Book Review: Flowers, Dragons, & Pine Trees

Flowers, Dragons, & Pine Trees: Asian Textiles in the Spencer Museum of Art by Mary M. Dusenbury, Hudson Hills Press, 2004

This is a hefty, coffee table-sized book filled with color photos, maps, and a wide selection of textile items from the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, Kansas City, Missouri. The original collection of Asian textiles was a gift from Sallie Casey Thayer in 1917. Since that time the museum has continued to add to the collection, which has now grown to an impressive catalog of items from all over Asia, including South Asia (India, Pakistan and Kashmir), Iran, China, and Japan. Broken up into regional sections, the book examines individual items and their history, accompanying each with several color photographs.

As a reference guide, this book would be useful for those researching textiles ranging from Imperial Chinese court robes (chao fu and long pao), historical examples of embroidery (the gold couching examples are particularly beautiful), Japanese stencil making, priestly vestments (including the Japanese kesa), Kashmir shawls, Persian carpets, and all manner of gorgeous textiles, most produced prior to the 20th century. Essays for each geographical section cover these and other topics, many of which I’ve found quite useful. Each section is heavily footnoted.

The cover price is $65-75, but I have seen it for much less online. My copy was purchased on sale through Paragon Books, a favorite resource for books on Asian art, history and culture.

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