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Rugao silk carpet weaving techniques

en.nantong.gov.cn Updated: 2023-07-05


A handicraftswoman prepares to weave a silk carpet. [Photo provided to en.nantong.gov.cn]

Silk carpet weaving appeared in China as early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), but as time went by, the art faded.

After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, handicraftsmen in Rugao decided to revitalize the art.

Li Yukun, a silk carpet artist in Rugao, said that no physical references remained except for some photos, and it was quite difficult to recover a silk carpet.

By studying handiworks similar to silk carpets and learning spinning, embroidery and other traditional Chinese arts and crafts, Rugao artisans managed to recover the silk carpet weaving techniques in 1973.

Once Rugao silk carpets became available, they were popular among Chinese art lovers. In 1982, Li and other silk carpet makers in Rugao cooperated with the Academy of Fine Arts of Tsinghua University to make silk tapestries modeled on renowned paintings.

In 2022, the techniques were shortlisted for the sixth group of national intangible cultural heritage items in China.


Tapestry Peaceful Spring is presented as a national gift to the UN. [Photo provided to en.nantong.gov.cn]

The designs on Rugao silk carpets are not dyed, but weaved with different colors of silk thread, according to Li. A Rugao silk carpet usually features more than 100 colors, and some have nearly 1,000 colors.

The decorative tapestries developed by the artisan have gained a reputation around the world and many of them are collected by foreign museums as well as Harvard University.

For the 75-year-old handicraftsman, his biggest concern is the preservation of Rugao silk carpet making. He noted that in the 1980s, there were more than 10,000 silk carpet makers, but now there are fewer than 10, with the youngest being nearly 50 years old.

To familiarize more people with the art and attract young apprentices, Li opened the Rugao Silk Carpet Art Museum in 2020, which exhibits 210 sets of silk carpets and is free to the public.