Intertwined with the history of Buddhism in China, which dates back to the first century BC and has shaped the country’s culture, politics and art, jiasha, the robes worn by Buddhist monks, are an integral part of China’s material culture. Despite their significance, jiasha have been largely overlooked by historians, partly because so few examples exist today.
Jiasha are patchwork-like robes made by stitching smaller pieces of cloth together before applying decoration. The draped garment design is emblematic of monastic robes worn in India, the birthplace of Buddhism, and elsewhere in Asia. Rectangular in shape with an angled top edge, jiasha are traditionally worn draped over the left shoulder, with the addition of a single hook to fasten the robe around the torso.
Custom dictated that a jiasha was presented to monks in China on the occasion of their ordination. As such, the textile was made to be a material manifestation of Buddhist teachings and ideology. This begins with the construction of the garment. Jiasha are made by piecing together sections of cloth donated from members of the community in a patchwork-style design. Unlike patchwork, the arrangement of panels is very specific, influenced by the Buddhist mandala motif, with a core centre and flowing symmetry. The modest cut of the jiasha and pieced-together appearance references the rags worn by the Buddha during his ascetic period.
To read the full article by Emily Lush and Alan Kennedy visit the website of The Textile Atlas
Event date: 5 September 2018 at 18:30
This lecture by Sumru Belger Krody, senior curator at the Textile Museum, Washington DC shows how nomadic Anatolian women, descended from Turkmen nomads, wove colourful, visually stunning kilims that reveal their culture’s aesthetic preferences for decorating their surroundings. Today, these kilims are the only surviving tangible evidence of their makers’ nomadic lifestyle – a poignant legacy given that women generally did not have an external voice in this patriarchal society. The exhibition A Nomad’s Art: Kilims of Anatolia will be open before the talk.
This lecture is free, but reservations are required. For more details of this event held at the Textile Museum, Washington DC, click here
In this article Dr Sud Chonchirdsin discusses class division and its associated costumes, illustrating this with several examples from the British Library. Please note enlarged versions of each image can be viewed by clicking on the relevant image.
In traditional Vietnamese society people were divided into four classes, similar to those found in Chinese and other East Asian Confucian societies. The tứ dân, or four social hierarchical classes, were scholars (sĩ), farmers (nông), craftsmen (công) and merchants (thương).
Vietnamese mandarins, both civil and military, were divided into nine grades and each grade was further subdivided into senior and junior levels. High ranking mandarins were distinguished by their official robes in purple or red, colours reserved for their class, while lower ranking officials wore blue robes. Commoners could only wear black, brown or white dyed costumes, as Harry A. Franck, an American travel writer, observed in Tonkin in 1923: “the Tonkinese were dressed in a cinnamon or tobacco-juice colour that suddenly became as universal as black had been further south … the country women, then their men, and finally all the hand-labouring class, took to wearing long cotton cloaks of this reddish brown hue” (Franck 1926: 191).
To read the full article visit the website of the British Library
Books on textiles or carpets are often organised by geographical region and therefore styles, types of dyes or knots. Fahmida Suleman, curator for the Modern Middle East at the British Museum, has upended that tradition to show the links between the objects and their purpose.
“I’m looking at the social history, how these textiles relate to a person and their everyday life,” she said in an interview. “It’s not just what you wear but what surrounds you. It includes amulets you carry with you, prayer rugs and contemporary works of art that people use to convey a message about the politics of their time.”
Suleman’s new book, “The Fabric of Life: Textiles of the Middle East and Central Asia,” is therefore organised by themes: childhood; marriage and ceremony; status and identity; religion and belief; house and homestead; politics and conflict.
The book, published by Thames & Hudson in collaboration with the British Museum, has lavish photographs of more than 200 pieces. These are among 3,000 held by the museum.
To read the full review visit the website of The Arab Weekly
The book is available from The British Museum website here
Exhibition dates 7 February – 13 May 2018
Artistry in Silk celebrates the work of Itchiku Kubota (1917–2003), an innovative artist whose spectacular creations gave new meaning to the art of kimono. He brought new life to a 16th -century decorative technique known as tsujigahana, a combination of resist-dyeing techniques and ink-drawing that was once thought lost forever. In his subsequent production of sumptuously beautiful kimono that featured ‘Itchiku tsujigahana,’ the artist’s adaptation of this art form expanded contemporary ideas of surface design and assured Kubota a legacy as an out-of-the-ordinary artist and artisan whose work stimulated the mind and delighted the eye.
The exhibition presents 41 kimono designed and produced by the artist over three decades, from 1976 to his death in 2003.
There are some stunning high-resolution images on the museum website which load very slowly – your patience will be rewarded!
For more information visit the website of the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto.
© Peggy Reeves Sanday
Event date: Wednesday 13 December, 7pm
This is an Oriental Rug and Textile Society event.
Bernhard and Erika Bart from Switzerland have a personal project to revitalise the art of silk brocade ‘Songket’ weaving. They will talk about their work, research and the culture in which they live. Photos of the Barts have been on the front page of the Jakarta Post with the headline ‘Bernhard Bart and Erika Dubler: Unconditional Love for Songket’. They are bringing textiles to show us.
The talk will be held at St James Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL.
The Conference Room entrance is in the Church Place passageway, which runs between Jermyn Street and Piccadilly. There is a wrought iron gate signed ‘Church Hall Conference Room’ leading downstairs. Drinks and snacks will be served.
Piccadilly Circus tube is 5 minutes’ walk, and Green Park Tube is 10 minutes’ walk. There is free parking in St James Square after 6.30pm.
Please note this is an Oriental Rug and Textile Society event, but non-members are welcome to attend: £7 single lecture, £5 students, or choose £20 for one year’s membership (11 events).
For more information, visit the website of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society.
Researchers in Sweden have found Arabic characters woven into burial garments from Viking boat graves. The discovery raises new questions about the influence of Islam in Scandinavia.
The clothing was kept in storage for more than 100 years, dismissed as typical examples of Viking Age funeral clothes. But a new investigation into the garments – found in ninth and tenth-century graves – has thrown up groundbreaking insights into contact between the Viking and Muslim worlds. Patterns woven with silk and silver thread have been found to spell the words ‘Allah’ and ‘Ali’.
The breakthrough was made by textile archaeologist Annika Larsson of Uppsala University while re-examining the remnants of burial dress from male and female boat and chamber graves originally excavated in Birka and Gamla Uppsala in Sweden in the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries.
To read about this discovery in full, visit the BBC website.
Exhibition dates: 4 November 2017 – 22 April 2018
This exhibition at the Museum of East Asian Art (MEAA) in Bath, held in partnership with the British Museum, explores the intricate accessories worn by Japanese men during the Edo period (1615–1868). Netsuke are a form of miniature Japanese sculpture that were primarily functional, but that evolved into an important art form.
The exhibition features a selection of netsuke, chosen from over 2,300 in the British Museum’s collection, with more pieces added from MEAA’s collection to show the range and beauty of these objects and their excellent craftsmanship. Netsuke come in a variety of forms and materials such as wood, ivory and porcelain. The beauty of these objects is in their individuality, and is reflected in the variety of the netsuke on show: a goldfish, a Chinese boy holding a lion mask and a drum and fox’s mask (pictured above). Also on display will be a number of inro (cases for holding small objects), a sword and smoking accessories.
The exhibition places the netsuke and other objects in context with a sword and bespoke male kimono to demonstrate how they were worn as a complete outfit in the eighteenth century.
For more information, visit the website of the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, UK.
Event date: Thursday 23 November, 4–6pm
With few young Japanese people choosing to wear the kimono, and fewer still choosing to buy one of these expensive traditional garments, the shops and craftspeople who sell and make kimonos are facing troubled times. Third-generation kimono shop owner Yoshihide Shibakawa is coming to St Cross College, Oxford, next week to deliver a special talk on his vision of the future of the kimono and what it means to be a retailer in the traditional industries in twenty-first century Japan. There will also be a chance to try on real Japanese kimonos in the second half of the event.
For more information, please contact St Cross DPhil student Julie Valk.
Event date: Monday 13 November 2017, 6–7:45pm
Talk by Dorothy Armstrong, PhD candidate Royal College of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum, UK.
We welcome back Dorothy, who last shared about her research on synthetic dyes in Persian carpets in an Asian Textiles article (number 56) and at an OATG talk in 2013. This time we will hear about her current research and how the West reinvented the Ardabil carpet as the world’s greatest carpet.
Dorothy is a visiting lecturer on the Victoria and Albert Museum/Royal College of Art’s History of Design MA, where she teaches Material Histories of Asia. She is also writing a PhD entitled ‘The Relationship between the West and “Oriental” carpets since 1840: Re-making, Re-purposing and Re-imagining’. Before she joined the Victoria and Albert Museum/Royal College of Art, she studied Islamic art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London.
Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS.
OATG events are free for members and £3 for non-members.
Should you require disabled access, please do get in touch beforehand to make sure the necessary provisions are made.
For more information, and to book a place at this event, visit the Eventbrite page.