Qingyang sachet, also known as "chu chu", is a kind of folk customs of Qingyang, Gansu. According to the paper-cutting designs, people use colorful string to embroider a variety of patterns on the silk, and then sew into different shapes which fill with cotton and spices to make a small, exquisite, and beautiful embroidery products. This embroidery is also called purse or “shua huo zi” in local culture of Qingyang. The eternal theme of Qingyang sachet of blessing is to get auspicious and good luck, blessedness and happiness, to avoid evil and disaster, illnesses and misfortune for safe and peace of the wonderful world.
Introduction to Qingyang Sachet
According to historical records, sachet is also known as purse, xiangnang, peiwei, rongchou. The common name in Qingyang is “chu chu" or “shua huo". There is the custom of making and wearing “chuchu” on Dragon Boat Festival in Qingyang customs. ("Chu" Originally referred to the original method of bone needles of sewing, after, referred to the sachet which made of cloth and the top of the bag can be tied up or loose.) Its starting time is not can be test yet, it was said that was formed in 2300 years BC. Qi Bo, the author of Huang Di Nei Jing had carried a bag full of herbs, which can prevent the plague and snake venom, created the ‘Fumigation’. Because Qi Bo was born in Qingyang, Therefore, Fumigation had become the custom in the local and circulated continuously. Drugs known as "vanilla, Thus, the bag were called the ‘sachet’. In the earliest classic Chinese medicine, Huang Di Nei Jing, there is the record on the sachet. The oldest existing sachet also has 800 years of history. In 2001, people removed and dug the “Pairs of stone pagodas” in Song Dynasty in Qingyang. They found a sachet in the pagodas. According to research, this sachet has been made at least 800 years ago. But it is still beautiful in color, fresh in pattern. So, it is called “Longevity Sachet”. This is the earliest sachet ever found.
Qingyang sachet is kind of handcraft with 3D sculpting and plain embroidery. Their structures are homeless, and they can be divided into four types – chu chu, spool, 3D sculpting and plain embroidery in terms of making-ways. “Chu chu” means hiding the needles when embroider. It is famous for give people a highly simulated feeling without seeing the needles. The procedure of the craft includes design, picking up materials, tailor, copying the shape of the thing and so on. The spool type of sachet is made of various colors needles and shaped as 'ZongZi' (a pyramid-shaped mass of glutinous rice wrapped in leaves). It needs many skills to finish it, such as folding cardboards, matching needles, figuring with needles and improving it (join the finished-products together and hung festoons). This kind of sachet can be got along with us, hanged on doors, and can also be sent to others as a present to show auspicition and safe. The 3D sculpting kind of sachet is complicated; it has many forms like accessories with hanging in sides or single side, 3D accessories and about four-hundred formats. The procedure of 3D sculpting sachet includes composition, embroidery, dyeing, screwing, improvement, and a series of craft processes. The sachet focuses on similar in feeling not appearance. The style of plain embroidery sachet is honest and sincere, and it gives us a feeling of eternal.
Qingyang sachet has five different types: head-setting, shoulder-sitting, chest-hanging, back-carrying, and foot-wearing. The sachet is different from other bags by its old quality, origin culture and curious technique.
- Deeply primitive environmental culture: Qingyang lies in Yellow River, where the eternal Chinese nation lives in the early times who having deeply primitive culture and less effect from other culture. In folk techniques of embroidery, there have a platy of primitive marks from worshiping all gods in people's childhood and totems such as dragon, snake, tiger, and deer. There is culture of weird and God and philosophy idea of old balance of the two opposing principles in nature. Such as using green cloth to make snake, and then adding some plums, it is the exemplification of dragon. It is the historical remains which is dragon worship and snake worship and primitive environmental culture from the dragon totems or snake totems.
- Diversified and singular technique of expression: Qingyang sachet embroidery is a changeable technique without perspective and proportion. It does not demand the exact image, but requires romantic charm with exaggerated shape and outstanding body parts. There are numbers of animal sachets with different shapes, such as a big head with a small body, a head without a tail, or a head with no feet, a head and a body without legs, or short feet on a long body, claws replace legs. Use shoulder-sitting tiger-shape sachet as an example, the tiger usually has claws instead of legs. It is never the real image nor the appropriate body proportion, but entirely design in art thinking point of view by the artist.
- Symbolic analogy: Eliminating evil and blessing is the eternal motif of Qingyang folk cultures. The main expression of Qingyang sachet is using symbolic means. For instance, it is to eliminate evil, to protect their own security by using powerful and bold characteristics of tigers and lions. Such as they compare love by using the scene of fishes swimming into lotus, also expect to have more children and more happiness by using the apiaceous characteristic of gourds and pomegranates. To symbolize giving birth to a baby as soon as possible by using the pronunciation of dates, Peanuts, Longans and lotus nuts in Chinese.
- Unique aesthetic point of view: It does not look from the material life, but starting from the idea of imagery techniques to make exaggerated forms, changeable gestures, multiple perspectives, and to create sachets at random. It has great differences with professional art. Many professional artists believe that it is an unreasonable design, however, in the eye of Qingyang artists, it is quite usual. Such as the sachet of “cats eat rats”, there are several rat embroidered on the stomach of the cat shape sachet. They imagine that the rats were still alive after eaten by cat. Or the sachet of “Janus (double-dealer)” with nose, eyes, and mouth on both side of the face, it is the ideal imagination of the human facial features.
At Qingyang City, “Longevity Sachet” in Shuangta Temple of Huachi district designed from different shapes of plum, lotus and winding flower. According to the doctrines of Buddhist Pure Land, this piece symbolizes as “Western Pure Land”. Because different shapes of plum have become the auspicious signs on the chest of the Buddha since Tang Dynasty.
People thought their children can grow up safely and without any disaster as long as God or mascot protects them from evil spirit and ghost. The Qingyang sachets with tiger and lion patterns and five-poison dustpan (it embroiders the patterns of snakes, scorpions, centipedes, lizards, and spiders), five-poison hat are all the protection mascots. Except that, the ancient people believed that ghosts were afraid of cocks. When cocks crow, all ghosts disappear. Furthermore, garlic sachet (small garlic) is also the talisman to get rid of evil. Gourd sachet with gourd seeds is powerful ear protection talisman.
Qingyang sachet with a strong sense of tradition, exquisite handmade work, strong 3D sense, complementary static and dynamic, deeply folk consciousness, and beautiful symbolic meaning is folk art treasure. As the traditional decorations of Dragon Boat Festival, Qingyang sachet is full of people’s Good wishes, conveying the symbolic meaning of blessing and eliminating evil. Each sachet was endowed with folk culture content, showing life, expressing thought belief, revealing humanity. It reflects the simple, healthy, positive spirituality of the laboring people and implying the broad, profound and masculine national soul of Chinese ancient civilization.
Qingyang sachet has such a long history mainly because that Qingyang has a strong cultivated culture customs. One of the most obvious characters is man take charge of cultivating and woman manages to spin and weave. Under the relatively developed productivity, women besides finished weaving cloth, they made some handicrafts and presents to embellish their lives and improve their relationships. From then on, sachet has been circulating. These sachets give people the feeling of magnificent and beautiful. They contain and saturate old philosophic mystery, and their content is various. The theme of the content mostly describes the worship of humankinds' childhood and original totems. In Qingyang, sachets can be seen everywhere. They are hanged on the pipes of rural old men, wearied on the heads of child and decorated on the clothes of girls. On Dragon Boat Festival people would wear sachets especially children, they wear various kinds of sachets which can drive out evils on their chests, backs and shoulders. On this day, Qingyang is like an exhibition of sachets, and pleasant odor pervades every comer of city and countryside. Just like a saying going " Pleasant odor pervades ten miles away, and people lived around are carried away by the smell.”