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China National Silk Museum

Tucked away at the foot of Jade Emperor Hill, China National Silk Museum is a majestic shrine dedicated to China’s epic sericultural history spanning 5,000 years and silk, the highly-prized, lustrous, soft and delicate fabric heralded as the “queen of all fabric” and one the most remarkable and sensational discoveries in human history. As the largest silk museum on earth, China National Silk Museum keeps drawing millions of tourists annually since 1992. Jiangzemin, the former Chinese president, bestowed it with a piece of calligraphy scroll highlighting its ambitious mission: “Opening up a New Silk Road; promoting the Chinese Silk Culture.”

China National Silk Museum’s unattractive appearance may fail to evoke a sense of romance and grandeur at first sight, but as you step inside, you will be kept spellbound by a rich array of authentic artifacts, eye-opening displays, exotic models, tools, maps,replicas and reproductions accompanied with detailed descriptions or needy video facilities. As the larger-than-life-size garments emerge from the darkness, one by one, solemnly, mysteriously and gracefully when you touch the glass wall, you will sure feel a chill, ecstasy and thrill seize upon you. Confronted with such stunning art pieces ranging from the earliest stage of Chinese civilization, that is 5,000 years ago, to the extremely fabulous gown reserved for an emperor during Qing dynasty, you may begin to apprehend why silk has stirred up such feverish enthusiasm and endured as China’s most dazzling legacy.
china national silk museum

This museum demonstrates how silk was invented, developed, innovated and spread across the world through Silk Road, both via dry land or sea in the first floor. Marveling at these displays bringing history to life, you can get acquaintance with silk’s mystical origin, extensive footprints within and even beyond China,diversified silk fabrics and textiles, sophisticated stitch methods and most importantly, the finished silk embroidery artworks, which come in form of garments, shoes, belts and antique accessories including pouch(荷包:prevailing in Qing dynasty’s royal families, it was used as a keepsake between lovers), tabacco bag(烟袋now rare seen, it once prevailed in Qing and was shaped like a vase or gourd), card-holder(名片夹:another item from Qing, it is China’s earliest business card, earmuffs(耳套: also known as ear warmers, it is used exclusively by high ranking governors during Ming Dynasty, that is from the 14th to the 17th century) and sachet(香袋: with history dating back to Han Dynasty, it comes in two types: the sealed ones and the ones with opening.

Spacious and well-lit, the second floor breathes an air of modernity. It not only offers fascinating glimpse of Suzhou embroidery(Su Xiu), Sichuan Embroidery(Shu Xiu), Hunan embroidery(Xiang Xiu) and Guangdong Embroidery (Yue Xiu), China’s four main varieties of silk embroidery, but also other regional varieties such as Beijing, Wenzhou, Shandong, Hangzhou and Shanghai embroidery. It also does not forget to exhibit ethnic embroidery artworks belonging to the Yi, Hui, Miao, Dong, Mongol, Yao, Qiang, Manchu and Kazak people. Though the meanings of these introductions are lost to those not fluent with mandarin, one can still appreciate their beauty which needs no interpretation.



Suzhou Embroidery   it is heralded as one of China Top Four Embroidery Genres. With a history of over 2000 years old, it features exquisite craftmanship, paper-thin texture as well as elegant flavor. It falls into 7 variants, involves over 40 needlework and more than 1,000 types of threads. Famous figures, landscape, flower and birds are popular themes. Su embroidery themed with flowers and birds, in particular, stands out as the most dazzling representative. In the second floor, you can also see an ornate screen featuring the famed Su double-sided embroidery which demands ultimate skill and artistry. Blessed with total different designs on both sides and all the knots being consummately concealed, Su double-sided embroidery embodies the pinnacle of this folk art. Even in nowadays, they make for ideal gifts for foreign ambassadors and governors visiting China.
china national silk museum

Hair Emboridery(发绣): hair embroidery is a lesser-known variant in the family of silk embroidery. It surfaced in Tang Dyansty during the 7th century and prevailed in Zhejiang province. Perceiving the natural and shinning lustra as well as smooth and soft texture of hairs, which come in hues of black, white, grey, yellow and brown, Zhejiangnese’s ancestors fumbled to finish the first embroidery by hairs during that prosperous and cosmopolitan era. After special process, hairs will never suffer from the harassment of insects, humid weather and the erosion of time. Hence, it surpasses silk, its counterpart, in this aspect. Silk embroidery is ideal for creating portraits, landscape and architecture embroidery. In the second floor of this museum, you can see Mona Lisa embroidered by hairs, face to face. This hairy Mono Lisa’s smile, is no less bewildering and alluring.

china national silk museum

A Piece of Qing-era Emperor’s Gown: This museum also houses a Qing emperor’s gown. It features assorted auspicious motifs with specific meanings.

Another advantage of your visit is the chance to get acquainted with mulberry, which are planted in the background of this museum.

Rumors had it that James the first, a British King of the 17th century, was a big fun of silk and wanted to make money out of it. He planted some mulberry trees in Buckingham Palace and introduced silkworm into this resplendent royal confinement. Pity he chose the wrong type of mulberry: the black mulberry and the silkworms just refused to eat them. His great plan to create a homespun English silk industry, failed in the end.



Add: 73, YuHuangshan Road


Opening time: 8:00am to 4:30pm

Buses: Number12, Number809 and Y3

Nearby sights: Leifeng Pagoda雷峰塔 Jade Emperor Hill and Eight Diagraphic Fields(玉皇山和八卦田) Nanshan Road 南山路 West Lake西湖 Zhejiang Art Museum (浙江美术馆all of them are within walking distance)
Posted by Sophia on August 4, 2013
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