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Anonymous China,
China Anonymous, Chinese
Woman's Skirt (mangqun), 1880-1890
Thread on Silk satin
41 in. x 44 in. (104.14 cm x 111.76 cm)

Object Type: Textile
Technique: Woven
Period: Ch'ing Dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
Credit Line: Scripps College, Claremont, CA
Accession Number: T168

Embroidered green satin.

Object Description
Paired apron wrap-around skirt with main panels centered at the front and rear, pleated side panels, and plain cotton muslin waistband. The ground fabric is gray-greenish blue silk satin, and the embroidery on the lower third of the skirt is silk thread and gold-wrapped couching. Borders are damask with a dark mossy green silk warp and silver-wrapped threads for the weft. The skirt is lined with lightweight silk in the same color as the ground fabric.

The skirt features quasi-official imperial imagery, with dragons as the main theme. Front- facing five-clawed dragons comprise the central decorative element of the front and rear panels, while dragons in profile decorate a portion of the skirt sides. The dragons are made from intricate gold couching that particularly details their scales and claws. A few areas are trimmed with blue, coral, and white embroidery in satin stitch. A sparse outline of black stitches, especially on the face, accentuates the dramatic appearance of the dragons and is not used elsewhere.

Diagonal li-shui lines for deep water, topped by waves and fungus, span the lower two to three inches of the skirt, and are done in satin stitches of predominately blue shades, accented with white, gold, and coral. Auspicious symbols, mainly at the water surface, plus some relatively large peonies, are embroidered in seed stitch, mainly in shades of coral and blue. Dragons are associated with flaming pearls, and profile dragons are bracketed with two gold couched phoenixes at the front and rear of each dragon. Background embellishment includes clouds and flowers.

All skirt panels are bordered with heavy damask, which includes silver wrapped thread in the weft. Although this has darkened with time, it originally would have shone under light and contrasted with the gold couching of the dragons and phoenixes. A tiny longitudinal pleat or seam causes the damask border to appear as stitched together pieces. Although there is no obvious reason for this, it may have been a detail to add weight and stiffness to best show off the decorated panels of the skirt.

Pleated, wrap-around skirts of this kind would have been worn over loose trousers by Han Chinese woman on formal occasions. The decoration on the skirt is concentrated on the bottom, because that would be the only visible segment of the skirt once a calf-length robe was worn over the garment. The imperial imagery and green color of this skirt indicate that it was worn on ritual or official occasions.

For more information:

Jacobsen, Robert D. Imperial Silks: Ch’ing Dynasty Textiles in The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Vol. 1 Minneapolis, MN: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2000.

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