Silk Weaving in Ancient China: From Geometric Figures to Patterns of Pictorial Likeness
Dieter Kuhn (Universität Würzburg)
Chinese Science, Vol. 12 (1995)
From the very beginning of textile production, woven patterns were deter- Fmined by technical factors that included the nature of the raw material, the requirements of its processing, the structure of the loom and the weaving techniques employed. In China silk dominated textile technology; its unique properties dictated the development of looms and their technology, upon which in turn weaving methods and patterns depended. In this article I shall examine the various types of looms used in Eastern Han times, relating them to the development of weaving patterns from stiff geometrical motifs to dynamic pictorial likenesses.
I shall look in particular at the origin of Han patterns like the floating clouds and beasts on “brocade” (yunqi dongwu jinwen) and the so-called “brocade” with inscriptions (hanzi jin) or “brocade” of eternal good luck (wannian ruyi jin), in which motifs that had pre-viously been confined to embroidery were translated to the loom. Most Western scholars are convinced that the drawloom was introduced to China in medieval times. My analysis of Han textiles and texts supports the view of Chinese textile historians that an early form of drawloom was one of the types of looms used to produce figured fabrics during the later Han dynasty.