After a design by Guy-Louis Vernansal (1648–1729) and others
Woven at the Manufacture Royale de Beauvais under the direction of Pierre and Etienne Filleul (codirectors, 1711–22)
France, Beauvais

The Emperor Sailing, from The Story of the Emperor of China, 1716/22

Wool, silk, and silvered- and-gilt-metal-strip-wrapped silk, slit and double interlocking tapestry weave with some areas of 2:2 plain interlacings of silvered-and-gilt-metal wefts
385.8 x 355 cm (151 3/4 x 139 3/4 in.)
Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Worcester Fund, 2007.22

The Emperor Sailing, from The Story of the Emperor of China

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The Emperor Sailing originally formed part of a suite called The Story of the Emperor of China, which portrayed scenes from the lives of the Manchu Qing dynasty Shunzhi emperor (r. 1644–61) and his son, the Kangxi emperor (r. 1661–1722), who were contemporaries of Louis XIV of France (r. 1643–1715). The series was first produced in the late 17th century in response to the French court’s growing mania for all things Asian. This tapestry shows the elder emperor seated in a ceremonial dragon boat as it pulls into a river from a quay. Members of the imperial family and their attendants watch the launch from an arcaded trellis, in close proximity to a crane and a tortoise that symbolize their well-wishes to the emperor. A walled city, with a towering multistoried pagoda, is visible upriver. The coat of arms in the arch over the quay belongs to Franz Ludwig, Count Palatine von Pfalz-Neuburg (1664–1732).

— Exhibition label, The Divine Art: Four Centuries of European Tapestries, November 1, 2008–January 4, 2009, Regenstein Hall.


This tapestry originally formed part of a suite that portrays scenes from the lives of the Shunzhi emperor (r. 1644–61) and his son, the Kangzi emperor (r. 1661–1722). This innovative and highly influential tapestry series was ordered by Philippe Behagle, the director of the Beauvais Manufactory, in response to the French court's growing interest in the Far East. Drawing upon observations made by missionaries to China and information published in travelers' reports, the series represents the two emperors dutifully fulfilling a range of responsibilities. The Emperor Sailing shows the elder emperor seated in a ceremonial dragon boat as it pulls away from a quay. Members of the imperial family and their attendants watch the launch from an arcaded trellis, in close proximity to a crane and a tortoise that together symbolize their well-wishes for the monarch. As an allegory of good governance, the series makes manifest the perceived parallels, first propounded by French Jesuit missionaries in China, between Louis XIV and the Kangxi emperor.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 340.