Chinese Fashion Designs Part III

June 10, 2010

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The "Goddess of Silk" is a legend but the real story is that in 1921, in Henan Province, the Swedish archaeologist Johan Gunnar Andersson discovered Yangshao, the first excavated representative village of this culture which is dated from around 5000 BC to 3000 BC. It was a Neolithic culture that existed extensively along the central Yellow River in China, and that mainly flourished in the provinces of Henan, Shaanxi and Shanxi. The remains found proved that they practiced silkworm cultivation, made basketry and fiber cloth from hemp and silk.

Referring to this subject there were more recent archeological finds from sites along the lower Yangzi River, thought to be between 6000 and 7000 years old, revealing the origins of sericulture to be even earlier (a small ivory cup carved with a silkworm design, spinning tools, silk thread and fabric fragments).

Originally when silk was first discovered, its use in clothing, fashion designs was permitted only to the emperor, his close relations and the very highest of his dignitaries. The emperor is believed to have worn a robe of white silk within the palace; outside, he, his principal wife, and the heir to the throne wore yellow, because it symbolized the color of the earth.

Most ancient Chinese were polytheists. Aside from native Taoism and Buddhism, introduced from India, the common people worshiped and created many other gods, immortals and ghosts. Four spiritual creatures are at the heart of Chinese mythology, four celestial emblems, each guarding a direction on the compass. In China, the "four" date back to at least the 2nd century BC. Each creature has a corresponding season, color, element, virtue, and other traits. Perhaps that's why ancient Chinese clothing, and of course, ancient fashion designers used to associate colors with the four seasons: green represented of springs, red was the color for summers, white for autumns, and black for winters, having since long ago had a brilliant ability to match colours, forms, and shades, to create fabrics and garments.

As time went by silk came into more general use and the various classes of society began wearing tunics of silk in ther fashion designs, and finally even the common people were able to wear garments of silk. From 16th to 11th century several remains of ancient woven silk and hemp articles further demonstrate the refinement and sophistication of clothing fashion designers created in the Shang Dynasty. They favored darker colors over lighter ones to dress wealthy people and to ceremonial clothing. The lighter colors were indicated to common people or to use at home, in everyday clothes.

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