Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Mirror Case with Lunar Scene

Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
19th century
Embroidered silk gauze
17 x 17 in. (43.18 x 43.18 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Isabel Mayer, 1963
Accession Number:
Not on view
Chang Ê, who stole the elixir of immortality from her husband and swallowed it as she fled to the moon, became a moon goddess by the time of the Tang period (618–906) and was worshipped during the lunar festival, held annually in the eighth lunar month at the time of the full moon. In this embroidery, Chang Ê and an attendant are seen against a large disk representing the moon, within which is a house and a hare who is pounding the elixir of immortality. Chang Ê is handing an acacia branch to a scholar who is floating on clouds. In Chinese literature “plucking a branch of the acacia tree” was a metaphor for success in the imperial civil-service examinations.

Somewhat like needlepoint (but with silk, not wool), the embroidery technique employed in most of the piece involves stitches that regularly skip some of the openings in the fine silk gauze foundation cloth to create the various patterns seen here: a swastika (wan) fret for the moon disk and the dotted squares of the red background, for example.
Related Objects

Theatrical robe with phoenix and floral patterns

Date: 19th century Medium: Silk thread embroidery on silk satin Accession: 30.76.12 On view in:Gallery 220

Theatrical robe with eight trigrams

Date: late 19th century Medium: Silk and metallic thread embroidery on silk satin Accession: C.I.44.106.2 On view in:Gallery 220

Woman's Ceremonial Robe

Date: 19th century Medium: Silk, cat fur Accession: 1973.28.6 On view in:Gallery 599

Rank Badge with Stylized Bear

Date: 18th century Medium: Silk, feather, and metallic thread embroidery on silk satin Accession: 36.65.4 On view in:Gallery 599

Woman's Ceremonial Robe (The Bat Medallion Robe)

Date: first half of the18th century Medium: Silk and metallic thread embroidery on silk satin Accession: 43.119 On view in:Not on view