Thursday, August 24, 2017

Korean Pouches :: Around The World From 80 Countries

My post of August 10 included Ruth Hoy's description of dressing up and visiting Chinese relatives for the New Year. The beginning of the Lunar New Year (January 28 in 2017) is also an important holiday in Korea, celebrated by playing games, flying kites, and riding on seesaws. This three-day holiday is primarily a family time when people travel back to their hometown and visit relatives.  They dress up in traditional Korean clothing. Ordinary clothing was usually white or other muted colors, but holiday clothing, especially that of children, was more colorful. Children participate in a ritual (sebae) with deep bows to elders and wishes for good fortune.  Grandparents and other elders give the young children money while parents usually give rice cakes or fruit.  The children put the gifts in a “lucky pouch” or bokjumeoni.   Children will also write their wishes on a slip of paper and place it inside a pouch.  These small bags or purses are used because traditional Korean garments do not contain pockets. 

Although Koreans were using embroidery as early as 108 CE, it has not been as significant form in Korea as it is in China. Embroidery was used on some garments for leaders and for brides, but mostly on accessories such as these pouches. Pouches for children were often embroidered with good luck characters or symbols.  Brides embroidered longevity symbols on pouches for their mother-in-laws. Today, the designs are often printed.
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Asian Art Researcher Alicia James :: Around The World From 80 Countries

During the past year, the Benton County Historical Museum has been fortunate to have Alicia James volunteering in the collections department.  Alicia has a masters' degree in Art History and has completed course work for her doctorate.  Her area of specialization is Asian art, with a focus on the art of Tibet and the influence of Buddhism and indigenous religions.  She has been examining some of the museums many Asian artifacts. When I asked her what some of her favorite objects were, she mentioned two in addition to the Der Ling opera costume shown in my last post.

One she liked for the realism and level of detail is this painted silk scroll of an official of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).  He is seated on chair draped with a tiger skin and is wearing a dragon and cloud brocade gown.  The mandarin badge (light blue square) on his overcoat depicts a qilin, which indicates someone of the first rank in the military.  A qilin is a mythical Chinese creature with the body of an oxen or deer covered in scales, with a head like a dragon with one or two horns. Some have called it the Chinese unicorn.  The peacock feather in his cap would have been bestowed by the emperor for some extraordinary feat.
The second object she mentioned is this Ming dynasty (1368-1644) cast bronze statue.  It depicts the Medicine Buddha or Buddha of healing. He is seated in the lotus position on a double-lotus throne.  In China, the lotus is a symbol of beauty, purity, and spiritual perfection. In his right hand is the stem of a medicinal aruna fruit. A translation of the inscription on the back says that it was made by the Stone Buddha Temple in the fourteenth year of the reign of Hung-chih (1502).

Chinese Buddhists recite the Medicine Buddha mantra to ease sickness, both mental and physical.
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chinese artifacts donated by Elvin and Ruth Hoy

The Horner Collection of the Benton County Historical Museum contains over 140 objects from China.  A number of them were donated by Elvin A. and Ruth Hoy.  Mr. Hoy graduated from Oregon State University in 1924 with a degree in engineering.  After some advanced study at Stanford and the University of California, he joined the faculty of the University of Hawaii.  There he met Ruth Yap, who was also teaching mathematics at the university after earning her bachelor's and master's degrees there.  Later Mr. Hoy was the principal mathematician in the review and analysis division of the Army and Ruth was a professor of mathematics at Marymount College in Arlington, VA.  They accumulated many treasured items including costumes given them by Princess Der Ling and objects that had been handed down in the family.  After visits to Corvallis for alumni events, they chose the Horner Museum over others which already had large collections of similar objects.

Ruth wrote about the child's headdress that they were donating:
"We wore these when we were dressed up for celebrations (as a little girl) especially at New Year's when we went with parents to visit relatives and friends.  It was a great occasion and well-remembered because the children were given money wrapped in red paper call li-shee."

A second female head-covering donated by the Hoys is this bridal phoenix crown from 1900. A piece of red silk would be draped over the bride's head and this crown tied on with a red ribbon. Red is the color for weddings in Chinese culture as it represents merriment and rejoicing and is said to bring good luck. The crown is decorated with blue kingfisher feathers, a custom which began during the Han dynasty (206BCE-220 CE). String of beads from a curtain hiding the bride’s eyes to emphasize her modesty.

This bridal crown was a gift to Ruth Hoy.  I wonder if she wore it when she married Elvin Hoy in this church in Honolulu, Hawaii.
First Chinese Church of Christ - Honolulu, HI
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon


Friday, August 4, 2017

Chinese Textiles from an Empress Dowager's Lady-In-Waiting

Chinese opera costume

Chinese opera costume
This third article of embroidered clothing from China is a costume worn by Mei Lanfang (1874-1961),    a star of the Beijing Opera known for his graceful portrayals of female characters. In 1949 he became director of the opera and has been credited with introducing the Beijing opera to the United States. He also served as Vice Chair of the China Federation of Literacy and Art Circles. 

This costume and the dragon robe and lady's robe pictured in the previous two posts were part of a collection of Chinese robes given to donors Elwin A. and Ruth Hoy by Princess Der Ling.  Unfortunately, we do not know how she acquired them. 

Der Ling was the daughter of Yu Keng, who served as Chinese minister in Japan and France.  Der Ling received a western education and learned to speak both English and French. When the family returned to China in 1903, the Empress Dowager Cixi invited Der Ling and her sister for a visit then asked them to stay as her ladies-in-waiting. Der Ling also served as interpreter for the Empress Dowager when she received foreign visitors.

At first, Der Ling and her sister wore European -style clothing but eventually the Empress Dowager picked a “lucky day” and declared that henceforth they would wear only Manchu clothing.  In her book, Two Years in the Forbidden City,  Der Ling tells about being presented with a new wardrobe: “The eunuchs brought in three large yellow trays, full of beautiful gowns, shoes, white silk socks, handkerchiefs, bags for nuts, in fact the whole set, including the gu'un dzan (Manchu headdress).  We kowtowed to her and told her we were very much pleased with everything she had given us.  Her Majesty...said to us 'You see I give you one full official dress, … two embroidered gowns, four ordinary gowns for everyday wear, and two gowns for Chi Chen wear (the anniversary of the death of an Emperor or Empress), one sky blue and the other mauve, with very little trimming.' ” (page 152).  We don't know if the red lady-in-waiting robe of the last post was one of these.

The Empress Dowager also conferred the honorary title of “Princess” on Der Ling.

In 1905, Der Ling left the court to accompany her father to Singapore for medical treatment.  While there, she met and married American Thaddeus C. White, an act which prevented her return to court.  She went on to write a total of eight books and teach Chinese at the University of California at Berkeley until she was killed in an accident in 1944.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon