W140xD160mm, Hong Kong
A small portfolio decorated with a piece of embroidery filled with blessing symbols.
The cow in the middle of the embroidery is known as a Spring Cow, it is part of the Chinese New Year traditional that has been passed down since 800B.C. The figure of a cow would be made with straws and mud, a day before (Li Chun – the first day of spring in the 24 solar terms) it would be brought to front gate of the town where it would be whipped by all the notable of the town or village. The ritual is believed to wake up the Spring Cow, the passing of the freezing winter, the start of agriculture and the gone with winter ailmnet. With us city dwellers who are far away from the farmland and the fields, the only Spring Cow we will see is perhaps the one printed at the back of the Tung Shing which gives us prediction of the year’s weather. Well, for this year will is suppose to be drought, we seems to be getting a lot of rain so far.
Around the Spring Cow are blessing objects;
@12 o’clock – yellow moon, an object of worship,
@2 o’clock – the double trapezium, Fang Sheng, the hairstyle of the Queen Mother of the West, has the ability to pacify,
@5 o’clock – rhino horn, resembling victory,
@7 o’clock – scroll of books and painting, wisdom
@10 o’clock – the 3 blessed star Fu Lu Shou,
@11 o’clock – in form of a white cloud shape is Ru Yi, “as you wished”.
This is a hat for the new born baby, a blessing from the mother.
Three different fruits are embroidered on the top of the hat (click on the links for more stories about the symbolism);
Peach – symbolizes longevity,
Promegranate – symbolizes fertility,
Buddha’s Finger – symbolizes happiness.
Embroidered n the back flap are the symbols of;
the word “壽” – longevity,
卐 – “Swastika” – luck,
Double Bat – double blessing.
All the good thoughts from the mother to the child.
This is fine piece of embroidery on silk.
A corner is trimmed back on this perfect square, a minimal cutting for the costume.
A Du Dou, a traditional undergarment.
The curve is placed on the collar with a string tied around the neck, strings from the two diagonal corners tied around the body.
Chrysanthemum and peony flowers are the theme of the embroidery, symbolizing happiness and wealth.
Here is a demonstration of how this is worn.
A wall hanger embroidery, use for festivities such as birthday for the elders or for new born babies.
The embroidery is full of well wishes;
Blossom of the Four Season Flowers – (Narcissus, Lotus, Chrysanthemum, Plum) representing good fortune all year round.
Dragon & Phoenix – (Dragon a concept of mammals, fish and reptiles while the phoenix of the birds) the combination of the dragon and the phoenix is the totality, the perfect match.
Kirin Delivery of a Baby Boy – (legend of how Confucius was born) and of course every parents would like to have a son as smart as Confucius.
Ru Yi and the Birthday Peach – (man on a horse was holding a scepter and a birthday peach). The birthday peach representing longevity while the decorative scepter has the name of “as you wish”.
This embroidery is taken from a traditional Chinese under garment, the du dou, a garment that is made by the mother for the child as an extension of love and blessing. The design of this embroidery showed the well wishes of the mother, the hope that her child would become a zhuang yuan, the scholar who came first in the official examination. Since the Siu dynasty, the imperial court has set up a system of examination to find the best scholar to take up an imperial post. This is perhaps the only way to promote one’s status in a hereditary society.
In the embroidery, there is the zhuang yuan holding a bamboo while stepping on head of the Ao fish. 獨占鰲頭, occupying the head of the so fish alone, is a symbol of being the zhuang yuan for during the ceremony with the emperor the zhuang yuan will be standing on the head of a stone carving of the ao fish.
This embroidery band is for the tying the end of the trouser leg. This was part of a typical Chinese costume until the introduction of the western style garments, you can still see the older generation still keeping up this tradition. Along with the long Manchu grown “qipao”, the pot bottom shoes and the pig tail imposed in China by the Manchurian. Before setting up the Qing dynasty, the Jurchen tribe was a nomadic tribe who often spend their days on horse back, the puttee was a beautiful functional accessory for their costume.
This embroidery was taken from a du dou, a traditional Chinese under garment. Du dou for men and children are mostly decorated with embroidery, normally by the mother or the lover. This embroidery is one from the mother to the child, the pattern of the embroidery is filled with object of blessing.
In the middle is a TIGER, representing bravery.
Surrounding the tiger are 6 treasures (from 12 o’clock);
GOURD – charm against evils,
BOOKS – wisdom
FAN – inject life into the dead (one of the treasures of the 8 Immortals)
XIU QIU – love
SCISSOR – charm against evils
RHINOCEROS HORN – victory
PAINTINGS – scholarly
Similar to the western wallet which began its life as a knapsack for carrying articles not restricting to money, the Chinese wallet too start as a bag for keeping items like handkerchief, seals and of course money. The use of the wallet dated back to the Han dynasty, on the Bezeklik cave painting, 12th century CE, one can see Uyghur princes dressed in Chinese style robes and hanging wallets on their waists. As time goes by the shape and decoration of the wallet became more and more elaborated.
This smart garment belongs to the Striped Hmong tribe (Hmoob Txaij) of Thailand, they are one of the 5 hill tribes in the area between Northern Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Amongst the Hmong tribes, there are 4 sub tribe – White Hmong, Green Hmong, Striped Hmong and Hmong Chinese. The Striped Hmong’s costume have striped bands on the arms.
This embroidery captured a scene from the legend Madame White Snake, the novel Jing Shi Tong Yan from the late Ming dynasty. The story was set in the West Lake of Hang Zhou in the period of the Sung dynasty. The serpent spirit of the white snake and her friend green fish subordinate transformed themselves into 2 pretty girls; Bai (white) Su Zhen and Qing Qing (green). Bai fell in love with the Xu Xian and used her magical power got married to him. As time goes by, many strange incident happened because of Bai and Qing. Xu Xian was approached by monk Fa Hai who told him the truth about his wife being a serpent spirit and gave him a monk’s bowl. As Xu Xian place the bowl over his wife’s head, Bai and Qing returned to their original selves. Monk Fa Hai took the bowl with the two spirits and build a Lei Feng pagoda on top of them.
A more romantic story has been adapted for opera, movies where the true love of the white snake is celebrated and the monk became a busybody.
To see the same scene as the embroidery, go 10 minutes into the movie.
As for the Lei Feng pagoda, it was believed that the brick used for building the pagoda has the power of healing, people began to steal the brick, grind it into powder and use it for medicine. 950 year later in 1924, the pagoda fell under its own weight … wonder if the white snake and the green fish manage to escape. A new pagoda was rebuild in 2002.