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