Song Shuixian Guizhou, China

Song Shuixian belongs to the Shui ethnic group. She is the inheritor of horsetail embroidery, which has been recognized as China’s National Intangible Cultural Heritage. She started to learn the craft at the age of seven and has been practicing it for forty years. In 2006, she opened a workshop of horsetail embroidery in Sandu, Guizhou province-- the first of its kind in the county. The costumes she made received the UNESCO Seal of Excellence certificate in 2012.

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Q

What motivated you to learn the horsetail embroidery?

A

It is a skill every Shui girl has to learn. My grandmother used to be a famous embroidery master in my hometown. She taught me everything. Now I am bound to this art, which changed my whole life.

Q

Could you tell us one of your most unforgettable experiences?

A

I remember that day in summer of 1989, when I came back home from fieldwork and was told that grandma fell ill. So I went to see her. She was 78 at that time. She held my hands and said: "Dear, I am old and my health is poor. I hope you will become a master of horsetail embroidery and will pass it on to my grandchildren". Her words motivated me to keep learning.

Q

How long does it take to become a horsetail embroidery artist, and what qualities are necessary?

A

Students must have a strong sense of art, be able to tolerate loneliness and hardships. It takes three to five years to know the basics; a decade to learn the skills; but more than fifteen years to be a master.

Q

What are your hopes and wishes?

A

My biggest wish is to have the successors who will master and advance the handicraft. I also hope that one-day horsetail embroidery will gain a worldwide appreciation.

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