Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Silk embroidery on silk gauze
84 x 25 in. (213.4 x 63.5 cm)
Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1981
Not on view
Embroidered hangings were displayed in palace halls and residences to mark the changing seasons or to celebrate a birthday or the New Year. This embroidered panel, depicting warmly dressed children frolicking with a sheep and goats in a garden setting combines a number of auspicious symbols appropriate to the New Year's celebration. Male children promise new life and the continuation of the family line; sheep and goats are emblems of good fortune. Since the word yang (ram) also suggests an aspect of the yin-yang dichotomy associated with growth, warmth, and light, the embroidery may be read as a visual pun conveying a wish for a sunny and prosperous New Year. An embroidered panel of virtually identical size, workmanship, and subject matter in the Palace Museum, Taipei, forms a continuous composition with the Metropolitan's panel, suggesting that both belonged to a larger set. Although the catalogue of the Qing imperial collection dates the panels to the Song dynasty, the stylized patterns of the landscape elements as well as technical details of the embroidery suggest that they may date to the early Ming, when Song court styles were revived in many of the arts.