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6.6.5 Textile with Floral Medallion

Silk textile

Chinese silk weaver
late 8th–early 9th century

Textile with Floral Medallion, China,late 8th-early 9th century, Accession Number:1996.103.1, Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1996, The Metropolitan Museum of Art,

This is a piece of silk cloth woven in China between 750 and 850 CE. During the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), China was the only place in the world where silk was made. Wherever silk was sold, people wanted to buy it, because silk is beautiful, soft, and flowing. Also, compared to wool, cotton, and linen, silk clothes keep people warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Only rich people could afford to wear silk, because it was very expensive. Wealthy people in Persia, Arabia, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and India paid lots of money for Chinese silk. The artistic name for the design on this cloth is a “floral medallion.” How would you describe it in your own words? What colors did the weaver use?

The production date for this silk cloth, and the others in this set, is well after 500 CE. The farther back in time one goes, the less likely a product like cloth is to survive to the present day. These cloths belong to the Tang dynasty period, which students will study in grade 7, but they probably are similar to cloth produced in earlier times. The kinds of prices that people in the Mediterranean world would pay for Chinese silk made it a highly desirable trade good. Students’ answers will vary, but they might suggest flowers and circles for “floral medallion.” The weaver used multiple shades of blue and brown.