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  • Place of origin:

    Jinan (made)

  • Date:

    1915 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Satin weave silk with polychrome embroidered decoration

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The collar band is beautifully shaped into a curl on the overlap section of this child's jacket. The embroidered white length of silk that forms the band is itself edged with narrower strips of ice-blue, bias-cut silk, which follow the curving outline. Similar edgings are applied around the cuffs. The jacket's tailoring, although similar to an adult's robe, differs from a full-size one in that the neckline shape is straighter and has no knot buttons across it.

The main part of the garment is a strong red: a colour associated in China with joyous occasions. It was the custom to present a young child with red and green clothes bearing good luck motifs. The gold-crowned figure in the centre depicts a male child bearing wishes for a son who will be successful in government high office. This jacket, part of a complete set, serves as a reminder not to read the Chinese decorative repertoire too literally. The garment was made by the Chinese neighbours of a Europan family for their baby daughter in Shandong Province in North China in 1915.

Physical description

Cross-over jacket of red satin weave silk, cut in the usual adult robe manner but with no central seam down the back. The polychrome embroidery is mostly in twisted silk thread although untwisted thread has been used to form long floats beneath decorative securing threads on the robes and facces of the human figuress and the bodies of the animals. Satin stitch and overlaid floss floats are the main techniques employed while self-couching, gold couching, stem stitch and seed stitch are used more sparingly. The neck opening is edged with an embroidered white satin weave band enclosed between narrower bias-cut trimmings of undecorated pale blue satin weave silk. The cuffs are edged in a similar manner but the embroidered band is royal blue. The bottom of the jacket is edged with a black and white scalloped and rolled woven trimming. The jacket is lined with deep pink plain weave fabric, possibly cotton, and the garment is secured with one set of red satin ties under the right arm.
The design consists of flowers surrounding two figures, one is riding a qilin and wearing a golden crown. The other is standing behind holding a pennant.

Place of Origin

Jinan (made)


1915 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Satin weave silk with polychrome embroidered decoration


Height: 44.5 cm, Width: 67.0 cm across the shoulders

Object history note

Purchased. Registered File number 1986/915.

Part of a set of clothes for a child consisting of a jacket, a bib, two pairs of trousers, a bonnet, a headband and a pair of shoes. They were made for the vendor by wealthy elderly Chinese ladies living next door to her parents in Jinan, and presented to them in December 1915. The clothes never worn but treasured by vendor's mother.

The following letter from the vendor is kept in the register:
"Chinese Embroidered Baby Clothes: The baby clothes were made for me and presented to my mother in December 1915 by two elderly Chinese ladies who were our next door neighbours.
My father, Mr GH Perriam, an architect, was commissioned to design and build the Medical School and teaching Hospital for the North China University in Tsinan [Jinan], the capital city of the northern province of Shantung [Shandong]. My parents lived there in a Chinese house next door to the wealthy elderly ladies who spent most of their time engaged in needlework of all kinds as they had bound feet and rarely went out. When they knew that my mother was expecting a child they set to work to design, make and embroider these beautiful clothes, including the shoes.
The clothes have never been worn - my mother treasured them too much to have them spoiled!
The first two characters on the apron mean the four seasons, the last two 'peace', i.e. peace for all seasons, peace in the sense that it is free from every trouble. All Chinese mothers hope and wish for this peace for their children.
You may be interested to know that the Medical School and Teaching Hospital are still in use. My husband and I were privileged to spend a whole day in the Hospital in 1978 when we went to China on an educational tour."

Historical context note

As the garment was made before the child was born it may well depict the traditional motif of a boy on a qilin representing the chance of having a male child who will grow up to be an official. See Berliner, Nancy, Chinese Folk Art Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1986, pp 64-5, 107, 191 & 193. NAL Bibliographic Ref. No.:18.O.231.
See also Yao Qian Tao hua wu mian hua ('New Year Prints from Tao hua wu'), Beijing: Wen wu chu ban she, 1985, plates 13-5. NAL Bibliographic Ref. No.: C.92.0002.

Descriptive line

Jacket from a set of clothes for a child, red silk satin with polychrome embroidered decoration, Jinan, Shandong province, China, 1915

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wilson, Verity, 'Chinese Children's Dress' in V&A Album 4, London: V&A Publications, 1985, pp.293-296
Crill, R., Wearden, J. & Wilson, V., with contributions from Anna Jackson & Charlotte Horlyck, Dress in Detail from Around the World London: V&A Publications, 2002, pp.30-1

Production Note

Jinan, Shandong province


Silk (textile); Silk thread; Metal thread; Floss silk


Satin weave; Embroidering

Subjects depicted

Floral patterns; Boys; Qilin


Textiles; Children's clothes; Embroidery


East Asia Collection

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