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Current exhibition

Permanent Exhibition
The Fabric of Life: Asian Textiles from the National Palace Museum Collection
Exhibition overview
Textiles are woven into the fabric of our lives, in clothing, everyday items, and home decor. This exhibition showcases select Asian textile artifacts from the Museum collection, organized around three themes: “Covering and Containing”, “Decorating and Identifying”, and “Protecting and Blessing”. These themes explore the textiles’ practical functions, social significance, and symbolic meanings, highlighting their diverse roles across time and space. This exhibition also features a learning zone that introduces basic fiber materials and crafting techniques through actual examples, enlarged illustrations, and tactile exhibits. In consideration of visually impaired audiences, a booklet with both regular text and Braille is provided. Additionally, the "Wedding Attire" section, aligned with the annual theme of the NPM Asian Art Festival, showcases wedding garments from across Asia to reveal ceremonial traditions as well as people’s wishes for a better life.
* Special thanks to the National Taiwan Museum for generously loaning Taiwanese indigenous textile artifacts, which has greatly enriched the content of this exhibition.
I. Covering and Containing
Textiles are produced using various fibers and techniques, and serve multiple practical functions. They can be used to wrap the body, providing coverage and protection. They can also be employed to cover spaces, enhancing appearance and coziness, thereby creating a specific atmosphere. Moreover, they are capable of containing items, offering proper storage and convenience for carrying around.
II. Decorating and Identifying
Textiles often play an important role in decoration and identification within societies. Through the use of various materials, techniques, forms, 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 social 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 brighter future.
Wedding Attire: Korea
At traditional Korean weddings, the groom wears a round-necked robe adorned with patterns to symbolize his status and virtues. The bride wears a long robe with wide sleeves, embroidered with auspicious motifs signifying a blissful union. Screens with peony patterns serve as the backdrop, symbolizing prosperity and wealth. The wooden geese, representing monogamous love, embody loyalty in marriage.

Digital Encounters with Asian Textiles
Textiles and costumes have long been a manifestation of people’s pursuit of better life and fine taste. Since ancient times, the dyeing and weaving techniques have been greatly influenced by geographical environment, economy, trade and exchange, local customs, etc., thus leading to a rich diversity of textiles. Combining artifacts from the National Palace Museum collection with advanced digital technology, this space invites you to become an artisan at the Textile Workshop, where you can create beautiful classic fabrics. You can also stand in front of the Asian Dressing Mirror to match with the NPM collections and virtually transform your clothes. Be ready to explore the unique charm of Asian textiles!
Exhibition Information
  • Event Date Permanent Exhibition
  • Location 3F S304
China / Ming dynasty, 16th – 17th century
Carpet with “two lions playing with a ball” motif
This pile carpet from late Ming dynasty has a ground structure woven from cotton, with colored wool piles hand-knotted onto the foundation, creating the beautiful design. The central motif of “two lions playing with a ball” symbolizes abundance in offspring and wealth. The pronunciation of lion in Chinese, “shi,” is also similar to that of the ancient high-ranking official title, “taishi,” implying a desire for a successful career. Patterns of treasures and auspicious clouds encircle the lions, complemented by multiple bands featuring swastikas, peonies, and geometric designs along the carpet’s borders. This exquisitely woven piece showcases elegant colors and lively decorations, making it a masterpiece of Ming carpets.
China / Qing dynasty, 18th century
Carpet with swastika, bat, and foliated dragon motifs
This pile carpet from early Qing dynasty has a ground structure woven from cotton, with colored wool piles hand-knotted onto the foundation, creating the beautiful patterns. The field design features swastika-fret overlaid with rows of bats, whose pronunciation is similar to “wanfu” in Chinese, meaning abundant blessings. An elegant foliated dragon graces the central medallion, complemented by four more dragons at the corners, symbolizing auspiciousness and prosperity. The border showcases decorative bands: an inner fret design composed of geometric patterns and flowers, and an outer one of continuous swastika symbols. This piece is meticulously woven and has a well-proportioned and elegant design, making it a masterpiece among Qing-dynasty carpets.
Indonesia / 20th century
Skirt cloth (Kain panjang) with cloud pattern
In traditional Indonesian clothing, a common practice is to simply wrap a square fabric like a skirt cloth (kain panjang) or tubular skirt (sarong) around the lower body and secure it at the waist. This skirt cloth originates from the port city of Cirebon in northern Java Island and is crafted using the batik technique. This involves applying liquid wax to the fabric to act as a dye-resist, preserving the base color and creating patterns. The cloud pattern on the skirt cloth is representative of Cirebon. Delicately depicted through different shades of the same color, the clouds appear vivid and three-dimensional. It is also worth mentioning that the much-loved “Red Magic Carpet Slide” in the National Palace Museum Southern Branch’s Park was inspired by this beautiful skirt cloth.
Indonesia / 20th century
Tubular skirt (Sarong) with peacock and floral motifs
The tubular skirt (sarong) is formed by sewing together both ends of a rectangular piece of fabric. It is commonly worn by people in Indonesia, wrapped around the lower body and secured at the waist, offering ease of wear and ventilation. This skirt from northern Java was crafted using the batik technique, where liquid wax is applied to cotton fabric to resist dyes, preserving the base color and creating patterns. The central field portrays peacocks, birds, and butterflies in a garden, while the side panel features diagonal floral bands, showcasing the vibrant fusion of cultures among Indonesians and communities from Europe and Asia.
Pakistan / 20th century
Wedding tunic (Chola) with geometric design
This woman’s wedding tunic (chola) originates from the Lohana community in the Sindh province of southeastern Pakistan. It is crafted from silk fabrics of vibrant colors and densely embroidered with colored threads, metallic threads, mirrors, and sequins, forming intricate geometric patterns. When worn by brides, the knee-length shirt is usually paired with trousers and a head-covering shawl.
India / 20th century
Sari with paisley pattern
Sari is a traditional garment for South Asian women, consisting of a long length of fabric that wraps around the body, also serving as a headscarf or shawl. This silk sari is set against a purple ground, interwoven with abundant metal threads through the supplementary weft technique to form various teardrop-shaped paisley patterns.
Uzbekistan / 19th – 20th century
Hanging with geometric patchwork design
This hanging originates from Uzbekistan in Central Asia and was used to adorn interior spaces, adding vibrant colors to mudbrick walls or tents. It was made using the patchwork technique, stitching together small pieces of distinctively patterned fabrics to form geometric design. This patchwork artistry reflects the thrift and diligence of the Steppe people. Locals also believe that repurposed fabric scraps carry blessings from community members and serve as talismans against evil.
Indonesia / 20th century
Betel nut bag (Aluk) with geometric pattern
The betel nut bag (aluk) is a traditional accessory for men in Timor Island, used to hold betel nuts or other personal items. These bags are mostly crafted by women, employing techniques like tapestry weaving and twining to create vibrant geometric patterns, complemented by tassels of beads and animal hair. Betel nut chewing has a long history in Southeast Asia, and sharing betel nuts in social and ceremonial occasions symbolizes friendship and respect.
China / Ming dynasty, 16th – 17th century
Roundel with dragon motif
During China’s Ming and Qing dynasties, the “buzi” badge on formal clothing served to identify an official’s rank or royal lineage. This exquisite roundel is likely an embellishment on the emperor’s robe. The five-clawed dragon was intricately embroidered with silk and metal threads, creating a stunning three-dimensional effect. It is framed by flaming pearl and auspicious cloud patterns, enhancing its splendor and majesty.
Japan / 20th century
Robe (Kariginu) with millet pattern
The Japanese “kariginu” is a round-necked outer robe with wide sleeves that are not fully stitched to the garment, allowing for easy movement. Originally designed for hunting expeditions, the “kariginu” gradually evolved into everyday attire for nobles and officials, formal wear for the warrior class, and clothing for Shinto priests. This “kariginu” is crafted from lightweight, translucent silk leno fabric, adorned with millet and scrolling patterns, symbolizing abundance and prosperity.
Indonesia / 20th century
Jacket with floral decoration
This man’s stand collar jacket originates from Java Island, Indonesia. Fabricated from black wool, it features intricate floral embroidery in metallic threads at the collar, cuffs, front, and hem. Such a sumptuous black jacket with metallic embroideries, paired with an exquisite batik skirt cloth, served as the formal attire for royal and aristocratic men in central Java during the 19th and 20th centuries, showcasing their noble status and wealth. This ensemble became the traditional wedding attire in central Java and remains popular to this day.
Syria / 19th century
Robe (Aba) with geometric design
The loose-fitting square-shaped robe, known as the “aba”, is a traditional man’s garment from the Middle East. It is primarily made from materials such as wool or camel hair and is commonly found in basic colors like black, white, and brown. There are also versions intricately woven with smooth, colorful silk complemented by shimmering metal threads. These opulent robes are generally worn by high-ranking leaders or important figures. Similar robes can be seen on royalty and high officials in mid-19th century Iranian (Persian) portraits, signifying the wearer’s elevated status and aura of authority.
Indonesia / 19th century
Ceremonial cloth (Geringsing) with figural and geometric patterns
The “geringsing” cloths are regarded as the most sacred of all Balinese textiles, rich with protective and healing powers. They are typically used during rituals as offerings or clothing. These cotton fabrics were crafted using a complex double ikat technique. Warp and weft yarns are dyed independently, then precisely aligned and woven to create figural, floral, and geometric patterns, as well as motifs associated with Hindu and local beliefs.
Indonesia / 19th century
Ceremonial hanging (Palepai) with ship motif
The large ceremonial hanging, known as “palepai,”originates from the Lampung region in southern Sumatra Island. It was woven with hand-spun cotton, using the supplementary weft technique to create intricate patterns of ships, waves, figures, and animals. The ship symbolizes passage and transition, and during important ceremonial occasions in life, such textile would be hung and used to safeguard and unite community members.
Indonesia / 20th century
Ceremonial shoulder cloth (Ragidup) with geometric design
The most sacred textiles of the Batak people in northern Sumatra Island, known as “ragidup” (meaning “patterns of life”), play a central role in traditional customs, guarding individuals through life stages such as pregnancy, giving birth, marriage, and death. The end panels of this piece are adorned with complex geometric patterns woven using supplementary weft techniques that are believed to foretell the wearer’s destiny.
Japan / 20th century
Bed cover (Futonji) with “baku” and peony motifs
The traditional Japanese bedding, known as “futon,” consists of a mattress and a comforter. The latter is often accompanied by a decorative cover. This cover depicts two “baku” meandering through peonies, using the hand-painting and resist-dyeing technique. “Baku” is a mythical creature with a nose like an elephant, eyes like a rhinoceros, legs like a tiger, and a tail like an ox. It is believed to devour nightmares, allowing people to sleep soundly and warding off diseases and misfortune.
China / Ming dynasty, 16th century
Brocade with tiger, “five poisons” and paddy design
This silk brocade combines patterns of tigers and the "five poisons” (snake, toad, scorpion, centipede, and gecko), in reference to the ancient belief that tigers repel diseases and misfortune. The triangular rice paddy design in the background, derived from monks’ patched garments, also symbolizes warding off evil. Such fabrics were commonly used in children’s clothing, with the hope that they will grow up safe and healthy.
Japan / 19th century
Overcoat (Uchikake) with folded-paper design
The “uchikake” is a traditional Japanese overcoat worn by women on formal occasions, typically draped over a “kosode” kimono. Its hem is inserted with extra padding to enhance the beauty when trailing, and it also serves to provide more warmth. This exquisite “uchikake” is adorned with various auspicious motifs, such as cranes and plum branches subtly rendered on the red silk satin damask, symbolizing longevity and purity. Delicately embroidered folded-paper butterflies, possibly inspired by paper decorations on gifts, represent enduring happiness. Additionally, the mandarin orange trees in metallic embroidery on the front, back, and sleeves, likely the wearer’s family crest, symbolize evergreenness.
Japan / 19th – 20th century
Kimono robe with carp and watergrass design
This child’s kimono was crafted from white silk leno fabric on which diamond and floral patterns subtly rendered. Soft blue gradients adorn the upper and lower sections of the garment, while carp swimming among watergrass are painted in the central field, evoking a scene of natural vitality. In Japanese culture, carp represents perseverance and success, often reflecting parents’ hope for children’s growth and prosperity. The pine tree motifs on the front, back, and sleeves of the kimono, symbolizing endurance and longevity, are likely the wearer’s family crest and lend a formal elegance to the garment.