Chinese Silk: A Cultural History

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Rutgers University Press, 2004 - Design - 224 pages
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Silk is one of China's major contributions to world civilization, the secrets of its cultivation closely guarded for generations. The famous network of trade routes between West and East is still known as the Silk Road. The organization and techniques of Chinese silk production, the uses of the silk produced--both bolts and made-up pieces--and the types and styles of its ornament are celebrated in this richly illustrated and accessible book, the first general survey to be published in English.

Shelagh Vainker traces the cultural history of silk in China from its Neolithic origins to the twentieth century and considers its relationship to the other decorative arts. She traces the role of silk in Chinese history, trade, religion, and literature. Drawing on the most recent archaeological evidence from other, less perishable media such as jades and bronzes as well as paintings, poems, and other texts, Chinese Silk brings together material available until now only in Chinese, supplemented with recent acquisitions by public and private collections in the United States and Europe. The result is a book that illuminates the luxury of silk throughout the ages.


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From filaments to finery the development of silk production in early China
Early empire and foreign trade the expansion of silk consumption
Internationalism and monasticism silks of the Sui and Tang
Literati tapestries and gold brocades silk in Song China and the border dynasties
Industrialization and art collecting the weaves and embroideries of the Ming dynasty
Everyday opulence in China and the West silk in the Qing dynasty and the republics

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About the author (2004)

Shelagh Vainker is Curator of Chinese Art at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, and University Lecturer in Chinese Art.

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