Chinese Sleevebands

19th century

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There are many themes used on sleevebands but one of the most popular was butterflies (symbol of longevity) sipping the nectar from peonies (symbol of spring). Together these two represent a lover tasting the joys of love. Symbolism was of huge importance on Chinese costumes and textiles but generally the more serious Buddhist and Taoist symbols do not appear.  The velvet embroidered illustrated does have some of The Eight Precious Things and archaic vessels. In the main sleevebands tend to have pretty subject matter relating to people, plants, insects and animals.

Colour was highly significant in the Chinese court with specific colours being worn for ceremonial or festivals. Red was a happiness colour and worn at weddings, white for funerals and mourning.  Different colours were worn for different ceremonies.

Sleevebands can be extremely beautiful and attractive, of fine quality and often amusing. They are interesting pieces of social history. Framed, they do not take up much space and several on a wall can look stunning and unusual. Price depends on whether they are a pair or single, on the quality of the embroidery, condition and rarity of the subject matter, variety of stitches and general attractiveness of the piece. A single good quality band in good condition band can start at around £60 /$ 100.

Click here to go to Chinese Sleevebands, Roundels & Pieces For Framing section of the website.


Bertin-Guest, Josiane. Chinese Embroidery Traditional Techniques (Batsford, London) ISBN 07134 8779 8

Garrett, Valery M. A Collector's Guide to Chinese Dress Accessories (Times Editions, Hong Kong).

Wilson, Verity. Chinese Dress (V & A, London) ISBN 0948107189

Exhibition Catalogue; China: The Three Emperors 1662-1795. Royal Academy of Arts, London

© 2006 Meg Andrews.

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Archaic Vesselszoom in

Archaic Vessels

Butterflies & Peonieszoom in

Butterflies & Peonies

Kesi bandzoom in

Kesi band