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Yunjin's scintillating silks

New exhibition in Shanghai spins the magic of the historical royal brocade tradition, Xu Haoyu reports.

By Xu Haoyu | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-27 10:08
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A piece of brocade inspired by the emperor's court dress from the Kangxi era of the Qing Dynasty, featuring two golden dragons chasing a pearl in the sky. The bottom part shows the rising rivers, cliffs and sea, surrounded by clouds.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Brocade is often described in ancient Chinese texts as a kind of silk fabric that contains gold. Among the best-known Chinese brocades, Yunjin brocade from Nanjing, Jiangsu province, takes its name from its gorgeous, rosy cloudlike color.

This brocade is a high-end textile, distinguished by the incorporation of gold and silver thread and peacock feather filaments. Its intricate craftsmanship is such that a pair of skilled weavers collaborating over the span of a day are only able to produce 5 to 6 centimeters of the luxurious fabric, according to the Nanjing Yunjin Museum, which has successfully launched an exhibition in Shanghai's Jing'an district to showcase the long history and supreme craftsmanship of Yunjin brocade.

In 417, Nanjing set up a government institution specifically to manage brocade production, marking the birth of Yunjin brocade. During the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644), and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, the technique reached its zenith. And due to its exquisite craftsmanship and artistic expression of gold weaving and color combining, Yunjin became both an imperial skill and fabric.

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