A purple silk costume, changyi, for a young lady of the imperial court. The silk embroidered with butterflies and begonia sprays which are repeated on the many-layered sleeve bands and costume border. The sides slit open almost to the arms and closed with a ruyi-shaped heading (the ruyi was a ‘wish-granting gem’). The costume was worn over a decorated under-robe.
Costumes were ideal for exhibiting the Chinese love of word puns: ‘butterfly’ sounds like ‘age seventy to eighty’ and the begonia represents ‘calm’ – perfect celebratory dress for the Empress Dowager Cixi’s important 70th birthday celebrations in 1904 and the wish for ‘long life’.
Chinese, Guangxu period, 1875-1908
Length: 134.6 cms
For similar examples see:
‘The Splendours of Imperial China’, Qing Court Attire from the Palace Museum, Beijing, 2008
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