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Past exhibition

Permanent Exhibition
Wrapping Cultures: Asian Textiles from the National Palace Museum Collection
From the swaddling clothes at birth to the wedding dress on their special day, and to the shroud at the end of life, textiles have been closely connected to our life. Throughout history, People from various cultures worldwide have created diverse textiles by utilizing local resources, adapting to different climates, and incorporating distinct lifestyles. This exhibition features a selection of Asian textiles from the National Palace Museum’s collection, comprised of three themes: “Covering and Containing,” “Decorating and Identifying,” and “Protecting and Blessing.” From the perspectives of material functions, social relationships, and spiritual symbolism, the exhibition showcases the diverse appearances and rich connotations of textiles across time and regions. Additionally, this exhibition includes an educational area with “Isle of Textiles” introducing common fiber materials and crafting techniques through the display of actual examples, magnified explanations, and tactile experiences, while "Wedding Attire" showcases traditional wedding garments from various parts of Asia, presenting the ceremonial customs and people’s wishes for a better life.

I. Covering and Containing
Textiles are produced using various fibers and techniques, and have multiple material functions. They can be used to wrap the body, providing coverage and protection. They can also be used to contain items, offering proper storage and convenience for carrying around. Moreover, they are capable of enhancing the appearance and coziness of a space, and creating a specific atmosphere.

II. Decorating and Identifying
Textiles often play an important role in decoration and identification within societies. Through the use of various materials, techniques, shapes and cuts, colors, and patterns in fabrics and garments, people not only enhance their appearance and showcase their personal style and aesthetic taste, but also provide rich visual information that signifies the wearer’s status and identity.

III. Protecting and Blessing
Across many cultures, textiles are imbued with spiritual symbolism and function. Some people believe that certain textiles possess magical powers, capable of warding off misfortune and illness, and safeguarding individuals as they pass through important stages of life, such as birth, coming of age, marriage, and death. In addition, the decorative patterns on textiles often carry auspicious meanings, representing blessings and hopes for a better future.
Exhibition Information
  • Event Date Permanent Exhibition
  • Location 3F S304
Qing dynasty (1644-1911), completed in 1669
Kangxi Manuscript Kangyur in Tibetan Script
This is a complete volume of the wrapped Kangxi Manuscript Kangyur. After a volume of the sutra leaves were packed and wrapped between two inner protecting planks, the entire piled block was wrapped in 3 layers of sutra clothes, then further bounded with the outer protecting planks and tied up with a five-colored bundling strap that measures over 25.8 meters in length. According to historical Manchurian archives, this bundling strap was produced in the royal textile mill.
The Kangxi Manuscript Kangyur is a precious Buddhist scripture that showcases the utmost care taken during its construction. Its luxurious gold ink on expensive indigo papers, jeweled decorations, and layered wrapping in exquisite fabrics make it a true work of art.

Qing dynasty (1644-1911), completed in 1669
Satin Sūtra Cloth of the Kangxi Manuscript Kangyur in Tibetan Script
Kangyur (Tib. bka' gyur), literally meaning "the translation of the Buddha's words" is a Buddhist canon that consists of scriptures of sütra and vinaya (monastic codes). The compilation of the Kangxi Manuscript Kangyur was commissioned by the Grand Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang, the grandmother of Emperor Kangxi. It took two years to complete and was finished in the 8th year of Kangxi's reign (1669), and is comprised of 108 volumes in total.
The manuscripts were meticulously written using gold ink on indigo paper, resulting in over 50,000 pages for the entire 108 volumes. Each volume was carefully protected with both inner and outer cover planks, four pieces of wrapping clothes, and bundling strap. This ensured that they were delicately wrapped and worshipped in the palace.
Here on display is the third layer of the sutra wrapping cloth for the Kangxi Manuscript Kangyur in Tibetan Script, which measures about 2 meters square. The outer layer is plain yellow fabric, while the bottom layer is a goldish brown damask with plum and magnolia patterns. Recently, it was discovered that there is a splendid layer stitched in between the top and bottom layer fabrics. It is a piece of colorful brocade with seven coiled dragons woven using metallic and color threads. According to the historical Manchurian court archives, the five layers of protecting curtains in five thematic colors and the in between layer with the dragons were exclusively made in the royal weaving mill in Nanjing, Suzhou, and Hangzhou.
Indonesia / Early 20th c.
Tie-dyed Breast Wrapper (kemben)
In the courts of Central Java and Bali, women's ceremonial attire was typically comprised of a long, slender cloth wrapped around the upper body. The plain, elongated diamond positioned at the center of the breast wrapper served to indicate that the wearer was married.
Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Embroidered Drawstring Pouch with Words "Plentiful Fortune" (Wanfu) and "Double Happiness" (Shuangxi)
A drawstring purse is a small sac people carried around which has practical and decorative purposes; it was originally used to hold coins or small items, and in daily conversation, it is also commonly referred to as a wallet or personal possession. Over time, it has gradually evolved into a beautifully crafted decorative accessory, and these ornamental drawstring purses are often unable to be opened as a container.
Drawstring purses embroidered with auspicious motifs are very friendly and intimate gifts. Not only will young ladies personally make and give purses to their loved ones or friends, but during the Qing Dynasty's New Year celebrations, drawstring purses were also given as gifts to palace officials and royalty. Recipients of these gifts would wear the imperial purse on their lapel or hang it in front of their palace gates to show their appreciation for the emperor's favor.
India / 20th c.
Spice and Nut Holder
This holder is a spice storage bag made by the Banjara people, a nomadic ethnic group in India. Its design is convenient for storing different types of nuts and spices, and can also be hung in a temporary kitchen for easy access.
India / 18-19th c.
Kalamkari Prayer Mat (Janamaz)
Muslims practicing Islam consider daily prayer at a scheduled time to be a significant and essential activity. Even if one cannot visit a mosque, any space can be transformed into a place of worship with a prayer rug. These rugs usually have an arch-shaped design called Mihrab or clear directional designs to help worshipers face Mecca. Rugs without clear directional markings are likely used for decoration.
Tibet 17-18th c. Shoulder Cover (dorji gong) with Four-Clawed Dragon Woven from Gold Thread / Tibet 18-19th c. Wrathful Deity Ritual Apron
The Black Hat dance is a sacred cham dance in the Buddhist Himalayas with deep spiritual significance, performed exclusively as a religious ritual. The black hat dancers wear a black hat, a dorji gong shoulder cover, and a dark apron with a wrathful face and tassels, symbolizing a master of tantric or Vajrayāna Buddhism who can transform negative energy into positive. This ceremonial attire, made from precious Chinese silk fabrics imported into the region, is especially valuable.
Syria / 20th c.
Abaya Cloak with Goldwork on a Red Ground
The traditional long robe worn by Middle Eastern men, known as the "Aba" or "Bisht," is typically made of thick wool or camel hair and comes in black, white, or brown. Some robes are even crafted from colorful silk and gold threads. To construct the robe, two lengths of fabric are pieced together horizontally, and the sides are folded inward to create a front opening. Small openings are then cut on each side to serve as sleeves, and the upper edge is sewn to create a rectangular-shaped robe.
Gold-threaded robes are worn by celebrities, leaders, and for special events such as weddings and religious ceremonies. They are also given as precious gifts to palace guests and tribal leaders. At the 2022 World Cup awards ceremony, organizers draped Messi in a woven gold and black robe, a symbol of respect and honor in the Arab world.
Japan / Early 20th c.
Happi Coat
The Japanese working jackets still worn during ceremonies or in traditional businesses today are not merely professional uniforms. During the Edo period, stores would gift this kind of jackets with store logos to managers of commercial streets or related officers as tokens of friendship.
Japan / Late Edo period (19th c.)
Wool Fireman's Jacket with Sash and Chest Guard
During the Edo period in Japan, rapid urban development led to frequent fires in densely-populated cities brimming with wooden homes. Each daimyo and citizen organization formed their own firefighting force, with the costs covered by town governments. The firefighting clothing during the Edo period included a woolen coat for samurai-class individuals and a thick cotton coat for commoners, both of which often had the family crest or emblem that identified the brigade. Today, however, many family crests have been borrowed and gradually turned into decorative elements in formal clothing.
Japan / Early 20th c.
Shikoku Ohenro Pilgrim's Coat (Hakue)
The Shikoku Pilgrimage is a significant Buddhist pilgrimage in Japan, where devotees visit 88 temples associated with Buddhist monk Kūkai (777~835). Traditionally, pilgrims wear a white coat that holds the meaning of a death shroud, symbolizing that the pilgrim is prepared to die at any time during this long and physically arduous journey. After worshiping at a sacred site, they may receive a cinnabar stamp to document the visit. These pilgrims' coats are believed to offer protection and are sometimes gifted to pilgrims' parents or blessed for the deceased during their funeral.
Indonesia / Early 20th c.
Batik Talismanic Cloth
This type of fabric is called "batik kaligrafi" due to its primary motif of Islamic calligraphy. The twisted and distorted text within the repeated grid pattern is difficult to read and is believed to be the result of Indonesian batik craftsmen who are not familiar with Arabic. Upon comparison, the original text is likely from the Shahada: "I bear witness that there is no deity but God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God." This fabric is believed to have the power to bless and protect the owner, helping them to safely navigate through disasters such as war and illness. It is also used in religious ceremonies or as a shroud at funerals.
Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795)
Enamel on Copper Lidded Jar in the Style of a Wrapping Cloth
In Mandarin Chinese, the words "wrapping cloth" (包袱, baofu) and "securing good fortune" (包福, baofu) are homophones, which gives the former an auspicious meaning. As a result, wrapping cloths became regarded as symbols of luck, and their unique appearance made them popular not only among Qing Dynasty royals but also across all social classes. Therefore, objects adorned with the design of wrapping cloths have beautiful and auspicious connotations. They are not just containers, but also a means for people to pray for a better life.
Late Ming dynasty (ca. 16th c.)
Brocade with text "Long Life and Wealth" and Peony Motif
Archaeological evidence shows that brocade with text designs existed as early as the Han dynasty. This Ming Dynasty double-sided brocade with woven text features the phrase "Long Life and Wealth" with patterns of peonies, clouds, rabbits, meanders, and yingluo jewelry running from top to bottom. Peonies and jewels represent wealth and prosperity, while rabbits symbolize fertility and allude to the myth of the immortal rabbit in the Moon Palace. The entire pattern design has a wealth of auspicious connotations, praying for the prosperity, longevity, and wealth of one’s progeny.