Tian-tsui (traditional: 點翠, simplified: 点翠, pinyin: diǎncuì, "dotting with kingfishers") is a style of Chinese art featuring kingfisher feathers. For 2,000 years, the Chinese have been using the iridescent blue feathers of kingfisher birds as an inlay for fine art objects and adornment, from hairpins, headdresses, and fans to panels and screens. While Western art collectors have focused on other areas of Chinese art including porcelain, lacquer ware, sculpture, cloisonné, silk and paintings, kingfisher art is relatively unknown outside of China.
Kingfishers or Alcedinidae are a family of small to medium-sized, brightly colored birds in the order Coraciiformes. They have a cosmopolitan distribution, with most species found in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The family contains 114 species and is divided into three subfamilies and 19 genera. All kingfishers have large heads, long, sharp, pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. Most species have bright plumage with only small differences between the sexes. Most species are tropical in distribution, and a slight majority are found only in forests. They consume a wide range of prey usually caught by swooping down from a perch. While kingfishers are usually thought to live near rivers and eat fish, many species live away from water and eat small invertebrates. Like other members of their order, they nest in cavities, usually tunnels dug into the natural or artificial banks in the ground. Some kingfishers nest in arboreal termite nests. A few species, principally insular forms, are threatened with extinction. In Britain, the word "kingfisher" normally refers to the common kingfisher.
Porcelain is a ceramic material made by heating materials, generally including kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C. The toughness, strength, and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pottery, arises mainly from vitrification and the formation of the mineral mullite within the body at these high temperatures. Though definitions vary, porcelain can be divided into three main categories: hard-paste, soft-paste and bone china. The category that an object belongs to depends on the composition of the paste used to make the body of the porcelain object and the firing conditions.
The term lacquer is used for a number of hard and potentially shiny finishes applied to materials such as wood. These fall into a number of very different groups.
Kingfisher feathers are painstakingly cut and glued onto gilt silver. The effect is like cloisonné, but no enamel was able to rival the electric blue color. Blue is the traditional favorite color in China.
As with most iridescent, electrifying colors in animals such as morpho butterfly wings, the intense color in bird feathers comes not from pigments in the feather itself, but from the way light is bent and reflected back out, much like a prism breaks white light into its spectrum of rainbow colors. These microscopic structures in feathers are called photonic crystals.
The most expensive, commissioned pieces used a species of kingfisher from Cambodia. So great was the export to sate Chinese demand, the trade of feathers may have been a major contributor to the wealth of the Khmer Empire, and used to help fund the construction of the magnificent temples near Siem Reap, Cambodia including Angkor Wat. The finest pieces of kingfisher art were reserved for royalty or high-ranking Chinese government official (called a "mandarin (bureaucrat)"). The usage of kingfisher feathers resulted in the mass slaughter of many kingfisher species.
Cambodia, officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is 181,035 square kilometres in area, bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.
The Khmer Empire, officially the Angkor Empire, the predecessor state to modern Cambodia, was a Hindu-Buddhist empire in Southeast Asia. The empire, which grew out of the former kingdoms of Funan and Chenla, at times ruled over and/or vassalised most of mainland Southeast Asia and parts of Southern China, stretching from the tip of the Indochinese Peninsula northward to modern Yunnan province, China, and from Vietnam westward to Myanmar.
Siem Reap is the capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia. It is a popular resort town and a gateway to the Angkor region.
Kingfisher art as a high art form came to an end during the Chinese Revolution in the 1940s.
Color, or colour, is the characteristic of human visual perception described through color categories, with names such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, or purple. This perception of color derives from the stimulation of cone cells in the human eye by electromagnetic radiation in the visible spectrum. Color categories and physical specifications of color are associated with objects through the wavelength of the light that is reflected from them. This reflection is governed by the object's physical properties such as light absorption, emission spectra, etc.
Green is the color between blue and yellow on the visible spectrum. It is evoked by light which has a dominant wavelength of roughly 495–570 nm. In subtractive color systems, used in painting and color printing, it is created by a combination of yellow and blue, or yellow and cyan; in the RGB color model, used on television and computer screens, it is one of the additive primary colors, along with red and blue, which are mixed in different combinations to create all other colors. By far the largest contributor to green in nature is chlorophyll, the chemical by which plants photosynthesize and convert sunlight into chemical energy. Many creatures have adapted to their green environments by taking on a green hue themselves as camouflage. Several minerals have a green color, including the emerald, which is colored green by its chromium content.
Yellow is the color between orange and green on the spectrum of visible light. It is evoked by light with a dominant wavelength of roughly 570–590 nm. It is a primary color in subtractive color systems, used in painting or color printing. In the RGB color model, used to create colors on television and computer screens, yellow is a secondary color made by combining red and green at equal intensity. Carotenoids give the characteristic yellow color to autumn leaves, corn, canaries, daffodils, and lemons, as well as egg yolks, buttercups, and bananas. They absorb light energy and protect plants from photodamage. Sunlight has a slight yellowish hue when sun is near a horizon, due to atmosphere scattering shorter wavelengths.
In most biological nomenclature, a scale is a small rigid plate that grows out of an animal's skin to provide protection. In lepidopteran species, scales are plates on the surface of the insect wing, and provide coloration. Scales are quite common and have evolved multiple times through convergent evolution, with varying structure and function.
Feathers are epidermal growths that form the distinctive outer covering, or plumage, on dinosaurs and possibly other archosauromorphs. They are considered the most complex integumentary structures found in vertebrates and a premier example of a complex evolutionary novelty. They are among the characteristics that distinguish the extant birds from other living groups.
The common kingfisher also known as the Eurasian kingfisher, and river kingfisher, is a small kingfisher with seven subspecies recognized within its wide distribution across Eurasia and North Africa. It is resident in much of its range, but migrates from areas where rivers freeze in winter.
Vitreous enamel, also called porcelain enamel, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C. The powder melts, flows, and then hardens to a smooth, durable vitreous coating. The word comes from the Latin vitreum, meaning "glassy".
Iridescence is the phenomenon of certain surfaces that appear to gradually change colour as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes. Examples of iridescence include soap bubbles, butterfly wings and seashells, as well as certain minerals. It is often created by structural coloration.
The Silkie is a breed of chicken named for its atypically fluffy plumage, which is said to feel like silk and satin. The breed has several other unusual qualities, such as black skin and bones, blue earlobes, and five toes on each foot, whereas most chickens only have four. They are often exhibited in poultry shows, and appear in various colors. In addition to their distinctive physical characteristics, Silkies are well known for their calm, friendly temperament. It is among the most docile of poultry. Hens are also exceptionally broody, and care for young well. Though they are fair layers themselves, laying only about three eggs a week, they are commonly used to hatch eggs from other breeds and bird species due to their broody nature. Silkie chickens are very easy to keep as pets. They are suitable for children, but like any pet, should be handled with care.
The black-capped kingfisher is a tree kingfisher which is widely distributed in tropical Asia from India east to China, Korea and Southeast Asia. This most northerly of the Halcyonidae is resident over much of its range, but northern populations are migratory and they wintering south of their range to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Borneo and Java. It is distinctive in having a black cap that contrasts with the whitish throat, purple blue wings and the coral red bill. The species is mainly found in coastal and mangrove habitats but can sometimes be found far inland.
Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects. In recent centuries, vitreous enamel has been used, and inlays of cut gemstones, glass and other materials were also used during older periods. The resulting objects can also be called cloisonné. The decoration is formed by first adding compartments to the metal object by soldering or affixing silver or gold wires or thin strips placed on their edges. These remain visible in the finished piece, separating the different compartments of the enamel or inlays, which are often of several colors. Cloisonné enamel objects are worked on with enamel powder made into a paste, which then needs to be fired in a kiln.
Azure is a bright cyan-blue color that is often described as the color of the sky on a clear day.
Lawes's parotia, is a medium-sized passerine of the bird-of-paradise family, Paradisaeidae. It is distributed and endemic to mountain forests of southeast and eastern Papua New Guinea. Occasionally, the eastern parotia is considered a subspecies of P. lawesii. The species is similar to the western parotia.
The eared quetzal, also known as the eared trogon, is a near passerine bird in the trogon family, Trogonidae. It breeds in streamside pine-oak forests and canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico south to western Michoacán. It is sometimes seen as a vagrant to southeasternmost Arizona in the United States and has bred there. This range includes part of the Madrean Sky Islands region of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and northern Sonora.
A lapel pin, also known as an enamel pin, is a small pin worn on clothing, often on the lapel of a jacket, attached to a bag, or displayed on a piece of fabric. Lapel pins can be ornamental or can indicate wearer's affiliation with an organization or cause. Before the popularity of wearing lapel pins, boutonnières were worn.
Blyth's kingfisher is the largest kingfisher in the genus Alcedo. Named for Edward Blyth, the species has also been known as Alcedo grandis and as the great blue kingfisher. Between 22 and 23 centimetres long, the kingfisher has deep rufous underparts with a blackish blue breast patch, and brilliant cobalt blue or azure upperparts, tinged with purple. The wings are a dark blackish green, with blue speckles and tips to some of the feathers. The bill of the male is entirely black, while the female has a dark red lower mandible. The species is distinguished from the similar blue-eared kingfisher and common kingfisher by its greater size, heavy black bill, and dark lores.
Animal coloration is the general appearance of an animal resulting from the reflection or emission of light from its surfaces. Some animals are brightly colored, while others are hard to see. In some species, such as the peafowl, the male has strong patterns, conspicuous colors and is iridescent, while the female is far less visible.
Dinosaur color is one of the unknowns in the field of paleontology as skin pigmentation is nearly always lost during the fossilization process. However, recent studies of feathered dinosaurs have shown that we might be able to infer the color of some species through the use of melanosomes, the color-determining pigments within the feathers.
In living creatures, Structural coloration is the production of colour by microscopically structured surfaces fine enough to interfere with visible light, sometimes in combination with pigments. For example, peacock tail feathers are pigmented brown, but their microscopic structure makes them also reflect blue, turquoise, and green light, and they are often iridescent.
Beverley Jackson is an American writer on Chinese culture and fashion As well as international travel, polo and style. Her published works cover life in 1920s and 1930s. A collector of dolls she published Dolls of Spain 2017 Create Space. A freelance writer her articles have been published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,Paris Vogue, London Vogue, US Vogue, Time Magazine. As a lecturer she has lectured around the world including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Museum of Art Shanghai, Civilization Museum Singapore, as well as universities and American museums. Was a featured speaker at the Shanghai International Writers Conference 2006. Was curator of Chinese textiles at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum for 20 years. Has been a collector of Chinese imperial robes since 1975. Currently she is weaving pine needle baskets exhibited at Casa Gallery and her collages have had three major exhibitions in Santa Barbara galleries.and now writes a weekly column for The Voice.