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Romance and Heroism: Theatrical Robes from Late Imperial China

May 11, 2019 - April 19, 2020
Gallery 218
Free Exhibition

During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), classical Chinese plays generally featured singing, dancing, music, and acrobatics. But some the most important elements were the costumes. Elaborate and colorful, theatrical costumes were exaggerated versions of real-life attire—familiar yet fantastical—and historical accuracy was secondary to drama and opulence.

Chinese plays are labeled either civil (wenxi) or military (wuxi). Civil plays presented dramas of daily life—romance, intrigue—while military plays focused on battle scenes, heroic victories, and tragedies. The stories mostly familiar. The beautiful spectacle of the costumes and performance was the true appeal of theater.

China, Qing dynasty (1644–1911) Theatrical Jacket and Skirt for a Warrior, Kangxi period, 1662-1722, Satin The John R. Van Derlip Fund 42.8.126a,b