Noh Costume ([Chōken]) with Fans, Peonies, and Chrysanthemums


Noh Costume ([Chōken]) with Fans, Peonies, and Chrysanthemums

Textiles / Edo

Edo period, 18th century


Choken were originally robes worn by young nobles, though they were later used in Noh theater to play the roles of dancing women or armor-clad men. This garment features elegant woven designs on a purple ground, so it was probably used for female roles. It must have created a striking impact as its voluminous sleeves swirled to the rhythm of the dance.

Large fans are woven on the left and right of the thin light ground. The fans are spread open in a way that symbolizes increasing happiness and success. Peony branches are placed on top of the fans. Peonies are also known as 'flowers of wealth and fame' in Japan. These are surrounded by scattered chrysanthemum branches. Chrysanthemums were beloved motifs in Japan, but they were originally auspicious flowers in China. Chrysanthemums, bamboo, plum blossoms and orchids were known as the 'four gentlemen' in China and they symbolized virtuous people. It was also said long life could be achieved by drinking dew from a chrysanthemum leaf. All these auspicious motifs are rendered in gold and colored threads to lend the costume an extravagant air.

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