The Pillow Tips

Chinese traditional pillow is usually a solid rectangle block, or sometimes in a shape of flat square, a circular cylinder or one of the twelve-animal signs in symbolic system of Shenxiao. The two ends of the pillow are also called “pillow tips”.

Pillow tips are the major part of decoration. The pattern on the pillow tips is usually embroidery with fine needlework and diversity in design. Therefore, embroidery on pillow tips is well-known handcraft. Originated from the culture of the Han nationality, embroidery on pillow tips was developed by women in the central China. Nowadays, it is regarded as one of the classics of Chinese folk embroidery of all nationalities.

The top four embroidery styles of pillow tips are from the area of Jiangsu, Guangdong, Hunan and Sichuan. Some minority groups have their style, i.e. Hui, Tibetan, Tu and Man. The embroidery is extremely rich in pattern design, with inspiration from mountains, rivers, flowers, birds, fish, insects, fruit, vegetables, utensils, buildings, numbers, characters, geometric drawings, historical romances, legends and dramas.

Every pattern implies certain cultural connotation, and every such connotation embodies good fortune. The implicit meaning of pattern design is a manifestation of Chinese traditional culture and custom. It is the Chinese way of praying for good fortune, and the expression of people’s aspiration for happiness.

Pillows are close company for people during their lifetime. They are the witness of their owners’ life, including birth, growth, marriage and even death.

Chinese women of all nationalities embroider those delicate and beautiful patterns on pillow tips and then knit them into pillows with their deft fingers and refined feelings. Therefore, those pillows are the embodiment of warmth and love of family.

The embroidered pieces exhibited here are collected from the areas of Shanxi, Qinghai, Hebei, Liaoning, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Beijing. They were made in different time, from Ming Dynasty to modern times. Some items may be dated back for 500 years.

Location: 1st floor, Bai Branch Museum, South Park