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Boots, part? of a bridal costume

1895/1905

Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen

Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen

This bridal costume was worn by Han Tek Nio at her wedding in 1901. Her grandson, Mr. S.Y. Kan, donated the costume together with a variety of Peranakan items to the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen. It was the centrepiece of an exhibition in Museum Volkenkunde Leiden, in 2015-2016. This silk costume consists of a skirt, long mantle, and a pair of boots. The crown is unfortunately missing. It has an orange colour, in Indonesian called kuning pinang masak, the ‘yellow of a ripe betel nut’. Actually a ripe betel nut is more orange than yellow, very much resembling the colour of this bridal costume. It is embroidered with many Chinese motifs. Amongst these motifs are clouds, waves and a mountain, respectively representing air, sea and land. The most prominent motif, however, is the dragon on the chest. In China the dragon is a benevolent creature that represents rain and fertility. On this bridal costume it is depicted with five claws, and therefore symbolizes the emperor. Also embroidered on the costume are several feng huang, the symbol of the empress. This mythical bird stands for virtue and grace. On their wedding the couple were seen as “emperor and empress” for one day. This bridal costume resembles the Chinese so-called dragon jacket and dragon skirt of a mandarin’s wife. It was worn on special occasions, including her wedding, while her husband wore the mandarin court robe.
The flaps of the collar represent the neck feathers of the feng huang. Four long tassels hang down from the collar, two falling over the front of the body, and two over the back. Each tassel is embroidered with two human figures. Together they represent the Eight Immortals, six men and two women who have attained immortality by studying nature’s secrets.

China or Indonesia; 1901; silk, synthetic dyes, gold-wrapped thread

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