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Kesi, the Chinese version of tapestry weaving, is a variation of a popular ancient technique. In all types of tapestry, the weft threads completely cover the warp threads and weave only where they are needed to create the pattern. The differences in tapestry-woven textiles tend to lie in the choice of materials and in the scale of the weaving, which in this panel is very fine and tight.

Where was this textile created?

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Asia: East Asia, China
Early Ming Dynasty
Silk thread and gold leaf on paper-wrapped silk thread, tapestry woven
80 cm x 62 cm
Gift of Lloyd Solish
T90.0357 Textile Museum of Canada

This textile is the top part of a panel for a screen or hanging. The top and left sides have finished edges, but the original panel would have been twice as wide and perhaps three times as long. It is woven in slit tapestry technique, or kesi, and shows three of the Eight Treasures of Buddhism – the umbrella, the gourd and the wheel. The remaining five treasures (the canopy, lotus, vase, two fish and endless knot) would also have appeared on the full panel, and on the right you can see a part of two of them. The ribbons attached to the symbols appear as if they are fluttering in the cosmic wind.

This panel presents a joyous picture of “right” living according to Buddhism. The loops of ribbons on the wheel, gourd and umbrella suggest bows or knots. In ancient Chinese symbolism, coloured ribbons and knots bring good fortune and happiness.

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