ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  book reviews, articles

  Der goldene Faden, inventory of the textiles from China, Korea and Japan in the Museum of Eastern asiatic Culture, Cologne, by Walter Brix, Cologne 2003, text in German, 310 pages, illustrated predominantly in colour, ISBN 3-87909-811-5
  This inventory came about from August 2000 to December 2001. The aim of the commission was to work out an inventory catalogue for the textile collection. The 396 textiles from Eastern Asia came together accidentally and also as foundations. Most numerous is the section of chinese textiles.
Preceding the inventory there is a chapter on textile techniques and materials in China of the Qing period. In this section there is a description of the different kinds of fabrics and their ornamentations. The very fine silk tapestry-weave of the Song period (966-1279) is explained as well as velvets.
Embroidered fabrics show many variations of satin stitch. Flattened wires of gold and silk are mostly used in appliqué technique. Finally transparent gauze fabrics and dyed fabrics are mentioned.

The inventory catalogue itself is divided into 5 sections, each of which is introduced by an explanationary text. Most of the inventary entries are illustrated with a colour photo, sometimes with an additional macro photo of a part of the fabric.


The first section (Nrs 1-57) deals with the official court robes and also with semi official ones for everyday use. Fragments as well as accessories, rank badges, headdresses, purses are also to be found here.


Semi-formal court coat with representation of dragons,
1862-1874 (Qing-time, Tongzhi-periode),
Nr. 21, Inv.Nr. L 2001,2

Rank badge or Mandarin square, buzi,
around 1860 (Qing-time, Xianfeng-period 1851-1861)
Nr. 29, Inv.Nr. L 93,25 a + b
the golden pheasant designated second civilian rank


The second section (Nrs 58 - 147) enumerates the workaday dresses of the ladies and also two piece combinations of upper part and pleated skirt to wrap around.
Since the middle of 19th c. sleeve bands and fragments of skirts were a popular field for collectors.


Chinese woman's informal coat,
around 1870 (Qing-time, Tongzhi-periode1862-1874)
Nr. 75, Inv.Nr. L 61,21

Pleated skirt, around 1850, Qing-period,
Nr. 116, Inv.Nr. L 36,39


Fragments of two sleevebands,
Qing-time, End of 19th until beginning of 20th c.,
Nr. 103, Inv.Nr. L 36,12


In the third section (Nrs. 148 - 284) chinese interior textiles are listed and also fragments which could not be placed in other sections. There are also textiles of the art dealer and collector Edith Leppich.
The 4th section (Nrs 285 - 293) with its Korean textiles can be considered as a link between China and Japan.


The 5th section (Nrs 294 - 396) comprises kesa, buddhist altar cloths and temple banners.


Kesa, the Buddhist priests' robe
, is made from square patches of fabric which symbolise found rags;
these are pieced together into a large rectangle of five, seven, nine or more panels and worn under the left arm and fastened on the right shoulder.

This patchwork style symbolised the Buddhist vows of poverty, even when the 'patches' were made from fine silk brocades, as when a deceased woman's garments were donated to her local temple for remaking into kesa.


Fragment of a Kesa, end of 18th c., (Edo-period, 1603-1867),
Nr. 302, Inv.Nr. L 36,34


Square altarcloth, woven fabbric,
around 1800 (Edo-period, 1603-1867)
Nr. 312, Inv.Nr. L 36,7


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