ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  exhibitions

Permanent exhibition
of old textiles and works of art.
Temporary exhibition 2007

Address: Werner Abegg-Strasse 67
CH-3132 Riggisberg

regional transport from Berne or Thun to Toffen; postbus from Toffen to Abegg-Stiftung and back according to timetable.

tel: ++41 (0)31 808 12 01
fax: ++41 (0)31 808 12 00

daily slide show (20 minutes: 2.30 pm)

guided tours by prior arrangements
free for groups of 10 persons or more

opening hours:
daily 2 p.m. - 5.30 p.m.

entrance fees:
sFr. 5.- adults
accompanied children free
wheelchair access

Dragons of Silk, Flowers of Gold

Textile Treasures of the Chinese Liao-Dynasty (907-1125)

29th April to 11th November 2006



Dragons of Silk, Flowers of Gold – A Group of Liao-Dynasty Textiles at the Abegg-Stiftung
edited by Regula Schorta, with contributions by Anja Bayer, Lynette Sue-ling Gremli and James C.Y. Watt
Text in English, soft binding, c. 320 p. c. 240 illustrations, 24.5 x 31 cm, 2007; ISBN 978-3-905014-31-0
CHF 85. – + postage, if purchased at the exhibition CHF 50. –



Silk and Gold

Woven silks show vivid patterns that often merge to form loose medallions. The embroideries combine colourful silk of many shades with pronounced contours created by thin strips of gilded paper. They are worked on gossamer-thin, transparent gauze.


Auspicious Motifs

Pairs of fluttering birds, bouquets of peonies, branches of plum blossoms, bows with flowing ribbons: many of the motifs in the embroideries and goldsmith's work promise good luck and well-being.


Unique silk garments and accessories from what is today northern China are the focus of the new special exhibition at the Abegg-Stiftung in Riggisberg. These splendid textiles, around 1,000 years old, provide an insight into the luxurious dress worn by the upper classes of that time. Together with elegant gold-trimmed ceramic vessels, they introduce us to the world of luxury and beauty that the princes of the Liao Dynasty in-habited – even in the grave.

The elite of the Liao Dynasty clad itself in silk from head to foot, both in life and in death. This exhibition shows textiles found in the grave of a noblewoman, whose funeral wardrobe included cloaks, coats, jackets, pants and skirts, as well as a headdress, splendid ornamental bows and silk boots. It is likely that the deceased was wrapped in several layers of clothing. She seems to have been buried wearing three pairs of pants and two skirts as well as at least two jackets and a coat.

The little-known Liao Dynasty was founded by the nobility of the Qidan, a group of semi-nomadic tribes that regularly set up camp in the upper reaches of the Liao river in what is today northern China. In 907, the tribes united and founded the Qidan Empire, which was later renamed Liao. This empire rose to become the principal power in Eastern Asia and at one time controlled an area stretching from Manchuria and Mongolia as far as what is today Beijing. The Qidan also defeated the army of the Song Dynasty that ruled the rest of China. At the peace talks between them it was agreed that the militarily defeated Song Dynasty pay a tribute of 200,000 bolts of silk a year. The Qidan elite then had this silk worked into the most exquisite raiments, consisting of several layers of fabric. Indeed, the silk was so plentiful that it was used even as a lining material and for padding.

The exhibition features seventeen of the Qidan's magnificent, multi-layered silk garments and various accessories. These textiles are around one thousand years old and have survived thanks to the dry climate prevailing in northern China and to years of painstaking conservation and restoration work at the Abegg-Stiftung. The textiles' attractive colours, highly detailed woven patterns and elegant embroidery make them a particularly stunning sight for today's visitor. Finely textured plain silk gauze was often used for the visible outer layer of a garment, and this then lavishly embroidered with silk and gold thread. Some items, for example, are strewn with enchanting flower-and-bird motifs on a dark red ground. The blue skirt embroidered with large dragons is particularly impressive, while fabrics with multicoloured designs are embellished all over with floral medallions, lions and dragonfish, all of them vibrant with colour.

The magnificent culture of the Liao Dynasty has only come to light as a result of excavations carried out over the last twenty years. Spectacular finds in richly furnished tombs testify not only to the significance of textile art, but also to a high level of skill in the crafting of other materials too. To complement the fascinating garments, the special exhibition also includes a silver funeral mask with matching earrings which – like the textiles – are from the Abegg-Stiftung's own collection as well as a selection of exquisite Liao-period vessels on short-term loan from a private collection. These fascinating items, some of them made of porcelain, others of dark wood, are each embellished with the most intricately worked gold mounts and so provide an evocative impression of both the quality and the sheer extravagance of Qidan craftsmanship. Even precious items such as these were used as burial objects.

Raiment of a Lady
A short jacket, together with two pairs of pants, two wrap skirts and two robes,
forms an impressive ensemble. It is complemented by a superb headdress,
silk boots with inner boots, and two undergarments of undyed silk.


home content Last revised , 30 April 2007