each of rectangular form, intricately woven in delicate primary colours with a rich, cosmopolitan scene set in the midst of the Dragon Boat festival, the two scenes depicting nine opulent Dragon Boats each elaborately decorated with banners and colourful flags, with onlookers watching attentively and cheering as they go by, other figures engaged in various pursuits, some beating drums and gongs, some touting horns, some fishing, some conversing and drinking tea and refreshment, set amid multi-storied pavilions, bridges and walkways, and surrounded by verdant trees including bamboo, paulownia, pine and willow, with high mountain peaks rising in the distance and clouds swirling above, accompanied by a long colophon by Song Liu with an excerpt from the Qingjia Lu, by Gu Lu
From a Japanese Private Collection.
Osaka Bijitsu Club, 21st February 1932, lot 115.
Osaka Municipal Museum, Koutaigou Kyu Heika Eiran (Queen Dowager Viewing), 10th November 1891.
The colophon accompanying this rare pair of kesi hanging scrolls was written in the gengshen year by Song Liu who copied a paragraph from the Qing Dynasty text Qingjia lu (A Clear Account of Felicitous Occasions) written by Gu Lu in 1830. The Qingjia lu is an account of the customs and local products of Suzhou during the Qing dynasty. The text describes the festive events of the summer Dragon Boat Race Festival in Suzhou. It mentions that a lot of visitors, dressed in their best attire, gather for this occasion and there is cheerful music played on the boats accompanied by the beating of the drums and gongs. The boats are heavily decorated with lanterns and candles which radiate bright luxurious lights just like white dragons. The boats stir up the water and create waves that look like snow piles. Finally, Song Liu praises the quality of the two kesi hanging scrolls and notes that they are made from the most beautiful and naturalistic woven fabric (huahua zhi lei) that is fabulously delicate and extremely rare.
Kesi depicting festive scenes such as the Dragon Boat Race are extremely rare, although a set of four silk tapestries, dating between 1750 and 1850, decorated with scenes from this festival can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, described and illustrated in Verity Wilson, Chinese Textiles, London, 2005, pp. 112-113, pl. 122 (one of the four). Wilson notes (p. 113) that the set is from the collection of Herr Kieruff, an entrepreneur who corresponded with the museum from the Villa Peking, Hellerup, in Denmark, at the turn of the twentieth century. Kieruff made a single offer of over 400 Chinese textiles to the museum which included this set of kesi scrolls.
The Dragon Boat Race is a re-enaction of a legendary event that happened in Chinese history when people in boats searched for the drowned body of patriotic statesman Qu Yuan of the fourth and third century B.C. The race is held annually on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar to commemorate Qu's death. The boat race itself is a symbolic act of searching for Qu Yuan and by making a lot of noise with drums and splashing water with paddles the intension is to keep the evil spirits away. Food is also thrown into the water as offering and to distract the fish away from eating his body.
For examples of early Qing kesi hanging scrolls with festive figure scenes see one depicting scenes from the 'Peach Festival' a popular Daoist theme associated with the birthday celebration of Xiwangmu, the Queen of the West, sold in our New York rooms, 30th March 2006, lot 201; and another tapestry vividly woven with the 'One Hundred Boys' theme sold in our London rooms, 12th July 2006, lot 59, also with an early Qing attribution.
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