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Elegant Li Ceremonial Dragon Cover, 18th/19th c.

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Lot 0134 Details

Description
An elegant Li ceremonial dragon cover (long bei), Hainan, China, late Ming/ early Qing period (18th/19th century). Size: 80.75'' x 49.5'' (205 x 126 cm).It features the feminine yin phoenixes without dragons. In their place dancing lions grace the corners and fish, symbols of abundance and prosperity, jump from the seas. The border around the center filled with birds and flowers places much emphasis on the birds. Considerable wear to the embroidery but no replaced stitching or overstitching. The Li dragon cover, long bei, is one of the most fascinating textiles in the Asian world. Neither tribal nor traditional, neither all Li, a tribal group on Hainan Island, south China, nor all Han Chinese, it appears a hybrid, underscoring the theory that during the late Ming or early Qing period the palace in Beijing sent prototype drawings with royal iconography to Hainan and demanded that the Li copy them in silk embroidery on their fine quality cotton to send as mostly three-panel tapestries to the Court as tribute. It is held that the Li secretly made dragon covers for themselves and used them clandestinely during their most important ceremonies and rituals. Li long bei are rare. Production by the Li for themselves would have been extremely limited by cost, the need for secrecy and fear of punishment by government officials were they to be found out. Of the few that were kept, at least some would have succumbed to the ravages of time, insects and climate. Then, beginning with the Cultural Revolution in 1966, the Red Guard raided the island’s cities and villages, and seized and destroyed all evidence of art and culture including any long bei they found. References: Cai, Long Bei; Vichai Chinalai and Lee J. Chinalai, “Long Bei, Ceremonial Dragon Covers of the Li of Hainan”, HALI; Hans Steubel, Die Li Stämme der Insel Hainan, Xueping, Traditional Culture of Li Ethnic Group. Provenance: Lee and Vichai Chinalai collection.
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Elegant Li Ceremonial Dragon Cover, 18th/19th c.

Estimate $2,000 - $4,000Aug 17, 2020
Starting Price $1,000
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