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Madam Butterfly 2008

17 March 2007


Madam Butterfly is 80-year old now, and never met Captain Pinkerton in her life, and never been in love with any American Navy officer. No! But she has always enjoyed watching butterfly, whether they are in a garden or on a piece of artwork, and has always enjoyed watching sports, in this case on television only. When she was 77-year old back in 2004, she decided to do something about the two hobbies that she loved most, and thus an idea of embroidering 2008 butterflies as her gift to Beijing Olympics 2008 came to her mind.

So the stage for her monumental artwork is set, not in a Japanese house in Nagasaki, but in a Chinese flat in Zhenzhou, on a piece of white cloth, about 27-m long by 1-m wide. Since then, her masterpiece was unfolded by the day, with a new butterfly emerging almost every hour.

Madam Butterfly, her name actually is not Cio-Cio San, but Gao Suyun (高素云)

When she bred her first 100 or so butterflies, as it is reported, she just carelessly released them into a total free world where there were no rules or regulations to govern their behaviour. But as the population grew, the Garden of Eden gradually demonstrated a sign of descending into the hell of chaos. And it was by then she realised that she needed a development control plan. So she invited her teenager grandson, a gifted award-winning stamp designer, to draft a DCP which could meet her policy objective of ensuring that no individual butterfly would take too much spatial resource in the name of freedom of expression to the point that suppresses other butterfly’s basic butterfly rights of showing up. Since she replaced her farcical utopia vision of wild free world with her grandson’s realistic idea of orderly co-existence, peace was re-installed on her cloth and the butterfly community prospered.

Of course, it is never easy to live up to the expectation of being a creator, and when this creator is merely a human being, it is twice difficult; and when this human being is in an advanced age of around the corner of 80, the hardship has to be tripled, considering each butterfly requires hundreds even over a thousand stitches to take shape, which hurt her back, neck and eyesight greatly. But she kept on keeping on. And then two and a half years later, in early March 2007, a triumphant announcement by her family on her behalf was heard all over China that the mission of creating 2008 butterflies was accomplished.

A portion of the butterfly community created by Madam Butterfly

It is said that with the faithful implementation of her grandson’s practical DCP, the masterpiece has not only been able to accommodate over 2000 acrobatic butterflies that each assumes an unique identity with distinctive colour, shape and size, but facilitates some basic infrastructure, including a 2.8-m track and 35 sports images, as well as an information board, containing the Olympic logo, the maps of the world and China, the flags of the countries that participate the games, and the names of Chinese Olympians. Its grand title is the theme slogan of the Beijing Olympics: One World One Dream (同一个世界,同一个梦想) – very much to the envy of Zhuangzi, an ancient Chinese philosopher lived more than 2000 years ago. “Am I Zhuangzi who has dreamed to be a butterfly? Or I’m actually a butterfly who has dreamed to be Zhuangzi?” he might well wonder again, hehee …

Right now the butterfly creator’s biggest dream is to go to Beijing presenting in person the 2008 butterflies to the Olympics on the 8th day of the 8th month in the year of 2008. By then our Madam Butterfly will be 80 plus 1-year old.

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