Embroideries otherwise called needle works are normally handmade by female embroiderers using coloured threads that are embroidered on textiles with pre-designed patterns. This kind of delicate technique is vividly referred to as "the art on the needles".
Different from other parts of China, the embroideries of Yunnan have embodied the art of costume designing and decoration of the various ethnic minorities in the aspects of the techniques, patterns and even styles. The patterns stitched on costumes including a pair of fish, a pair of flowers and a pair of peaches etc have carried connotations for love and marriage. The diverse, beautiful patterns are the results of the great efforts of the embroiderers reflecting their pursuit of true love and a wonderful life.
Since ancient times, young boys and girls who love each other would meet in forests or mountains, and present gifts as a token of love. For the Han nationality, the token is usually embroidered pouches; and for many minorities in Yunnan, the token varies including embroidered scarves and other embroidered items which are in fact the love letters between lovers.
On the back part of men's costumes and on the both sides and back part of women's costumes, a kind of distinctive pattern is designed. The inner part of pattern is round and outer part square. It is called Bu La Bo which means the Moon Flower by Jinuo people and is said to record the romantic story of the Jinuo people: a boy fell in love with the Moon Girl, but the evil forced them to separate; in order to get back his love flying into the sky, the boy tried his best but in vain, the only thing he got is a corner of the Girl's skirt which is said to the design of the Moon Flower. Today, the Flower has become the symbol of virtue for the Jinuo youths to protect their love and keep their promises to each other.
The Yao ethnic women like embroidering flowers on the collarbands, lapels, cuffs, shoulder pads, aprons, waistbands, and even umbrella covers, etc. Therefore, their costumes and other daily utensils are made very durable in an aesthetic manner.
For the Yi ethnic embroideries on costumes, the most eye-catching part is the apron embroidered with 10 colourful flowers locally called "Ten-Sister Flowers" symbolising that in the Yi-inhabited areas: the weather conditions are favourable; mountain flowers are flourishing; and the world is full of love. Other patterns on the costumes are the prototype and transformation of such things as clouds, afterglow, the Sun, the Moon, stars, mountains, waters, stones, roads, trees, grasses, flowers, birds, chicken, monkeys, fish and frogs etc, reflecting the beautiful landscapes and colourful life.
The Zhuang people have the most complicated embroidering technique in the world. It is locally called Chuan embroidering, and the embroiderers convolve the needles with threads then finish the embroidery stitch by stitch. Many masterpiece take several months to complete and they were part of the dowry from a mother for her daughter in the old times.