Bamboo Flower Plaques

Editing: Jackson Harvey
Camera: Charlie Weber, Max Lenik, Albert Tong
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
[Catalog No. CFV11250; © 2019 Smithsonian Institution]

The construction of Bamboo Flower Plaques (花牌 faa pai in Cantonese) is a decorative traditional craft in Hong Kong and southern China. Because the plaques symbolize luck, happiness, and prosperity, they are typically constructed for celebrations, such as festivals, business openings, weddings, and anniversaries. The materials used are bamboo, wire mesh, paper, fabric, and brightly colored plastic, which make the structures adaptable, lightweight, and temporary. Contemporary flower plaques may derive from Paifang (牌坊), which is a traditional style of Chinese architectural arch or gateway structure. A complete flower plaque includes Chinese calligraphy, painting, paper artwork, and the sophisticated skills of placing the decorations on a bamboo frame. This video features interviews with Danny Yung, a prominent artist in Hong Kong who designed the flower plaque installed at the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival program, China: Tradition and the Art of Living, and Wong YueWai, a producer working with Yung.

Questions for Discussion

  • Bamboo flower plaques are an example of folk art or popular art. Find and document an example of folk or popular art in your city or neighborhood.
  • This type of artwork is large scale and ephemeral, meaning it is only meant to last a short time. Create your own design for a large-scale ephemeral artwork. What materials would it be made of? Where would it be located? What message would it send?
  • Bamboo forms the basis of the flower plaques’ scaffold structure. Research the importance of bamboo both as an art material and as a symbol in Chinese art.