Help me identify this large Asian tapestry
May 25, 2010 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Help me identify this large Asian tapestry. It's 128 inches long and 75 inches wide, and belonged to my great-grandmother (who lived in Germany, if that helps) so must be at least 100 years old. Any information you can glean from the linked pictures would be really helpful -- what language is the writing? What might this thing be?
posted by plantbot to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
That's Chinese, in the seal script style, I believe.
posted by cobaltnine at 12:15 PM on May 25, 2010

Okay, I flagged down my coworker from Shanghai and her quick assessment is that that's a banner that would be given for an older person's birthday - symbols for longevity, lots of children, 'general stuff like that.'
posted by cobaltnine at 12:18 PM on May 25, 2010

Yeah, it looks like the seal script.
posted by foxjacket at 12:34 PM on May 25, 2010

Nitpick: it appears to be embroidered, not a tapestry.
posted by Quietgal at 12:44 PM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: The character is '' (simplified 寿 shòu) meaning 'longevity'; it takes the form of a 百寿图 (hundred longevities); the more detailed explanation in Chinese at the last link explains that the meme dates back to the Song Dynasty and appears in both calligraphy scrolls, rubbings, prints, as decoration on ceramics and textiles such as yours. Each of the hundred versions of the character is written differently, not necessarily in any of the more formal calligraphy styles though certainly similar to several, including the seal script mentioned above. It is a way of wishing long life on the recipient (as if I needed to say!). Will see if I can find out more about tapestry versions and the image on the border - not my field of expertise though I have seen them before (and have bought calligraphy versions as gifts).
posted by Abiezer at 1:11 PM on May 25, 2010

Here's another link (in Chinese) with lots of examples, including on fans and a snuff bottle.
posted by Abiezer at 1:14 PM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: I can't be sure without a more complete shot of the characters, but the embroidered figures might just be the Eight Daoist Immortals

"Longevity" would support this possibility, as popular Daoist practice associates virtue and spiritual health with long life and health of the body, hence the paragon of virtue is the immortal.
posted by reverend cuttle at 1:15 PM on May 25, 2010

Good call I think, reverend - guy with the fan and hair in buns looks like depictions of Lan Caihe (藍采和), who is one of the eight.
posted by Abiezer at 1:23 PM on May 25, 2010

Except apparently it's not a fan, it's a 大拍板 it seems, which is a sort of clapper he'd use for rhythmic accompaniment when he went begging (as you do when you're a wandering immortal adept). I should read these links I post.
posted by Abiezer at 1:28 PM on May 25, 2010

Sorry for the spamming - the other guy with the white beard would then be Zhang Guo, I reckon. few more versions of Eight Immortals pictures here.
posted by Abiezer at 1:32 PM on May 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the helpful replies, everyone!
posted by plantbot at 5:31 AM on May 26, 2010

« Older What is this shooting pain down leg from car...   |   Is Jersey City to Somerset a reasonable commute? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.