China National Silk Museum shows styles through the ages

Wu Huixin
In 2024, the museum will organize exhibitions and events to showcase the treasures restored by museum specialists, its huge collections, and antiquities on loan from other museums.
Wu Huixin

As the country’s largest silk research organization, the China National Silk Museum has been conserving and restoring historic textile materials and researching silk for years.

In 2024, the museum will continue to organize exhibitions and events to showcase the treasures restored by museum specialists, its huge collections and antiquities on loan from other museums.

Some of the upcoming events that may interest Shanghai Daily readers are highlighted below:

“Ming Dynasty Yangjiaqiao Grave Restored Clothes”

In 2002, an ancient grave was discovered in Tongxiang County in northernmost Zhejiang Province. Though the owner’s body was utterly decayed, his burial clothes were intact after centuries.

After years of research, historians believed the grave belonged to Yang Qing, a royal court official from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Local authorities commissioned the China National Silk Museum to restore the burial garments.

This year, these costumes will be on display at the museum from March to June. The exhibits give visitors an insight into how an official lived centuries ago.

Grave clothes not only reflect burial rites, but also show the aesthetics of changing times. Visitors can see royal garments first-hand and learn about the ancient styles.

When ancient wealthy people died, their bodies were dressed in layers of costumes according to local funeral rituals to embody their social status and hopes for a luxurious afterlife. The mausoleum is a reflection of that tradition.

The costumes cover traditional jackets, coats, robes, trousers, pants and hats, and are mainly made of silk, brocade, gauze and satin. They compose a full set of Ming Dynasty imperial official’s grave clothes. Though the textiles lack their original glittering texture and colors after being buried underground for centuries, the craftsmanship still denotes the prominence of the imperial official.

China National Silk Museum shows styles through the ages
Ti Gong

Embroidery on a costume recovered from the Yangjiaqiao Grave.

“Ritual Costumes Collected in Confucius Temple”

Li (礼) is a classical Chinese word which finds its most extensive use in Confucian and post-Confucian Chinese philosophy. Li is translated as “rite,” but when referring to its realization in the context of human individual and social behavior, it has also been translated as “mores.”

Li embodies the entire web of interaction between humanity, human objects and nature. Confucius includes in his discussions of li such things as learning, tea drinking, governance, music and costumes.

The wearing of ceremonial caps, embroidered robes, patterned silks and mourning clothes are vital parts of li. The museum will showcase the ritual costumes collected by the Confucius Museum in Shandong Province from March 6 to June 10.

Visitors can form a well-rounded picture of how li was interpreted millennia ago through the exhibits on view.

China National Silk Museum shows styles through the ages
Ti Gong

A ritual costume that would be worn in a Confucian temple.

“20th Century Pop Art Dresses”

Pop Art came out of the post-war consumer boom — a time of mass media and mass production. It was defined by images of material goods and popular culture, rejecting the serious nature of the art world.

Pop Art also reflected the rise in wealth and the importance of owning things that America experienced in the 1950s, when Pop Art reached a pinnacle with prominent pop artists, such as Andy Warhol, Billy Apple, Mary Inman and Robert Watts.

Riding the wave of the era’s Pop Art movement, artists designed dresses that involved techniques for image making that were somewhat related to printmaking techniques. The exhibition starts from November and lasts through February, 2025.

China National Silk Museum shows styles through the ages
Ti Gong

A Pop Art dress features stripes and polka dots in black and white.

“18th Century Fashion in France”

During the 18th century, France heralded a new chapter of Baroque art which dominated architecture, music, painting and fashion in Europe.

Baroque-style clothing is characterized by curving silhouettes, flowing lines, golden filigree and bright colors. Extravagant decorations including patterned laces, pearls, golden embroidery and ribbons adorned the dresses. This luxurious style permeated Europe’s upper society.

The exhibition opens on June 14, featuring vintage garments from 18th century Western countries. Dresses from this era were supported by bustles, a frame made of metal or whalebone placed below the waist to expand the skirt. The exhibits include daily dresses and ball gowns worn by women in the late 18th century.

The second section introduces inspirations from nature. The wonders of nature have inspired endless ideas and fashion expressions. Designers and fabric makers have always observed unique plants and animals to create vivid designs on textiles through embroidery, printing and other techniques.

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