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Manchu Bride's Robe




Manchu Bride's Robe


Late 19th c.


Silk tabby, tapestry (kesi) orna- ments, details in black paint


202 x 141 cm


Gift of Edna H. Bahr, inv. 1962.Dt.8


Archeology and World Cultures

The Manchu bride’s robe in red kesi was a formal but not official costume; the auspicious red colour reflects an ethnic Han influence. The bottom is embroidered in a li shui pattern, with diagonal stripes in five colours representing deep standing water. Prismatic, towering mountains at the sides and centre rise up above the waves, amid a multitude of auspicious symbols, including the eight Daoist emblems. The bride would have worn a dark blue surcoat over this robe, and an elaborate headdress would have completed the ensemble. In addition to the rules governing the type of fabric to be used at different times of the year, each season was identified with particular flowers and other motifs. The extremely fine silk kesi tapestry weave has been embroidered with eight large roundels on the front, back and shoulders. Each one contains flowers, a butterfly (die) and a bottle gourd (gua), creating the homonym for “May there be ceaseless generations of sons and grandsons” (guadie mian mian). In addition, because the gourd plant has a long stem bearing fruits of all sizes, each containing many seeds, it is itself an apt symbol for fertility. The stringlike vines and tendrils (mandai) are a pun for “ten thousand generations” (wandai). Within the design, a bat (fu) carries a swastika (wan), which stands for “ten thousand years”; together, the two images form a rebus that translates as “May you have the greatest joy.”

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