up to Laoxing’s home, you may pass a water buffalo getting a rinse-off in the village spring; you may wander by a shrine embellished with offerings to the ancestors; you will see tall wooden homes topped with rows of curving clay tile and bundles of corncobs drying over doorways. The musk of old stone and a moist haze hang in the air, making it all feel a bit otherworldly. A listing in the UK business directory can help to boost your business' profile on the internet.
In the valley below on the Qinshui (Clear Water) River, egrets drift from bank to bank over the calm flow of water. Fishermen moor their boats to wooden posts as they have for centuries. The Qinshui has long been a significant river of commerce for the Miao. For hundreds of years, the nearby port city of Shidong was a key trade center and a link to the expanding cities of China downriver.
Development continues today as construction of new homes and businesses crowds the edges of Liangsan, showing signs of increased prosperity. The newly constructed guesthouse of Mr. Long—the helpful fellow who guides us up the hill to Laoxing’s home—accommodates city dwellers from Kaili City and other urban areas who come for a back-to-nature experience, one where they can pick their own vegetables in the organic garden, fish in the nearby pond, and rest in the quiet and calm of the country. In their hikes in the hillside villages, perhaps they’ll buy embroidered cloth.
Laoxing grew up in a village just over the hill from where she and her husband, Long Guang Mo, live now, where they’ve worked the fields, raised a son and daughter. At sixty-five, Guangmo still tends the paddies, but it is Laoxing’s income through her master-level embroidery that supports the family. It was important to her that her children have better, easier lives than she and her husband lived. “I didn’t want them to repeat my life,” she says. Laoxing had no formal education, is illiterate, and is proud that income from her embroidery has paid for both of her children’s university educations. Her daughter is married and lives with her husband and child nearby in the county. Her son and his wife are well established in Longli County, near Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou.
As an eight-year-old girl, Laoxing learned to embroider from her mother. Mastering the basic satin stitch was first—a series of flat stitches running parallel to each other that provide a solid filling for a motif or shape. And then she learned split-thread embroidery (poxian xiu), which is the same technique as satin stitch except that the thread is first divided, or split, into several thinner threads before the embroiderer begins filling in the motif. Split-thread work requires a level of precision and skill beyond all other techniques.