Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The pure and clear dynasty

The wonderful National Gallery of Victoria has an exhibition of Chinese imperial costumes from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). On show are a magnificent selection of clothing worn by the Chinese Emperors and the court. There are hats, fans, purses and, sadly, lotus shoes but it is the intricacy of the embroidered robes that will make you catch your breath.

The robes are adorned with what are called Mandarin squares, which were esentially your badge of rank. And they are stunning, though they make me feel a little sad about my library badge. Animals, flowers and geometric symbols indicate your standing in society: 9th military rank gets the sea horse, a 5th level civilian gets a silver pheasant. Higher up the scale and your place is indicated by the direction your dragon faces and the number of claws on its foot. You'll find chrysanthemums and peonies, butterflies and praying mantis, flying monkeys, sacred waves, bells, cranes and snow geese. It's a little like a high class 'where's Wally?' but it's a lovely, lovely game.

And yes, we did our imitation of Chinese opera. Discretely.

1 comment:

PROUD WOMAN said...

oooh - spooky... the main colour in your first graphic (and it's also in 2nd graphic) is the colour of my new blinds!!!!! (maroon, burgundy, wine - could be either one - kresta calls it violet (or voilet according to 'measurer' - it's definitely NOT violet!!!!)

you've seen the horrid orange blinds... you'll have to 'experience' the maroon ones - such a difference to the place!!!!!