Wu Laixi (died circa 1950), Beijing 
Richard G. Pritzlaff, Sapello, New Mexico, acquired from Wu Laixi 
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, purchased from Richard G. Pritzlaff in 1991
 From the collection of Richard G. Pritzlaff, New Mexico, who "reputedly received the textile from Wu Laixi (d. circa 1950) of Beijing, in either the late 1930s or early 1940s" (according to Provenance Remark 1, Jan Stuart, February 2, 1999, in the object record).
 See note 1.
- Previous Owner(s)
Richard G. Pritzlaff
Wu Laixi died ca. 1950
This sumptuous hanging, embroidered on imperial yellow silk, radiates an image of the emperor's legitimacy and power. The motif of a five-clawed dragon cavorting above the waves and mountains symbolizes the ruler presiding over his domain. Tucked inside a coil of the central dragon's body, a circle representing a "flaming pearl" appears. Legend recounts that only a dragon that symbolizes a just emperor is capable of capturing this magic pearl, said to be an emblem of purity.
The embroidery boasts stylized lotus flowers, which are symbols of purity and concord. At the center of each lotus, the needleworkers depicted a geometric motif shaped like a double trefoil. This is the double ruyi, an auspicious Chinese symbol meaning "as you wish." The total decorative scheme of the hanging encodes the message that the emperor is powerful and unsullied; therefore, wishes of peace, prosperity, and happiness will be assured as long as he reigns.
The hanging now consists of two sections, but originally it had three, to display a total of nine dragons above five mountains. Nine and five are cosmic numbers. The exceptionally high quality of the embroidery, including the blending together of threads of graduated colors to shade the lotus flowers and leaves, attests to the palace provenance of this piece.
- Published References
- Jan Stuart, Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 21, fig. 4.
- Collection Area(s)
- Chinese Art
- Web Resources
- Google Cultural Institute
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