Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Gonick, Gloria Granz. “The Conversion of Chinese Court Robes into Japanese Festival Hangings.” Contact, Crossover, Continuity: Proceedings of the Fourth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 22–24, 1994 (Los Angeles, CA: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1995), 67–79.


Copyright © 1994 Gloria Granz Gonick


Decorated silken robes historically worn in China to garb the emperor and his family were disassembled and resewn in Japan into hangings for Kyoto's Gion Festival during the 16th to 18th centuries. The twenty robes, which were converted into coverings for festival carts called yama and hoko, include silk tapestry weaves (kesi), brocades, and embroidered examples. Eleven date from the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and nine from the early to mid Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). This distribution contrasts with other world collections of Chinese imperial robes, in which Qing Dynasty examples are far more numerous. In addition to the robes, ninety-five early Qing rank badges were also imported. These were joined into vertical or horizontal strips to serve as borders or valences. Chair covers, table and altar frontals, and wall hangings, as well as prized weavings from a number of other countries in Asia as well as Europe, are also included in the Gion collections. There are a total of around 900 textiles of which approximately 300 are derived from foreign sources.