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Maitreya Five Dragons Embroidery

In the Hundred Dragons Hall, on the wall behind Buddha Maitreya is a large, exquisite, royal embroidery with five swirling, energetic dragons, five bats, and five golden carp; serving as an exquisite background, adding grandeur and motion to the Maitreya Trinity.

The main dragon is located at the centre and surrounded by the other four dragons, flying above the sea, with colourful clouds. Two of the carp have cleared the ‘Dragon Gate’ and transformed themselves into baby dragons.

The main theme of this massive embroidered backdrop is the classic chinese fable of dragons metamorphosing from their previous incarnations as carp. The five adult dragons are five-clawed creatures with ferocious countenance. They bar their fangs amidst flowing long whiskers and antlers with thick pointed eyebrows and pointed vertebral scales. Their scaled bodies are golden with white bellies. They seem to fly effortlessly amongst thick billowing clouds and streaks of fire.

The central front-facing dragon stares directly in front, pursuing a flaming red pearl. Four other profile dragons occupy the four corners of the embroidery with their heads turned towards the central dragon in awe.

Beneath the dragons is a depiction of a turbulent ocean with six carp leaping out of the waves on the right. In the middle jutting out from the ocean is a stone plaque with the words ‘Dragon Gate’ (Traditional Chinese: 禹門) written on it. On the left side of the seas we can see a hybrid dragon-carp with wings and a three-clawed limb just about to plunge into the ocean populated by two other swimming newly-transformed small dragons.

Five bats fly upwards towards the middle dragon, adding to the exuberance of the whole transformative jubilee.

The design of this embroidery is very careful and elegant, the workmanship easy and smooth, the whole picture is solemn and beautiful.

These beautiful dragons form an imposing background which accentuates and highlight the magnificence of the Maitreya Buddha. There was extensive use of gold silk threads and brings out beauty and fluidity of the splendid dragons.

The names of the sponsors are embroidered at the top.

About Dragons
(Note: For more information about dragons, please see section on Hundred Heavenly Dragons)

About Carps and Dragon Gate

The Carp’s (Chinese: liyu; Japanese: Koi 鯉) jumping and transforming into a dragon feature is set in such a proverbial idiom as “Liyu (Carp) jumps over the Dragon Gate (Chinese: 鯉躍龍門),” an idiom that conveys a vivid image symbolizing a sudden uplifting in one’s social status, as when one ascends into the upper society or has found favor with the royal or a noble family through success in civil examination or through marriage.

This symbolic image, as well as the image of carp itself, has been one of the most popular common artistic themes from ancient China in Chinese paintings, especially those of popular styles. The fish is usually colored in gold or pink color, shimmering with an unmistakably auspicious tone.

This theme is based on a Chinese legend (Japanese: Koi-no-Takinobori 鯉の滝登り) wherein carp swam, against all odds, up a waterfall known as the “Dragon Gate” at the headwaters of China’s Yellow River. The gods were very impressed by the feat, and rewarded the few successful carp by turning them into powerful dragons.

The story symbolizes the virtues of courage, effort, and perseverance, which correspond to the arduous struggle of humans to attain Buddhahood. In modern Japan, temples and shrines commonly stock their garden ponds with carp, which grow to enormous sizes in a variety of colors.

About Bats

Bats ( Chinese: bian fu, 蝙蝠) are mammals of the order Chiroptera (/kaɪˈrɒptərə/; from the Greek χείρ – cheir, “hand” and πτερόνpteron, “wing”) whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight.

In China, the bats are symbol of longevity, happiness and are very auspicious creatures. If one ever flies into your home, you won’t want to do any harm to it because it brings you luck! The bat is a symbol of good fortune because the second word of its name ‘bian fu’ (蝙蝠) sounds like ‘luck’ in chinese (福).

Bat symbols are seen on many Chinese objects, signs, and arts. They are often seen as two or five bats but seldom alone.

Two bats “shuang fu” 双福 means ‘double luck’. A design of two bats with a scepter ru yi means “double happiness as wished”.

Five bats “wu fu” 五福 means Five Fortunes referring to Good Luck, Prosperity, Wealth, Happiness and Longevity.

There are several bats that have made BTRTM their home. They can be found on the roof eaves at the front lobby of the Hundred Dragons Hall!

About Suzhou Embriodery

Chinese embroidery refers to embroidery created by any of the cultures located in the area that makes up modern China. It is some of the oldest extant needlework. The four major regional styles of Chinese embroidery are Suzhou embroidery (Su Xiu), Hunan embroidery (Xiang Xiu), Guangdong embroidery (Yue Xiu) and Sichuan embroidery (Shu Xiu). All of them are nominated as Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritages.

Su Xiu (苏绣) — Suzhou embroidery is crafted in areas around Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, having a history dating back 2,000 years, originating in the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280). According to historical records, Su embroidery became so popular during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that people even named lanes with names associated with silk and its embroidery. Nearly every family raised silkworms and embroidered. Su embroidery reached its peak during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and Suzhou was named the Embroidery City at that time. In 1957, the Embroidery Research Institute was established in Suzhou. It is famous for its beautiful patterns, elegant colors, variety of stitches, and consummate craftsmanship. Its stitching is meticulously skillful, coloration subtle and refined. Suzhou artists are able to use more than 40 needlework and a 1,000 different types of threads to make embroidery, typically with nature and environment themes such as flowers, birds, animals and even gardens on a piece of cloth.

Su embroidery is known for its delicacy and elegance. It has a wide range of themes. Its techniques include both single-faced embroidery and unique double-faced embroidery that looks the same from either side. Double-sided embroidery has the same pattern on both sides and uses the same embroidering method that does not show the joins in the stitches. Basic features of Su embroidery are simple composition, clear theme, vivid image, and gentle color. In recent times, Su embroidery design has absorbed some western painting techniques.

The design is usually very simple, highlighting a main theme. Its stitching is smooth, dense, thin, neat, even, delicate and harmonious, etc. The thin thread is divided into up to 48 strands that are barely visible to the naked eye. In terms of categories, Su embroidery has stage costumes, embroidery fabrics and hanging screens, etc. Su embroidery products were sent to participate in the Panama World Fair in 1915. Since then, the style has become increasingly famous throughout the world.

Suzhou embroidery’s “chaotic needle technique” was invented in the 1920s by Yang Shouyu. The technique’s new way of organising lines results in a vivid 3D effect similar to a Western oil painting. The seemingly chaotic intersecting lines of varying lengths effect an interestingly novel layering of colours. The term “chaotic” is a little misleading, since the technique unfolds according to certain rules and only seems disorderly. Lines of different lengths skewed relative to either the vertical or horizontal axis crisscross and interlace. They then undergo further layering and colour mixing until the density is right and there is close similarity in gloss, colour and form. This technique differs from traditional embroidery in both execution and artistic effect. It results in a unique visual effect.

Our Eminent Sangha Museum at our mezzanine floor has a set of five dragons embroidery works (EM010-EM014) on display. The central biggest piece (left) is that of two front-facing four-clawed dragons—one on top of another—against a dark background populated by clouds. Beneath the dragons are three sets of three vertical mountains rising from a choppy ocean with foaming and swirling waves. The middle set is the tallest, indicating that it is the closest to the viewer with the other two at the corners smaller, implying that they are further away. The other two groups of mountains are also partially obscured by clouds. Both dragons clutch a flaming pearl with their front right limbs.

The other four pieces (above) are of similar size and motif, the main difference being the colour of their backgrounds. The backgrounds of the immediate two embroidery works flanking the central piece are golden yellow while the piece on the far right is vivd red and the one on the far left is golden orange. Development of BTRTM Maitreya Five Dragons Embroidery.

The final design was developed by Mr Huang Yusuo from Putian, Fujian, China and fine-tuned by Venerable Shi Fa Zhao. The design of this embroidery is very energetic and elegant; the workmanship easy and smooth, the whole picture is inspiring and beautiful. There was extensive use of gold silk threads which brings out the beauty. Its size is 7.15 meters (width) by 5.15 meters (height).

This embroidery was painstaking done by a team of 38 embroiderers, the oldest being 65 years of age! The embroidery team was led by Ms Liang Xue Fang of Suzhou Zhenhu Embroidered Products Factory.

The sponsorship of the Maitreya 5 Dragons Embroidery was $200,000.


Bibliography:

  1. Meher McArthur, Reading Buddhist Art, An Illustrated Guide to Buddhist Signs and Symbols, Thames & Hudson, 2002, ISBN 0-500-28428-8, page 137
  2. Louis Frederic, Buddhism, Flammarion Iconographic Guides, Flammarion, 1995, ISBN 2-08013-558-9, pages 276 – 279
  3. Young Yang Chung, Silken threads, A History of Embroidery in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, Harry N Abrams Inc. Publishers, 2005, ISBN 0-8109-4330-1

Websites:

  1. Chinese embroidery – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. Learn about Chinese Embroidery
  3. Chinese Embroidery
  4. Chinese dragon – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  5. JAANUS / ryuu 龍
  6. Asian carp – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  7. http://www.aisf.or.jp/~jaanus/deta/k/koinotakinobori.htm
  8. Chinese Paintings Carp Information. Chinese Art at the The Gallery of China
  9. Bat – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  10. Bat Symbol
  11. http://www.chinancient.com/bats-in-chinese-culture/
  12. Bats in Chinese Art

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