Mandarin ducks and peach blossoms | China | Qing dynasty (1644–1911), 18th century | Kesi (silk tapestry), hanging scroll | 78.1 x 37.8 cm | Gift of Dr Lam Kwok Pun | Woven seal: song ren suo zuo (artwork made by the people of the Song dynasty) | HKU.T.2004.1680

Mandarin ducks and peach blossoms

TitleMandarin ducks and peach blossoms
PeriodQing dynasty (1644–1911), 18th century
MediumSilk tapestry (kesi), panel
Dimensions78.1 x 37.8 cm
CollectionUniversity Museum and Art Gallery, HKU
ProvenanceGift of Dr Lam Kwok Pun
SealWoven seal song ren suo zuo (artwork made by the people of the Song dynasty)

A pair of mandarin ducks rests on a riverbank beneath branches of peach blossoms. Each is coloured and posed differently: the duck with golden neck feathers gazes forward, while the duck with black feathers leans its head back to groom its body. Their colourful feathers were woven using the changduanqiang (‘long-and-short propping’) and mushuqiang (‘wood comb propping’) techniques. The subtle gradation of greyish-green grass beneath the ducks was woven with the fengweiqiang (‘phoenix tale propping’) technique, wherein two weft threads, one thicker and one thinner, are interwoven to create a graceful flow of colours.

In traditional Chinese culture, mandarin ducks symbolise a harmonious marriage as they are thought to mate for life. The peach blossoms expand on this theme since they bloom in spring, a time of fertility. The design of the kesi was likely inspired by the Song dynasty (960–1279) hanging scroll Taohua yuanyang tu zhou (Peach Blossom and Mandarin Ducks), held in the collection of the Nanjing Museum. This is also indicated by the four characters in black-coloured wefts, taohua yuanyang, and a seal in bronze script woven in the top right corner of the tapestry that reads: song ren suo zuo (‘an artwork made by the people of the Song dynasty’).