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Woman's Robe with Phoenixes and a Tree
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Silk satin embroidered with silk and metallic thread
Bequest of William Christian Paul, 1929
Not on view
In ancient Chinese lore, phoenixes appear only during the reign of a just and benevolent emperor, signifying a time of peace and prosperity. Instead of singing in the paulownia tree of that tradition, however, the phoenixes decorating this Chinese robe flock among the branches of an imaginary tree blooming with flowers of all the seasons. Parts of the tree even seem to be turning into dragons. The supernatural theme continues at the hem, where two qilin—fantastic hooved animals—leap above the waves.The lanterns hanging from the tree branch at about hip level suggest that this colorfully embroidered garment may have been worn for the Lantern Festival in the middle of the first lunar month.
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