Article: Culture of Jiasha, Chinese Buddhist Robes

 

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

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Article: Classes and costumes in traditional Vietnamese society

 

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: Textiles of the Middle East and Central Asia – The Fabric of Life

 

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: Artistry in Silk – The Kimono of Itchiku Kubota

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.

 

Event: Bernhard and Erika Bart Talk about Sumatran Songket Weaving for ORTS

© 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.

News: Why Did Vikings Have ‘Allah’ Woven into Funeral Clothes?

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: Dressed to Impress – Netsuke and Japanese Men’s Fashion

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 (16151868). 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: Fit for the Future? The Kimono in Contemporary Japan

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: Gender Twists in the Weaving, Embroidery and Structure of Shidong Miao Festival Costume – Talk by Iain Stephens

Event date: Saturday 14 October 2017, 2:15–4pm

Talk by Iain Stephens followed by a show and tell session – you are welcome to bring your own Shidong Miao pieces!

This talk will explore the seemingly endless creativity of the Shidong Miao employed on festival jackets. It will share insights into the sexuality of weaving and embroidery as well as essential pattern hierarchies.

Iain Stephens is a currently a master upholsterer, and previously a lecturer of biochemistry and English and tutor of Biblical Hebrew. Iain is an avid collector of Xhosa beadwork, Chinese ethnic minority costume and Taiwanese budaixi puppets. He presently lives on a narrowboat in Oxford.

Before the talk, a viewing at the Eastern Art Study room will display Miao textiles from the Ashmolean collection.

Location: Ashmolean Museum, Jameel Center Study Room 1 (for the viewing) and the Education Centre (for the presentation)

Time: 2.15–3pm (viewing) and 3.10pm (presentation)

OATG events are free for members and £3 for non-members.

For more information, and to book a place at this event, visit the Eventbrite page.

Exhibition: Fibres of Life – Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago

Exhibition dates: 15 September – 25 November 2017

The University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG), University of Hong Kong, is pleased to announce Fibres of Life: IKAT Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago. With the exhibition and the publication of Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago, UMAG offers a comprehensive overview of the profusion of ikat styles found across the Indonesian archipelago, accompanied by the first detailed reference book on the subject.

Looking at OATG member Peter Ten Hoopen’s Pusaka Collection from a scholarly point of view, it is worth acknowledging how it illustrates the concept of ‘unity in diversity’, which the young state of Indonesia chose as its motto upon independence. Here, the interwovenness of styles from neighbouring island regions matter, as do their marked individuality and idiosyncrasies. Moreover, it allows for the study not just of the people’s finery, but also of their daily attire, which is lamentably absent in most collections.

An ironic illustration of the effect of this collecting method comes from Ili Mandiri on Flores. As its dark red bridewealth sarongs have been prized and venerated by the local population, this is what most sophisticated collections have aimed to obtain. The simple but lovely indigo sarongs for everyday use have been almost entirely ignored by collectors; hence, they nearly always end up worn to shreds and very few survive – rarer now than the precious and respected, hence eagerly collected, bridewealth sarongs.

What knowledge is conserved about ikat textiles and their use in the Indonesian archipelago consists primarily of the records of missionary and scientific fieldwork, predominantly compiled by non-Indonesians. The coverage is thin – many weaving regions are covered by only one or two sources, and several regions have never been studied in any detail. Much traditional knowledge is being lost, especially in the more remote island regions in the Indonesian archipelago, which require concerted effort if any trace of their culture is to survive. UMAG hopes to contribute to the broader project by means of this exhibition and publication, which show ikat culture through a close reading of examples from over fifty weaving regions and a brief introduction to the conditions, beliefs and customs of the various peoples who have created and used them. The Pusaka Collection reveals the stylistic spectrum of the archipelago’s ikat, while also showing remarkable correspondences rooted in time or sculpted by inter-island cultural exchanges. It is rich in superb and rare ikat textiles, many with few known cognates and some of them probably unique.

For more information, visit the website of the University Museum and Art Gallery, University of Hong Kong.