- Museum number
These are two square-shaped fragments of plain woven silk patterned with the clamp-resist dyeing technique. MAS.876 has two confronting geese and a quarter of a roundel; MAS.877 has only half a goose but a larger area of quatrefoil, and one selvedge, 0.3 cm wide. By placing the two pieces together, Stein was able to reconstruct the pattern. It consists of two motifs: a dominant large roundel with encircled rosettes and a narrower inner roundel, enclosing four paired geese; and a four-petalled flower in the centre, and the other secondary quatrefoil. The repeat in the warp direction is about 56.6 cm but it is unclear in the weft direction.
The textile was dyed with two colours: orange for the geese, flowers and quatrefoil, and blue for the ground, the large roundel, the little pearl roundel and the leaves inside the roundel. Some green leaves of the quatrefoil were made by painting a yellow colour on the blue leaves. Another fragment from the same textile (but without geese) is in the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Дх51).
Warp: silk, untwisted, single, 50 ends/cm; Weft: silk, untwisted, 34 lats/cm. Weave structure: 1/1 plain weave.
- Production date
Height: 40.60 centimetres (mounted)
Height: 24.30 centimetres (textile)
Length: 23.80 centimetres (fragment a)
Length: 25.80 centimetres (fragment b)
Width: 23.80 centimetres (fragment a)
Width: 25.80 centimetres (fragment b)
Width: 40.60 centimetres (mounted)
Width: 24.50 centimetres (textile)
Depth: 2.50 centimetres (mounted)
- Curator's comments
- Rawson 1994:
All types of textile art flourished during the Tang dynasty (AD 618-906) in China. An important group of Tang textiles has recently been found in excavations at the Famensi at Fufeng, in Shaanxi province; gifts to this monastery evidently included clothing as well as glass, silver and ceramics. Embroidery also continued to be developed and was used for large images of the Buddha built up in satin and chain stitch (BM MAS.0.1129). Most of the textiles found by Aurel Stein at Dunhuang in Gansu province, including banners, altar hangings and monks' apparel, follow the Buddhist convention of being made up of small cut pieces of different cloth. These 'patchwork' items provide an invaluable cross-section of the different types of silk cloth and embroidery available at the time (BM MAS.857).
Trade along the Silk Route was at its most vigorous during the Tang dynasty, and travellers record the bazaars of the Middle East as being full of Chinese patterned cloth and embroideries. Simultaneously we are told that the Tang capital at Chang'an (present-day Xi'an) was populated by large numbers of Iranian craftsmen. A silk weave now known as "weft-faced compound twill" appears among Chinese textiles for a few centuries from about AD 700. This may well have been a technique introduced by foreign weavers, as it seems to have been developed originally in Iran. In the West it was particularly associated with repeating designs of roundels enclosing paired or single animals, with flower heads or rosettes between the roundels (BM MAS.877). The outer border of this design is a sinicised version of the pearl roundel motif found on Sasanian metalwork and stucco while the naturalistic pairs of birds occur on Tang silver ang gold.
This piece of silk would have been folded diagonally and used as the top of long Buddhist banners.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The 1917-11-28 group (with MAS numbering) refers to objects from Stein's Second Central Asian Expedition, 1906-08. As the expedition was financed 3/ 5 by the Government of India and 2/5 by the British Museum, it was agreed that the finds from the expedition should be allocated in these proportions. All the finds were shipped to London for sorting, research and publication, and subsequent distribution. The distribution of the finds between London and India was determined by specialists, appointed by the Government of India (through the India Office, London) and the British Museum, who drew up lists of the objects for approval by both sides. The specialists included: Raphael Petrucci, under supervision of Dr E Denison Ross (nominated by India Office) and Laurence Binyon (British Museum) on paintings; Dr F W Thomas, Dr E Denison Ross (both nominated by India Office) and Dr L D Barnett (British Museum) on manuscripts and written documents; Dr E Denison Ross (nominated by India Office) and Laurence Binyon (British Museum) on archaeological/other finds. Although the lists were drawn up and approved in 1915, the Government of India asked the British Museum to look after the entire collection during the First World War, and those allocated to India were eventually shipped in 1919.
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Ch.00304.a (Stein no.)