Dragonfly and lotus plants

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 16th--early 17th century
Silk tapestry (kesi): woven silk threads
H x W (image): 41.9 x 64.8 cm (16 1/2 x 25 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Costume and Textile

Textile (mounted as an album leaf)

China, dragonfly, lotus, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), rock

To 1911
Pang Yuanji (1864-1949), Shanghai, China, to 1911 [1]

From 1911 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Pang Yuanji, in China, in 1911 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Album List, S.I. 28A, pg. 41, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Pang Yuanji (C.L. Freer source) 1864-1949


Strong graphic designs with vibrant colors are among the best tapestries of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The use of large blocks of color to create a bold design corresponds to a similar visual effect in fahua ceramics and in cloisonne. This composition of lotuses features one of the most respected and beloved flowers in Chinese lore. Rising fragrant and unsoiled out of muddy water, the lotus symbolizes purity, integrity, and the idea of spiritual transcendence in the Buddhist tradition. It also carries another meaning-peace-based on the pronunciation of "lotus" in Chinese, "he," which sounds like a differently written word that means "peace." The dragonfly (qingting) adds another pun with words for "dragonfly" and "clear" sounding alike. Thus this image suggests clear, peaceful waters, which served as a rebus for the stability of the Ming government.

Published References
  • Edwards Park. Treasures from the Smithsonian Institution., 1st ed. Washington and New York. p. 342.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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