School of Design

ULITA - an Archive of International Textiles

apron panel
Date: 19th century
Dimensions: 88 x 57 cm (34 5/8 x 22 7/16 in.)
Medium: silk
Made in: China
Description: This piece of red silk satin is embroidered with various motifs symbolising a prosperous future for children. The principal motifs are five boys, known as the "wu zi den ke", a hope for all five (referring to many) boys succeeding in the imperial examination. One of the boys rides a qilin (unicorn) while the others stand at each of the four corners holding different precious objects. At the bottom of the panel lotuses emerging from waves are embroidered. The lotus is revered in this context not only for its purity but also for its homophonic meaning of continuity. With the boys the lotuses form a homophonic message "lian sen guei zi", to "have promising children continuously". The highly stylised forms and the subtle colour shading used for the animal and plant motifs are particularly noteworthy. Seed stitch has been used for all the colour gradations, with stem stitch for outlines and long and short stitches for the boy’s faces. Fragments of the paper pattern used for transferring the image from paper to fabric remain on the reverse.
Inv. No.: 35
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