History of Embroidered Insoles
Embroidered insoles have a long history in China. The craft originated in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), was popular in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and became widespread in the Qing Dynasty (1636 or 1644-1911). Because of its exquisite design and brilliant patterning, embroidered insoles were used as tributes to the imperial family and aristocrats; they were also popular among the folk.
In order to communicate a feeling of home to a loved one, Chinese woman created embroidered insoles during her limited free time, often staying up late at night. Each pair of insoles was specially made for a particular individual. Using her rich imagination, she stitched blessings to old men, expectations for a bright future to children, and wishes for a better life to her friends.
Silk and Cotton
Silk threads were originally used for making embroidered insoles. Silk has a natural luster that is highly valued. In the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1386), the Mongols brought cotton to China. At first people didn’t want to grow cotton, perhaps in part because the silk industry encouraged people to keep buying silk. But the Mongol invasions destroyed many mulberry trees needed to make silk, and cotton was grown to fill the gap. Soon, cotton became popular; it was soft, strong, and cheap. Today, many insoles are made with cotton threads instead of silk.
Examples of the Art Form
Below are some examples of this art form, illustrating its beauty and variety.