Audio Tours

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Narration

NARRATOR:

These stunning silk robes, featuring gold-wrapped thread and magnificent embroidery work, were made between the 17th and early 20th centuries, during China's last dynasty known as the Qing. Foreign invaders from Manchuria—called Manchus-- ruled during this period and the robes reflect the melding of Manchurian and Han Chinese cultures. For example, the blue and gold robe on the far left includes the traditional Chinese imagery of the dragon—the symbol of the emperor—but the Manchus' added a few practical touches.

Suzanne Cahill.

SUZANNE CAHILL:

It's been influenced by the Manchu conquerors in that the sleeves are narrow and people theorize that this was so that the Manchus could ride horseback because they were originally nomadic horse-riding people and were very loathe to give up their culture when they became rulers of China. Also if you look at the end of the sleeves, there's a cuff that's called a horse hoof cuff, because it has the shape of a horse's hoof, and that's also supposed to be a Manchu sort of horse-riding influence.

NARRATOR:

The other two robes have wider sleeves and the looser fit of traditional lady's casual garments. Take a moment to enjoy their wonderful details—the one on the far right has symbols of luck, such as butterflies and peaches.

SUZANNE CAHILL:

Official culture just doesn't have all that lucky stuff, like butterflies, and bees, and bats and so forth. Those are important symbols both for men and for women, but we don't see them on official art.

NARRATOR:

Textiles are profoundly important in Chinese culture—so important, in fact, that for centuries words used to describe fabric production have also communicated other ideas.

SUZANNE CAHILL:

For example, the word for political chaos, luan, is originally the word for tangled-up threads.

NARRATOR:

The bedrock of Chinese culture, Confucian literature and thinking, is also associated with language borrowed from textile production.

SUZANNE CAHILL:

The Chinese word for "the Confucian classics" is jing. Jing means the warp threads of a loom. Those are the vertical threads of a loom around which the entire pattern is woven. So, the idea is that the classics are so important, so foundational to the Chinese culture that they're like the warp threads of a loom The whole fabric of Chinese culture is woven around these classics.

Step32-Qing Dynasty Robes

 


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