The velvet bird is an ancient Chinese art form that originated in Beijing. Once a craft mastered by many, few people in China have the skills to create them. One of those people is Cai Zhiwei.
Interview with folk artist Cai Zhiwei
"The Beijing velvet bird is actually a vague concept. Before 1949, the concept of a velvet bird did not exist. At that time, the velvet hand crafts were mainly velvet flowers. These are all velvet flowers. This kind of art originated in the Sui and Tang dynasties, and became most prevalent in the Qing Dynasty. During Emperor Kangxi's rule, a large number of Beijing residents made a living by hand-making flowers. There were velvet flowers, silk flowers and paper flowers, which were gathered around the Beijing flower market and dominated an entire street.
In the past, velvet flowers were mainly made to meet the demands of the Royal Palace. The velvet flowers made for royalty were shaped like dragons and phoenixes. National Palace Museum still keeps the velvet flowers that were worn by the emperors’ mistresses during the royal weddings. Velvet flowers are called “Rong Hua” in Chinese. It shares the same pronunciation with word which means rich and noble. Both the royal families and normal citizens loved to wear velvet flowers at that time."