This is a silk embroidered handkerchief, probably used as a decorative tray cover that was placed over items presented on the trays, such as jewellery. This piece could be stitched using the satin stitch and variations of it such as the long and short stitches, overlapping stitches and alternate stitches. Thread couching is used to create the various decorative motifs on the piece. These include the phoenix, peonies and butterflies. The motifs used are all significant in the Chinese culture. For example, the central motif consists of a pair of brightly coloured phoenixes enveloping a peony blossom. Much attention is given to the creation of the phoenix motifs. The feathers are done in the varied and bright colours of pink, gold, green, orange and yellow. This contrasts nicely with the duller purple background. A pair of phoenixes possibly symbolises the wedding couple. The phoenix is also a symbol of beauty, grace and virtue. Peonies are symbols of beauty, spring, love and also good fortune and nobility. The use of such auspicious symbols suggests that this piece was possibly used during wedding ceremonies as well.

Late 19th-early 20th century
Manado, Indonesian Archipelago
Gross measurement: 53 x 53 cm
Accession No.
Collection of
Peranakan Museum
Credit Line
Gift of Father Robbie Wowor in memory of grandmother, Mrs Tan Tjien Sian née Tjoa Soan Tjoe Nio. Manado, Indonesia
Garments and Accessories