Embroidering history

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Uoc nguyen ngan nam Thang Long - Ha Noi (Thang Long - Hanoi's thousand-year dream) is not the largest embroidered image ever to be produced in Vietnam. But the 12-sqr.m cloth work may yet prove the most elaborate.

According to artisan Hoang Le Xuan, who sewed the final stitch in the image, the arithmetic behind the tapestry bears special significance to the upcoming thousand-year anniversary of Vietnam's capital city.

In October 2006, a team of artisans from the XQ Embroidery Workshop, in Da Lat, began the project and worked for exactly 1,000 days before finishing it. Multiply the dimensions of the work - 4m in length, 3m in width and 167.5kg in weight - and you get 2010.

In the final image, hundreds of lotus blossoms shimmer along the Red River which ambles through Hanoi's famed lakes, pagodas and waterfalls. Cranes spread their wings and rise up into the bright rising sunlight symbolizing the hope of a new era.

"Each lotus in this gift to Hanoi, symbolizes a wish for another thousand years," said Vo Van Quan, CEO of XQ Embroidery.

In early 2006, before drafting an initial sketch for the tapestry, the firm sent six artists on a four-month quest through the country to gather inspiration and striking flower models.

It has been quite a journey. And there's still more to come.

On Vietnam's National Day (September 2, 2010), a procession bore the image on a 1,000 km trek across the country. The group will transport the tapestry from Da Lat to Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hoi An, Hue, Vinh, and Ninh Binh. Uoc nguyen ngan nam Thang Long - Ha Noi will arrive in Hanoi on September 30.

The procession will seek to raise funds for poor and disabled children. Their goal, on the journey, is to collect one million sponsor signatures for the nation's underprivileged youth. XQ plans to display the signatures alongside the tapestry while it is on display at the Khong gian nghe thuat thanh co (The art space of the ancient citadel), located near Hanoi's famed Hau Lau relic.

XQ Embroidery Company employs a total of 3,000 artisans working in six different workshops across the country.

Prior to the creation of Uoc nguyen ngan nam Thang Long - Hanoi, a large tapestry entitled Coi xua (Old origins) went on display at the Hanoi-based Friendship Cultural Palace from August 16 to 23.

The 5.5 by 31 m tapestry, weighing 1.5 tons, used nearly 170 square meters of Italian wool and around 250kg of thread. Hundreds of artisans from the Coi Xua Handicraft and Export Company started work on the image in 2009.

The embroidery illustrates significant events in the history of Vietnam between the tenth and 11th century, as the Ly Dynasty took power and King Ly Thai To decided to relocate the capital city to Hanoi from Hoa Lu in Ninh Binh Province.

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