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 Museum Explorer

Tools and technology in Asia

Silk embroidery

Height: 23.400 cm
Width: 91.700 cm

Asia OA MAS 857

Silk embroidery

From: Cave 17, Dunhuang, China
Date: 9th-10th century AD

Silk is produced by the silkworm caterpillar. It makes a long silk thread and winds it around itself to form a shell called a cocoon. The Chinese found a way of unravelling the silkworm's thread and weaving it into material. Chinese silk was taken by merchants to markets in other parts of the world along a route that became known as the 'Silk Road'.

Silk is very delicate and it is amazing that this panel has survived for 1000 years The embroidered pattern of leaves and flowers once also included little ducks, which are now mostly worn away. Look carefully at the bigger picture, and see if you can find the 'shadow' of a duck.