Himalaya, Ensemble, Spring/Summer 2020
To embroider a White Tara (an important figure in Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism) thangka onto Chinese clothing is a work of both culture and art. It is a different technique than painting. To achieve the face of a Buddha that is compassionate but not sad, majestic but not angry, requires both superb embroidery skills and a peaceful state of mind. The key lies in the eyes of the Buddha statue. When embroidering, you must first burn incense and wash your hands. You must not be impatient or rushed. The eyes of the Buddha should be embroidered 30 percent open. In this way the Buddha’s face will appear solemn and compassionate.
The designer has meticulously depicted and described all the Buddhas and gods in the thangka world. The ornaments, crowns, and rosary beads of the Buddha are decorated with colorful gemstones. The Buddha is embroidered with colored silk threads, set against the holy light embroidered with gold and silver metallic threads. The combined effect is a radiant magnificence.
The White Tara is embroidered in satin stitch (tao zhen), net stitch (wang zhen), slanted satin stitch (chan zhen), weaving stitch (bian zhi zhen), padded satin stitch (dian gao xiu), beadwork (ding zhu xiu), stem stitch (you zhen), tent stitch (dian zhen xiu), couching stitch (ding xian xiu), and other embroidery methods. The lotus flower in the Buddha's hand is embroidered with transitional gold thread and colored thread. Padded satin stitch (dian gao xiu), satin stitch (tao zhen), straight satin stitch (zhi zhen), and slanted satin stitch (chan zhen) are all commonly used stitches in Chinese embroidery. However, the strength of gold thread makes this embroidery especially difficult. Even more commendable is the way Guo Pei has ingeniously applied handicraft skills. For example, the branches of the lotus are hand-woven and then sewn and embroidered onto the flower stem. White pom-poms are also affixed around the Buddha to express the holy mood.