On special occasions the front of the altar is decorated with an altar cloth, called tok wi. For a funeral ceremony a tok wi in blue colours on a white background is used; these are the mourning colours for Peranakan. For festive occasions the auspicious colour red is used.
In China these altar cloths are made of silk decorated with embroidered motifs in gold-wrapped thread, depicting deities, heavenly beings and mythical creatures such as the dragon, phoenix and qilin. Many of these cloths were imported from China to Southeast Asia to decorate the altars of Peranakan Chinese homes and temples. In Java’s north coast Peranakan Chinese involved in the batik industry began to produce cotton altar cloths decorated with the batik technique, which brought new possibilities both in design and in colour. The batik altar cloths could also satisfy local preferences. This altar cloth has two separate sections. In the lower section a dragon is depicted in the centre. This creature is a male symbol and represents Yang. The feng huang birds flying at the upper left and right represent the female, or Yin. At lower left and right qilins symbolize happiness and the wish for many successful sons in the family.
As a wish for good luck the Eight Immortals are depicted in the upper section. They each have their own appearances, carrying their own attribute. Here the eight figures are hard to distinguish, as if the batik maker was not entirely sure how the Eight Immortals should be depicted.

Pekalongan, Java; approx. 1950; cotton, synthetic dyes


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