Man’s Formal Court Robe China, c. 1800 Silk satin; silk and metallic thread; metal buttons USC Pacific Asia Museum Collection Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Hake 1990.38.1

Ceremonies and Celebrations: Textile Treasures from the USC Pacific Asia Museum Collection
September 14, 2018 through January 6, 2019

USC PAM presents Ceremonies and Celebrations: Textile Treasures from the USC Pacific Asia Museum Collection, drawn from the museum’s extraordinary collection of over 2,700 costumes and textiles from China, Korea, Japan, India, the Himalayas and Southeast Asia.

Textiles are tactile, colorful objects that play an integral role in the lives of people across Asia. They are made with care and display a variety of techniques, colors, and materials that reveal a great deal about the cultures from which they originate. Often times, the processes in which they were made and the motifs embellished into their surfaces directly relate to belief and power in Asian communities. The finest textiles are reserved for ceremonies and celebrations marking special occasions, and specific style, color, or motifs function as visual cues to the nature of such ceremonies, as well as the social status of a person or people involved.

With select examples across Asia, Ceremonies and Celebrations explores interesting ideas that connect these vast regions together. The exhibition is divided into four thematic sections: the first focuses on the connection between gender and textile production and the way that textiles are used to identify gender roles in society. The second idea that is explored in the exhibition is the role of textiles as a signifier of one’s status. The third theme illustrates the unique relationship between textiles and religions across Asia. The final section looks at textiles worn or used in marking ceremonies and life transitions, including birth, weddings, and death. Textiles help to identify religious practitioners and add beauty to religious spaces and rituals. By looking at textiles from these perspectives, rather than by their geographical associations, visitors will be able to see the creativity and the diversity of Asian textiles, while connecting meanings behind textiles from vastly different localities, and learn about why these textiles were made with such special care and used in specific purposes.

Some of the highlights of the exhibition will be the imperial dragon robes worn by China’s emperors and imperial family during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). These robes feature nine powerful dragons, the symbol of the Emperor, embroidered or woven across the front and back of the silk robes. The yellow robes were the rarest of all, since the color yellow, symbolizing the sun, was worn exclusively by the Emperor. One such yellow robe, worn by the Guangxu Emperor (1875-1908) as a boy, will be on display in our galleries.

Also included in the exhibition are magnificent whal-ot (wedding robes) from Korea, a recent gift to the museum, and Japanese kimono and kesa (Buddhist priest robes), some dating to the Edo period (1603-1868). From Southeast Asia, Indonesian ikat textiles, and pineapple-fiber, or Piña cloth from the Philippines will be on display. From South Asia and the Himalayan region, visitors can see colorful tunics and elegant silk robes from India, as well as highly meaningful and richly decorated cloth from the kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas.

Some of the best examples in the USC PAM’s textile collection are rarely exhibited because of their fragile nature and the negative effect of light on the natural dyes used, and Ceremonies and Celebrations will provide visitors with an exceptional glimpse at those rarely seen textile collection. The exhibition will accompany diverse programs, including lectures and demonstrations by Asian textile experts to highlight some of the featured textiles and techniques used and their history and free Family Festival.