Evidence from Paintings

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The unit on Painting, especially the section on Painting as a Social Record, included many paintings from the Song and Yuan period that show how people of various statuses dressed.   Below are a few of those illustrations, supplemented with some later ones.  


What are the main differences in how men and women dress?  


What do you interpret as differences based on wealth, status, or occupation?


Do you notice any major changes in the style of dress over time?


What levels of social status are represented in this scene?  Which aspects of the garments give you clues to status?

Song period, detail from  The Spring Festival Along the River  

by Zhang Zeduan                                                            source

How are the men and women distinguished in this scene?

Eleventh century tomb wall painting                                                       source


Would you have known these men were literati even if they did not hold brushes or documents?

Zhou Wenju (tenth century), A Literary Garden                               source

What do you notice about sleeves in this scene?


How is color used in these people's garments?

Detail from Ma Hezhi, Classic of Filial Piety (12th century)     source


How do the clothing of these two pairs compare to what we have seen above?

The Night Revels of Han Xizai, attributed to Gu Hongzhong, detail (12th century)               source

Yuan wall painting       source


What seems to be the status of the people in the illustration below?

Wall painting from a Yuan period Daoist temple                                                 source




During Ming and Qing times, a conspicuous feature of official dress was the use of rank badges.  Different birds or animals indicated the rank of the official in the civil or military hierarchy.

Ming portrait of Jiang Shunfu                                                      source

Take a closer look at the badge on his garment.  Also note the subtle patterning of the black silk.

Does anything else besides the badge add distinction to his costume?

Ming portrait of Jiang Shunfu, detail                                      source



Sometimes the badges were made using gold thread for the background.

Qing portrait of Xu Ruke                                                             source


Move on to Evidence from Photographs