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The Magic of Butterfly Wings

Butterfly pictures are images made from carefully pieced-together butterfly wings to create beautiful, silky-smooth, lustrous and natural patterns. The pictures emphasize the original shape and patterns of butterfly wings, highlighting the texture and metallic luster of different kinds of butterflies.

To make a butterfly picture, the craftsperson chooses butterfly wings of different shapes to be pieced together, harmonizing the relationship between texture and color. During the process, the artist has to pay close attention to the thickness and density of the wings used.

A good butterfly picture usually displays its creator's hyper imagination, sophisticated painting skills and rich knowledge of butterflies. When placed in a bright area, the work will shimmer.

Generally speaking, subjects for butterfly pictures mainly include human figures, water and mountain landscapes, and flowers and birds. Some of the best examples include "Twelve Beauties of Jinling City," "Scenery of Xishuangbana," and "Return of Hundreds of Butterflies."

At the 19th International Congress of Entomology held in Beijing in June 1992, China showcased beautiful butterfly pictures to the world as "one unique Chinese work", winning much praise from event participants.

Reputed as "dancers of Great Nature" and "flowers that fly", butterflies are regarded as a symbol of peace, happiness and fidelity. Butterfly art has a history of more than 200 years in foreign countries. Although China is rich in butterflies, butterfly art has developed slowly in the nation. The first butterfly pictures sprang up in the 1930s in China's Taiwan Province, and are still developing on the Chinese mainland.

Good butterfly art, however, is not determined by the rarity or value of the butterfly species used: It is the artist's technique and skill that matter. Butterflies should not be captured or sold for this purpose alone, particularly rare species under State protection.

'Monsieur Butterfly': Liang Senquan

Liang Senquan has tried his best to present the most beautiful side of butterfly wings to people. The 60-year-old member of the China Arts and Crafts Association has changed the traditional ways of creating two-dimensional butterfly pictures, initiating a new technique that features bas-relief or 3-D pictures.

His works have won the second prize at China's First Tourism Souvenirs Design Competition in 2002, and were selected as gifts by the Hainan Provincial Government to the World Tourism Organization. In 2003, Liang walked away with the Best Innovation Award at the Hainan Tourism Souvenirs Design Competition.

In Liang's studio, partially complete and finished butterfly pictures are scattered among various Chinese and foreign books on butterflies and butterfly wings from various species.

Although Liang, who used to be a medical worker, says that it is hard to associate medical work with creating butterfly pictures, his experience in the medical field has laid out a solid foundation in his current career, especially in terms of preserving butterfly wings.

In 1994 Liang began to study the art of butterfly pictures and produced simple 2-D works. He said that although his initial pictures were strictly numbers, it was difficult to produce them using butterfly wings, especially handling the radian of each figure's pivot point, which was hard to maneuver in terms of pasting and color matching.
In the past, Liang may have trimmed butterfly wings to coordinate images, but today he always uses complete butterfly wings to retain their original, natural beauty. Sometimes, Liang suspends his work out of consideration for nature and preservation laws.

In 1998, Liang began to study and raise butterflies via artificial propagation. By 1999, he had successfully reproduced the Troides Helena (Linnaeus), Pachliopta Aritolochiae (Fabricius), Danaus Chrysippus (Linnaeus), Catopsilia Pomona F. Crocale (Fabricius) and other butterfly species, supplying sufficient sources for his creations.

Liang genuinely loves butterflies and knows how to protect them. His aesthetic pursuits have made him China's first individual with the largest collection of butterflies to have created the most butterfly pictures.

Liang has three wishes: He hopes for a butterfly museum of his own, to display his works abroad, and to exhibit his pictures at the 2010 Expo.

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