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August 28, 2010

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Looming tapestry of China's textiles

CHINA showed the world how to raise silkworms and produce the world's most beautiful fabrics. An exhibition of textiles and costumes weaves the tale of textiles from ancient to modern times. Fei Lai spins the yarn.

Ancient Chinese textiles, costumes, silk embroidery and fashions are on exhibition at the Shanghai Textile and Costume Museum in Changning District all year round.

History, culture, technology and fashion are all part of the exhibition.

"It is an opportunity to gain new insights through appreciating old materials," said Li Suqin, a scholar at the museum. "An experience with traditional textiles and costumes is an education in culture."

The museum is located on the campus of Donghua University, which is known for its fashion design.

Textile weaving machinery, including ancient hand looms, are exhibited.

Studying textiles and costumes -- how they were made and worn -- is part of understanding traditional culture and is especially important as inspiration for young designers, he said.

"The museum creates a good environment to promote scientific knowledge, the humanities and fashion sense," Li said. It's also a place for exchange of ideas about domestic and international textile technologies.

The museum opened last January and has been designated a "science popularization tourism and education demonstration base."

The 6,700-square-meter museum contains four pavilions covering ancient times, the modern period, minority groups and advanced textile technology.

Displays include replicas dating back to the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). Textiles include embroidery, satin brocade, velvet, silk, linen from different periods.

Displays are explained in English as well as Chinese.

The Science Popularization Pavilion on the ground floor displays common textiles and yarns as well as various technologies, such as spinning, weaving, dyeing, finishing, printing, and embroidering.

The textile industry was essential to China's industrial take-off and development and remains essential today.

"Fiber, yarn, fabric, dyeing and finishing have formed a contemporary textile and clothing production chain," Li said. Textile and clothing products have been used in fields such as medicine, architecture and aerospace, supporting national economic development and defense, he said.

This section includes high-tech demonstration methods and interactive programs, presenting the entire production chain.

After seeing high technology and modern clothing, visitors can see ancient textiles and clothing on the second floor where there are samples, costumes and photographs. Robes, jackets, caps, aprons, bags, ribbons, decorations and tapestries are displayed.

Ancient China's textile technology led the world for more than 2,000 years. During this time many inventions and achievements contributed to China's social-economic development and the world's textile technology.

These include mulberry growing, silkworm breeding, spinning and thread making as well as using plant and mineral pigments and other advances.

The third floor features two pavilions showcasing samples and pictures of clothing from the modern period for men, women and children and costumes of ethnic minority groups.

Tie-dyed and wax-painted fabric produced by minorities are exhibited and the exhibition shows how Han and minority peoples influenced each other in textiles and costumes. Minority costumes are known for their vivid and diverse colors and creative patterns. To study minority costumes and fabrics is to study cultural anthropology.

Researcher Li said collections come mostly from folk collections and auctions, as well as donation from university teachers and students.

An online museum is available, providing basic facts and news about the museum. Visitors can check online and learn more about particular topics before going to the museum. The site is only in Chinese.

Textiles exhibition

Dates: Tuesday-Saturday, 8:30-11am, 2-4:30pm

Address: 1882 Yan'an Rd W.

Admission: Free



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