piyingxi (Shadow Puppet)

About this object


In 1981 the donor wrote that she had found this group of shadow puppets in Chengdu (Sichuan, China) over 40 years earlier.

Cultural context

The long and vibrant tradition of shadow puppetry suffered during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976 CE) because it was seen to glorify the imperial past.

Iconographic meaning

With her elegant dress and hairstyle, this shadow puppet depicts a high-status young woman. Her flowing red gown is incised with a peony pattern, which symbolizes wealth and honour. On her feet are 'lotus shoes' - another symbol of social status, gender, and prosperity - denoting foot-binding, a practice that was discontinued in the late 19th / early 20th century.

Physical description

A shadow puppet of a female (parts a-b) with a her black hair up in a bun and decorated with red flowers with leaves. Wearing clothing that is decorated in dark floral print on a red background. Wire is coiled around the neck. Joined in the shoulder, elbow, waist, hips, hands, and fingers with rivets.