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Majestic Colours: Ancient Chinese Textiles

May 28, 2008 - May 28, 2008

This exhibition from the Gallery’s collection showcases the rich heritage of costumes and textiles from China’s Qing dynasty (1644-1911). The five primary colours of the costumes are significant. Yellow, symbolizing the earth, was reserved for the imperial use of the Qing dynasty’s Manchu rulers. Red symbolizes fire and was associated with family celebrations such as weddings and births. Black represents water and black costumes were associated with the winter season and older people. White, associated with metal, was appropriate for the autumn season and was the traditional colour of mourning. Blue, associated with wood, was symbolic of spring. Not only are the colours symbolic but also the various motifs on the textiles. For example, the dragon and phoenix represent the emperor and empress, the crane and the butterfly symbolize longevity, the fish symbolize abundance, the deer is the symbol for riches, and the bat symbolizes happiness.

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