silks in the exhibit


For centuries, both Asians and Europeans sought to trade with China for the luxurious fabrics produced by the silk industry. The wealthy enjoyed elegant luxuries such as elaborately embroidered robes, brocade sofas with richly decorated pillows, silk tapestries and tables covered with satin cloths.

As prosperity and trade increased, so did the quality of silks from China, providing a look and feel of richness that no other material in the world could match. It is said that the Romans went crazy for Chinese silks, so different from Western fashions made of linens, furs, and wool.

Closely tied to the silk weaving industry was the ancient art of embroidery. From the Shang Dynasty (1766 to 1122 B.C.) to the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 A.D.), the chain stitch had been favored but was soon replaced by the satin stitch. This freed embroiderers to use different stitching styles and new patterns. During the Sung Dynasty (960-1280), embroidery merged with the art of painting, and famous masterworks were painstakingly copied in thread.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), threads other than silk were experimented with, including human hair, spun threads of gold, or other materials. Artisans became more regional in style during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and specific provinces enjoyed special acclaim for distinctive technical innovation. These arts have not been lost, but are still practiced today.

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fish screen
Two-sided Embroidery - colorful gold fish embroidered on each side of pale green silk, resulting in no "front" or "back" and no threads visible from the opposite side. Displayed within a carved Chinese frame with scroll-carved braces.
--Artifact on loan courtesy of theGerald Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan



tiger embroidery  detail of tiger embroidery
Embroidery - Hunan hand embroidery by Dr. Zhang Shanzi based on the famous painting, "Two Tigers."
--Artifact on loan courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, California



straw picture of crane
Embroidered scene - a crane and a pine tree (symbols of longevity) crafted of barley straw and grass. Gift to Dwight Eisenhower in 1960.
--Artifact on loan courtesy of theDwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Abilene, Kansas


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