Boys at Play | China | Qing dynasty (1644–1911), 18th century | Kesi (silk tapestry) with metallic threads, panel | 35.8 x 34.4 cm | Gift of Dr Lam Kwok Pun | HKU.T.2004.1666

Boys at play

TitleBoys at play
PeriodQing dynasty (1644–1911), 18th century
MediumSilk tapestry (kesi) with metallic threads, panel
Dimensions35.8 x 34.4 cm
CollectionUniversity Museum and Art Gallery, HKU
ProvenanceGift of Dr Lam Kwok Pun

Woven on a richly embellished golden ground with polychrome threads, the children represent a popular design known as Yingxi tu (‘Boys at play’). Surrounded by a pleasing scene of trees, mountains, flowers and a pagoda, each child strikes a unique expression and pose. During the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing dynasties, the Yingxi tu design appeared on textiles, furniture, ceramics and other decorative objects to represent the desire for a large family. In the mid-Qing dynasty, kesi weaving techniques and technologies were sufficiently advanced to allow for the widespread production of textiles with identical double-sided imagery that did not expose the threads on either side—shuangmian touke (‘double-sided translucent silk tapestry’). Panels like this, with attractive identical images on the front and back, were often used as two-sided screens for desks or room dividers, the latter typically placed in the wedding chamber of a newly married couple.