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Past exhibition

Permanent Exhibition
Asian Textiles
What are textiles? And how are they made? Let's get to know more about the fabrics used in our lives from the aspects of materials, techniques, cut, and decorative patterns.
This exhibition features the unique collection of textiles from the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum, and presents the diversities of Asian cultures in various regions. It is divided into four sections: the "Exhibit in Focus" analyzes the characteristics of a classic textile artifact and further interprets its cultural connotations; the "Getting to Know Textiles" reveals the major aspects of manufacturing textiles, including fiber materials, weaving and dyeing techniques, decorative patterns, and garment cuttings. The "Regional Highlights" showcases the exquisite fabrics and clothing styles from Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central and Western Asia; the "Wedding Attire" exhibits wedding costumes and explores the ceremonial culture behind as well as people's wishes for a happy life.

Chapter 1: Flow of Life

The Ceremonial textiles with ship motif (Palepai) are produced in Lampung province, at the southern tip of Sumatra and are the most distinctive traditional fabrics in the region. The work is made of hand-woven cotton yarns and the patterns are woven with supplementary weft threads between the ground structures. The main decorative pattern is a large and ornate ship, with human figures, elephants and hornbills on three levels of the cabin, and the curved hooks around the ship symbolize the horn of the buffalo, with small boats, hornbills and waves decorating the entire ship cloth. The ship pattern encapsulates the transition between this life and the next. During major ceremonies such as births, weddings and funerals, the local nobility would hang long banners of large fabrics on the walls, arranged in relation to other noble families, to show their social status and rank. This type of ship cloth is very valuable It is a family heirloom inherited from generation to generation.

Chapter 2: Getting to Know Textiles

What are textiles? And how are they made? Let's get to know more about the fabrics used in our lives from the aspects of materials, techniques, cut, and decorative patterns.

Chapter 3: Regional Highlights

Asia is a vast region with diverse textile cultures. This section selects textiles from Northeast Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central and Western Asia to showcase the clothing styles of different regions.
  • Northeast Asia
An island nation located in East Asia, Japan has been using silk for the mainly material of cloth under the influence of neighboring China. The material used for producing textiles is mainly imported silk, but also includes flax, musa fiber and leather. The kimono is a traditional Japanese garment with the basic form of a long, wrapped-front robe tied with a sash. There are many different types of crafts and techniques involved in its production, including brocade, embroidery, tie-dyeing, hand-painted dyeing, and stencil dyeing, etc. A kimono often uses a combination of different production techniques and the procedures are complex and elaborate. The design of the decorative patterns is also the focal point of kimono appreciation. The flat-cut kimono unfolds like a canvas and the variety of decorations that encompass rich cultural metaphors are often breathtaking.
  • South Asia
Kashmir, India
Kashmir in South Asia, located in the northernmost part of the Indian subcontinent, is an important area where the western end of the Tibetan Plateau meets. The area was ruled by the Mughal and Sikh empires in the 19th century, at the same time was also the end point of the Chinese Silk Road. Kashmir is world renowned for its woolen fabrics and the local people are exceptional weavers, producing woolen shawls with a special technique. A special loom is first used to finish the tapstry weaving cloth, then it is pieced together to form a large fabric and then embroidered with various floral motifs and paisley patterns. These woolen shawls, with their rich and luxurious design, were exported to Europe starting in the 19th century and were very popular.
  • Central and Western Asia
The Republic of Turkey straddles the continents of Europe and Asia, reaching out to both Eastern and Western civilizations. The old capital, Istanbul, was also an important crossroads along the ancient Silk Road, linking Europe with the Middle East. It was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from the mid-15th century onwards. Traditional clothing culture is inherited from this imperial period and the materials used are mostly silk, velvet and wool and techniques include brocade weaving, tapstry weaving, embroidery, printing and dyeing, etc. The garments were mostly robes and short coats (Cepken), with gold thread and silk cord coiled and embroidered at the collar, sleeves, front and hem. The intricate and delicate curves of the scrolling floral motifs gleam with grandeur.
  • Southeast Asia
Sumatra, Indonesia
The Indochinese Peninsula, which is connected by land to continental Asia and the many islands scattered in the ocean, are the main areas of the Austronesian language family. It is also an area rich in natural resources, resulting in an exceptional diversity of textile materials. Lampung, which is located at the southern tip of Sumatra Island, has always been economically prosperous due to maritime trade and the Paminggir people on the island excel at dyeing fabrics and embroidery, usually wearing resplendent golden tube-shaped skirts (Tapis) decorated with metallic threads. Also considered the most representative fabric is the Tampan, which is decorated with ship motifs and symbolizes the transformation of life and is used in major ceremonies such as births, weddings and funerals. It is a common family heirloom inherited from generation to generation.

Chapter 4: Wedding Attire

Traditional wedding attire of Central Java in Indonesia typically consists of a batik skirt and jacket with gold threading embroidered on black fabric. The batik skirt is primarily in dark blue and brown and the motifs feature the Semen Romo, which symbolizes the sprouting of a mountain, a flame, a boat, a jade throne, a treasure and the mythical golden-winged Garuda. Originally a pattern for the royal of Central Java, it has now become the most distinctive traditional fabric pattern worn on celebrations in Indonesia. The Black velvet jacket is decorated with intricate floral embroidery on the collar, cuffs and hem in golden thread. Compared to the early illustrations, the wearing of jackets was a practice that started only after the influx of Islamic influence, which discouraged the baring of shoulders, and the wedding attire also witnessed the fusion of tradition and foreign culture. Together with ornate hats and hairpins and embroidered shoes, the extravagant costumes show the grandeur of the wedding ceremony and blessings to the newlywed couple.
Exhibition Information
  • Event Date Permanent Exhibition
  • Location 3F S304
Early 20th Century
Ceremonial Textiles (Palepai)
  • Indonesia / Sumatra / Lampung
The ceremonial textiles with ship motifs (Palepai) are produced in Lampung Province, at the southern tip of Sumatra and are the most unique traditional fabrics in the region. The work is comprised of hand-woven cotton yarns, and the patterns are woven with supplementary weft threads between the groundstructures. The centerpiece is a large, ornate ship adorned with curved hooks that symbolizes buffalo horns on all sides. The ship is carrying people and other smaller boats and is surrounded by abstracted waves. The ship pattern encapsulates the transition from this life to the next. Local nobility would hang long banners of large fabrics on the walls, arranged in relation to other noble families, to show their social status and rank for births, weddings, funerals, and other major ceremonies. Palepai is a treasured textile that is passed down
as an heirloom.
20th century
White Embroidered Cloth (Kanthas)
  • India
Bengali women excel in embroidery, layering fabric from old saris or belts and applying simple flat needle embroidery to make quilts, hangings, and other household items called kanthas. In this embroidery masterpiece, the three levels in the center are filled with men and women of varying postures and interspersed with elephants, lions, birds, bees, butterflies, etc. The center is surrounded by several layers of floral, natural, and fish embroideries in black, red, yellow, and threads to form the outer frame. The pattern is very lively and interesting, presenting a vivid picture of everyday life.
20th century
White Meisen Kimono with Peacock Motifs
  • Japan
Meisen is the name given to the fabric of the kimono, which is made from pieces of silk twisted into thick threads and then woven. Therefore, it is generally less smooth to the touch but very durable. The white kimono is adorned with blue peacocks and bright red feathers throughout the garment, capturing people’s attention with its bold design and extravagant colors. The peacock and ocellus design on the meisen kimono epitomizes the bold and innovative Showa Period.
19th-20th century
Brocade Robe
  • Turkey
The women of the Ottoman Empire commonly wore ankle-length robes (entari) with a thin silk shirt and loose trousers, and depending on the weather, could put on vests (yeleks) or short jackets (cepkens). This brocade robe has front and side slits and is adorned with floral prints from metallic threads, lined with cotton, and decorated with lace in a gilded brass thread on the collar and cuffs. This robe is usually adorned with an exquisite belt with a hooked buckle for extravagance.
19th-20th century
Embroidered Sarong (Tapis)
  • Indonesia / Sumatra / Lampung
The sarong is made of a striped fabric in orange and red that is embroidered with abstract geometric patterns. It is decorated with horizontal human figure patterns and embellished with round sequins, making it look extravagant and lux.