Unknown artist, Chinese; Qing, China
Hanging scroll, 19th Century
Silk, metallic-wrapped yarn; tapestry weave, hand painted
Length: 251.5 cm (99 inches) (longest dimension)
Bequest of Miss Lucy T. Aldrich 55.232
(January 13 –April 22, 2012)
This large, meticulously woven hanging textile scroll most likely represents a gathering of immortals to celebrate the birthdays of the Three Stars (sanxing), Shou Xing, Fu Xing, and Lu Xing. A staple of Taoist iconography, also referred to with the Chinese characters Shou 壽 (longevity), Fu 福 (happiness), and Lu 錄 (reward), the Three Stars represent these objectives, which were important especially at the most popular level of Taoist belief.
This auspicious theme, often associated with birthdays, became popular during the late Ming period. Given its size and the quality of the fine silk tapestry weave, this piece probably hung in a palace hall or a wealthy temple. The elaborate scene is likely inspired by a popular drama, the Qunxian qingshou Pantao hui (Gathering Immortals Celebrate Longevity at the Flat Peaches Festival), by the Ming-period dramatist Zhou Youdun.
[Detail 1] The Queen Mother of the West flies on the back of a phoenix attended by two Jade Maidens. This beloved female Taoist immortal resided on Mount Kunlun, where she presided over the fabled garden where the peaches of immortality grew.
[Detail 2] The Three Stars (Shou Xing, Fu Xing, and Lu Xing) are shown at the top of the terrace greeting the Queen Mother of the west. Shou Xing, also known as Old Man Star, resembles the traditional image of the father of Taoism, Laozi. He is generally represented as an old man with a large bald head presenting a large peach, a symbol of long life, to the Queen Mother of the West. Fu Xing is dressed as a court official and carries a ruyi scepter (literally translated “as you wish” the ruyi is a symbol of power and fortune); Lu Xing holds a tray with a bronze ritual vessel.
[Detail 3] Below the Queen Mother of the West, a young woman carrying flower and peaches steers a strange boat, perhaps fashioned out of an ancient peach tree.
[Detail 4] Below the Three Stars are other immortal beings, including the Eight Immortals, Taoist holies famed for havin