Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


Among the many goods that offer visible testimony of the transmission of Asian material culture westwards, as a result of the Portuguese Overseas Expansion, Chinese textiles deserve special attention. Made entirely of silk and following Chinese designs, or adapted to Portuguese taste, these textiles began reaching by Portugal by way of Guangzhou and Macau, from at least 1557, and quickly became part of the decorative displays conceived for extraordinary sacred events performed in Portugal until the 18th century. Careful analysis of contemporary printed texts describing these ceremonies reveals how textiles were intensely used in church decoration programs. Chinese textiles, although different in iconographic, plastic, material, technical and even cromatic aspects from the European, enjoyed enormous prestige among Portuguese and were considered valid decorative options in solemn sacred celebratory events. However, this paper intends to demonstrate how the use of this vivid and exotic items intended to be more than ornamental; living testimonies of Portuguese experience in China, a nation of paramount importance in the Portuguese overseas empire in the economic and missionary perspective, these textile works holded a clear political and symbolic valence that in these occasions were stressed out to remind and project the responsibles for that enterprise, rather in particular the Portuguese crown and the Society of Jesus.