Hanging with Filial Piety Performance Scene
This wide embroidered hanging is flanked by auspicious symbols: a flag announcing “joys of longevity” to the right and a tree laden with peaches of immortality to the left. On either side of the structure at the center sit a man and a woman who are honored by children bowing before them and by festively attired well-wishers who approach from right and left. The figures are surrounded by many symbols of long life, health, abundance, and joy, some of which represent visual puns: butterflies (蝴蝶), pronounced hudie, are homophonous with blessings (福), pronounced fu, and the decade between the ages of 70 and 80 (耋), pronounced die; and bats (蝠), pronounced fu, are another pun for blessings. A deer eats a magic lingzhi mushroom, while a crane confers the wish for longevity. Auspicious couplets frame the central scene, the one on the right reading ‘Auspicious Clouds Brighten High Heaven’ (祥雲輝亁極) and on the left reading ‘Auspicious qi reveals the Southern Mountains’ (瑞氣靄南山).
The scene depicted here is derived from a chapter titled ’The Circle of Insignia’ of the drama ‘The Insignia-Laden Bed (Manchuang hu 满床笏)’ written by playwright Fan Xizhe 範希哲 (fl. 1673). The popular drama tells the story of the famous Tang general Guo Ziyi 郭子儀 (697-781), whose loyalty to the dynastic house of Li was legendary. He fought against the Uighur and Tibetan empires and is especially commemorated for successfully ending the two years of devastating uprisings against the Tang under leadership of general An Lushan 安禄山 (c. 703-757) that are remembered by An’s name as the An Lushan Rebellion until today.
Guo, a Nestorian Christian by faith, was later deified as the star god Lu of the three gods Fu (symbolizing prosperity), Lu (symbolizing emolument), and Shou (symbolizing longevity), related to the legend that the Jade Emperor, who had observed Guo’s loyal service to three Tang emperors with great appreciation, had sent a fairy to inquire about Guo’s desires. Guo responded that since he had seen so much bloodshed in his life he wished for peace and happiness. Thereupon the Jade emperor rewarded him with the position as God of Emolument.
The scene on the hanging shows how on the occasion of Guo’s sixtieth birthday his seven sons and eight sons-in-law, all of them also accomplished in their service as high-ranking imperial officials, attend the family gathering to show reverence to General Guo and his wife in accordance with the customs of filial piety. The sons and sons-in-law have placed the tablets inscribed with their respective ranks on top of a day-bed shown to the right of the central scene. The rank tablets testify to Guo’s success as the head of his family and symbolize his male relatives’ wish for his longevity. This scene was performed on the occasion of advanced birthdays and adorned celebratory banners and other gifts.