Welcoming Spring

Artist: Unidentified Artist Chinese, 14th–15th century

Period: Ming dynasty (1368–1644)

Date: 15th century

Culture: China

Medium: Silk embroidery on silk gauze

Dimensions: 84 x 25 in. (213.4 x 63.5 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Embroidered

Credit Line: Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1981

Accession Number: 1981.410


In this remarkably complex and detailed embroidered panel, one boy rounds up sheep and goats while another leads a sheep caparisoned for riding, in a landscape with rocks, stream, and sky. The title Welcoming Spring derives from the symbolism of the sheep and goats—yang, a homonym for yang (the spirit of breath of light and life), which returns at the end of winter and beginning of spring. A panel of virtually identical size, workmanship, and subject matter in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, expresses the connection with the beginning of spring by showing the breath rising from the mouth of a goat, while all around plum trees blossom.

Technically, the panel is a study in contrast between the matte surface of the fine counted-stitch embroidery of the background and the dynamic longer stitches confined mostly to the boys, animals, and rocks. Their bold cleancut outlines were achieved by couching a silk cord around the edges or by working the stitches over a strand of wrapped horsehair that had been couched into place.