Iconic Images and Jade Textile Tools for Neolithic and Bronze Age China’s Silk Industry
Author: O’BRIEN, MARY BELLE L.
Source: Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Volume 7, Number 2, July 2009 , pp. 178-203(26)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Journals (formerly Berg Journals)
Abstract:China’s Neolithic cultures were the originators of silk thread production. I propose that this development is represented by a ubiquitous iconic image, the silkworm‐silk moth life cycle motif, commonly called a taotie or “monster mask.” Silkworms are also portrayed in small Neolithic jade carvings. Subsequent Shang bronzes show that the “life cycle motif” had evolved. Increasingly abstract, decorative patterns, derived from intricate silk textiles, were often combined in this period with new images depicting silkworm egg and larvae motifs. These images are indicative of advances in sericulture and silk textile production. By the end of the Shang, China’s textile industry had a new iconic image: the Chinese Dragon, a chimera that I propose is a composite of the silkworm, silk moth, coiled Hongshan forms, and Shang tiger images. The silk textile industry was of such great importance, I contend that tools from its operations have survived in many jade artifacts. Because their original purpose has not been recognized, they are usually described as pieces of adornment or “ceremonial” objects. Many of the jades seem likely to have been tools that assisted in the chores of spinning, reeling, and twining thread for silk fabrics.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2009-07-01
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