From: Friday, 11 December 2015 to Monday, 4 July 2016

Curated by Deborah Whitford

The enchantment, exquisite beauty and remarkable skills involved in the making of Chinese textiles drew me to collect them as I knew little about them and the search for information about Chinese Textiles and Costumes has been a long process through which I have begun to learn their secrets which I will share with those who are interested.

The Chinese culture which the costumes represent is a small part of the many communities and cultures which occupy the geographical area of modern day China. We cover only a few in this exhibition.

The Chinese had an ancient and very sophisticated culture when the English and Europeans where clamouring to purchase tea from China and having read the history of tea it is fascinating to know the length to which the Chinese kept their European visitors from learning their languages or participating in their lives.  Foreigners where restricted to the wharf areas.

This created a fascination with the idea of China resulting in Chinoiserie which is still popular in our culture.  The Chinese made goods for export which are beautiful and exotic using textiles, china, silver, jade, ivory, metal and more.

As far as textiles are concerned, these are not what the Chinese wore or decorated their homes or temples with but a western version, as the authentic Chinese embroideries have a symbolic language – a collection of symbols which represent good health, longevity, continued hereditary through a line of sons and so on. The symbols do not usually appear on textiles for export.

The Chinese have used the same symbols for thousands of years, changing their form or design over time making it difficult to instantly recognise a symbol.  Therefore I ask that any ignorance in my descriptions be excused or corrected.

I hope you enjoy the beauty and complexity of the items in the exhibition and glimpse the magnificent culture which inspired it.


Books used for reference and suggested reading –

Phoenix Rising

TEA – A history of the drink which changed the world

Author – John Griffiths and Publisher – Andre Deutsch 2011

This is a fabulous book which I thoroughly recommend.

EXQUISITE FABRICSTraditional Weaving and Embroidery Patterns in China

Author – Gao Chunming and Publisher – Better Link Press

An excellent and extensive reference book from the

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC..


Edited by Ming Wilson with the Palace Museum, Beijing – V&A Publishing London

All V&A publications which I have read are excellent. Both Gleebooks and Megalong Books stock a selection of their books or visit the V&A website.