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Review: Why Ancient Silk Is Still Gold: Issues in Chinese Textile History

Reviewed Work: When Silk Was Gold: Central Asian and Chinese Textiles by James C. Y. Watt, Anne E. Wardwell, Morris Rossabi
Review by: Angela Sheng
Ars Orientalis
Vol. 29 (1999), pp. 147-168
Published by: Freer Gallery of Art, The Smithsonian Institution and Department of the History of Art, University of Michigan
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4629553
Page Count: 22
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Why Ancient Silk Is Still Gold: Issues in Chinese Textile History
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Abstract

This essay reviews the 1997 catalogue When Silk Was Gold: Central Asian and Chinese Textiles, which accompanied the exhibition of sixty-four rare silks at both the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Analyzing the relationship between artistic and technological aspects of these artifacts, the reviewer assesses both the strengths and weaknesses of this sumptuously illustrated catalogue. By realigning these silks in a logical technical sequence, she shows how and why Central Asian and Chinese weavers differed in both stylistic and technological development from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. The article further points out why studies of ancient Chinese textiles have been largely fragmentary both outside and inside China, though for different reasons. Finally, it suggests that adopting an integrated interdisciplinary approach would enable students of Chinese textile history to shed light on the meaning of ancient Chinese textiles both as material evidence of historical change as well as a medium of artistic expression and technological progress.

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