This work is an excellent example of the Tie Bu embroidery style used by the Miao people from Puding. A base cloth of black hand woven bu (cotton) is surmounted by appliqué made up of individual fabric motifs of various colours and white bu, cut into traditional ‘cloud wave’ patterns. The central pattern of the work shows a highly stylised motif of two butterflies flanked by trees bordered by cloud wave patterns surrounded by trees. The abstract imagery reflects the Miao’s natural environment and traditional belief system. The Miao have a tradition by which a child is ‘adopted’ by a tree to embody the desire of the parents for their youngster to grow up strong and healthy. The tradition is represented in their embroidery by the use of tree motifs. The use of the butterfly motif relates to the traditional ‘Butterfly Mother’ (Hu Die Ma Ma) creation story and the desire for future generations.
The minimalist nature of this work belies its importance as a piece from a significant period of China’s history. The ability of the embroiderer to use the scarce resources available at the time to craft a work of love representing her hopes for her child’s life and that of future generations is striking in its simplicity.