Tapestry (gold / silver embroidery)
- Category: Myanmar Arts
The art of tapestry or "Shwe Chi Hto" as we call it, is said to have originated in Myanmar about a thousand years ago. It is a form of needlework to create a variety of pictures and patterns so delicate and detailed that it requires skill, artistry and patience. It is a highly decorative embroidery that employs gold thread as its name indicates, but in fact silver and colored threads as well as other materials such as tinsel, sequins, semi-precious gems, colorful cut glass, seed pearls and beads go into the making.
The earliest record of such embroidery is the Pyu Period during the reign of King Mahayaza, circa AD 800. The centre of this craft was and still is Mandalay, the long-standing hub of Myanmar culture and art. The ancient ceremonial royal raiment known as the "Maha Latta", worn from time immemorial by kings and queens is a very heavy gold-embroidered and gem encrusted robe. The Maha Latta was worn by King Thibaw and Queen Suhpayalatt, the last reigning monarchs of Myanmar. Their robes were the creation of skilled seamstresses, goldsmiths and other artisans of Mandalay. These raiment are on display at the National Museum in Yangon. The embroidery of gold thread and gems is so fine and intricate that it defies the imagination of an unskilled layman. The most outstanding artisans became court craftsmen by royal appointment. They sewed and embroidered all kinds of royal raiment for the monarch and the royal family, ministers and generals, from headgear down to footwear as well as other furnishings for the royal palace such as wall tapestry, fans, cushions, pillows and so forth. The national ethnic groups also favor gold embroidered garments and headgear. The ceremonial dress and headgear of the Mon, Rakhine, Shan, Palaung, Kachin, Kayah, Padaung, Akhar and many others are heavily embroidered in gold and silver thread and encrusted with silver ornaments and beads. They are really gorgeous.