As a miniature of Chinese embroidery history, the history of pouches incorporates abundant etiquettes and regulations, as well as varied folk customs. For the ruling class, the pouch is a symbol of the ritual system. However, it is more practical than symbolic for common people.
An embroidered pouch is composed of two sides, the interior and the exterior. The exterior is embroidered while the mouth is threaded with a silk string which can be tightened and loosened. The pouch features two ribbons fastened to the two sides, a tassel stitched to the bottom, along with fringes and beads as ornaments. This kind of pouch is designed for paraphernalia and perfume, including the purse and the sachet.
The pouch boasts a great variety of designs and patterns. There are different patterns for pouches of different uses, but praying for luck is the common subject. Some depict love and marriage, such as "phoenix and peony" and "butterflies and flowers." Some wish for longevity and more children, such as "golden melons and children," "pomegranate seeds" and "kylin carrying a son." Some others express good wishes through animals and plants. Besides, there are also various utensils indicating good luck and happiness. Different subjects convey different emotions. It is in the colorful threads that people embody their feelings and expectations.
It is impossible to find out since when the pouch has become a pledge of romantic love. A woman's sincere love is reflected in the pouch, be it made by a wife for her husband or by a maid for her lover. For numerous ethnic minorities in China, the pouch is the pledge of love. In Guizhou Province, it is an ancient convention for Buyi people to ask the newly-weds for a pouch. The convention has been passed down from generation to generation. The pouch constitutes an integral part of the folk customs in China. For instance, to add to festivity and show respect for conventions, every family makes and wears scented sachets on the traditional Dragon Boat Festival.
The beauty of the pouch lies in its vivid designs and lively shapes. However, it also embodies something more colorful and profound, which is the rational content underlying the perceptual form. Specifically, the rational content refers to the social relations and regulations which are incorporated into specific designs. The pouch embroidery can be understood as a cultural image. Besides, the pouch itself has become an expressive form of art. Both the embroidery and the pouch, after all, are intended to express people's spiritual needs and emotional motives. As spiritual creation and emotional vent for women of different identities, the pouch helps to cultivate a natural state of being which features harmony and happiness.
(Source of the pictures: www.chinfun.com)