The weaving skill of Huangdaopo cotton has spread widely, appearing in the Jiangnan region and the town of Luojing as numerous kinds of cotton. Silk items used by high-ranking officials were further embellished with intricate embroideries, while cross-stitched homespun cloth was more in keeping with the clothing requirements of more modest families. Inlaying decorative patterns in clothing has been folk tradition in these parts. Later, according to the “potential” of the cloth used, criss-cross stitching was used to create designs and patterns, known as Luojing cross-stitching. According to rumored calculations, this art appeared in late Ming early Qing times, with over 300 years of history behind it.
Luojing cross-stitching was used for the decorative motif on handkerchiefs, undergarments, skirts and for the cloth coverings on shoes, especially handkerchiefs, eventually working up the reputation: “If it doesn’t have cross-stich embroidery, it can’t be used.” The colors of handkerchiefs varied: older married women would use darker-colored cloth, younger married women used white cloth and new brides green cloth with black patterns.
In terms of embroidery, Luojing cross-stitching appears simple, but is an incredibly demanding task. Not only must the front side have a flawless pattern, but the reverse side must also be uniform. Basic stitches include the “walking stitch”, the “winding stitch” and the “serpent breaking from the eggshell stitch”. Over a long period of time, Luojing’s cross-stitching patterns have developed into unique expressions of patterns including butterflies, birds, lotus, star anise etc. These individual patterns can also be combined to create a richly colorful and complex pattern. Luojing cross-stitching has abundant cultural qualities, with natural scenery, superstitious themes and even ancient stories used as patterns.
In village history, there are no records of the skills of common women who created Luojing cross-stitching. Nevertheless, it is important not to deny the skillful hands of the women who are responsible for this respledent tradition, and to not allow their wisdom and creativity be wiped from memory. Luojing cross-stitching, which has condensed the local cultural deposits throughout the ages, is at present few and far between in the international metropolis of Shanghai. The town of Luodian has painstakingly gathered up several original cross-stitches, and found a few more than ten people who know the art, among whom only a small minority are able to teach the art or raise money for an art display.
Societal, economic, scienctific and technological advances have left homespun cloth to the history books. The Shanghai Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Center has named Luojing cross-stitching a protected intangible cultural heritage of Shanghai.