Purchased by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli in 2015, from an antique dealer in China.
This is an emerald green (cheongsam)/(qipao) style shirt of (rayon) – a semi-synthetic plant-based fibre also called artificial silk – in the (satin) weave. It is embellished with (satin_stitch) embroidery done on the machine all over with floral and figured motifs in an array of coloured silk floss threads.
With the ivory fabric of similar satin weave sleeve bands, collars, and fall, the piece has a bright yellow fabric (appliqued) to it that acts like a border around the lapels and the hem. The same fabric is used for floral patterns (frog_fasteners) for buttons and loops.
The satin_stitch embroidery on the piece is in a range of brightly coloured silk floss thread and depicts mostly floral motifs that have deep symbolic significance in Far Eastern beliefs and philosophies like peonies, lotuses, and bamboo leaves. With two large pink peonies in full bloom flanking the two edges of the midriff close to the waist the rest of the piece is scattered with small floating lotuses in coral with wavy foliage along with a large circular pattern or a medallion of floral arrangements with a central human figure wielding a dual sword in martial arts style.
From the figured motif it could be concluded that the piece was made for a Western market, possibly as a souvenir for those that are influenced by an aspect of Chinese pop culture that took the world by storm.
The lining of the piece is also in the same shade of emerald but in a much thinner satin. There is a maker’s label on the piece in both Chinese and English that reads “75% Rayon and 25% Silk” which testifies to its Chinese origin and its fabric ratio.
With just a handful of countries earning mentions in the “Object range” section due to technical limitations, one must never forget the vast range of influence the Chinese culture has had across the globe especially South and Central Asia, southeast Asia, and the Middle East. As such it would not be presumptuous to categorize all the countries of these regions under this section where such a fabric likely to be easily available.
In fact, the impact of the Silk Route from China all the way across to the Middle East could perhaps very well be surmised through one word “satin”. A fabric that was exported from the port of Zayton in China and was acquired by the Arab traders was named after the city that it came from and was later morphed into “satin” by the Europeans.
Similarly, the cultural exchanges through trade relations between China and South Asia had always been quite strong so much so that religious philosophies like that of Buddhism which was essentially born in India became one of the major faiths in China since the antiquities.
While the earlier impact of Chinese culture on the West had been primarily through third parties or at best sporadically first hand, the Industrial Revolution brought in a barrage through the influx of Chinese traders and laborers travelling west and taking their culture with them.
By the second half of the 20th century, practices that were once intrinsic to Chinese culture such as traditional Chinese medicine, music, dance, drama, theatre, martial and other performing arts, crossed the oceans easily through film and other literature. Thus, it would be quite wrong to curtail the range of such a piece as this to just a few countries.