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0153 Innermost Asia : vol.2
Innermost Asia : vol.2 / Page 153 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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to throw fresh light on the development of China's silk manufacture. It illustrates in particular a curious feature which has long been recognized—the influence exercised during medieval times by the imitation of Western designs on this the most famous, perhaps, of China's industrial arts. The comparison will be made easier if our rapid survey of the Astâna fabrics conforms to the lines followed in the analysis of the Chien-fo-tung textiles, with which they offer many points of close contact.'

This contact is significantly brought out from the first by the almost total absence among the decorated textiles of Astâna of any material other than silk. Even the single piece of painted canvas i. 8. 04, amongst all the decorated fabrics recovered, is treated in a fashion which clearly suggests imitation of a polychrome figured silk. That there was an abundant supply of silks in the Turfân tract during the seventh century is attested not merely by the practically exclusive use of this material in all ornamented textiles, but also by the very frequent occurrence of plain silks, both undyed and coloured, among the shrouds and miscellaneous remains of old garments in which the bodies were found wrapped.2 This abundance of silk deserves the more notice firstly because silk is not an indigenous product in the Turfân region nor in any of the oases nearest to it, and secondly in view of the opinion which, as indicated above, clearly prevailed that only valueless materials should be used in burial.3 I have not been able to observe any difference, as between datable tombs, in the degree of profusion with which silk fabrics, whether plain or decorated, were used, and am hence led to conclude that silk materials must always have been readily available at Kao-ch`ang, at least for well-to-do people such as were probably laid to rest in the tombs examined.

I need not examine here how this observation is to be reconciled with the fact that according to Hsüan-tsang's account of his desert crossing from Kua-chou to Hâmi in A. D. 63o, this, the least difficult of the routes from the north-western borders of the Chinese Empire as they then stood to Turfân, was then unfrequented by traffic, if not altogether closed.4 It is possible that a good deal of the plain silk materials found in the Astâna tombs was imported from Khotan and from that Sogdian region, comprising the present Ferghana, Samarkand and Bukhara, which, as we shall see farther on, is the most probable source of a great portion of the polychrome figured silks found in the face-covers and in the remnants of old garments. But Mr. F. H. Andrews, to whose collaboration I am indebted for all data connected with the Astâna fabrics, has so far been unable to make any close examination of the plain silks from that locality or to compare them with those from Chien-fo-tung and Lou-lan. Nor is it by any means certain that comparison would reveal such definite differences in weave technique as would permit plain silks to be even tentatively assigned to different regions of manufacture. Even within China itself contemporaneous products of its silk industry probably varied then in texture, quality, &c., quite as much as they do now. A reference to Mr. Andrews' ` Notes on the technique of textile fabrics from Chien-fo-tung' will serve to explain the terms employed in the Descriptive List, and in the following remarks to describe the different techniques of weave represented among the Astâna fabrics, whether plain or decorated.

Turning to the decorated silk fabrics from Astâna, it is obvious that the peculiar uses which explain their presence in these tombs must also account for the relative frequency with which the various methods of decoration occur among them. In this respect it is particularly to be noted that while among the rag-like remains of miscellaneous garments used for wrapping the bodies we find specimens of all the principal methods of decoration, custom appears to have limited those

1 Cf. Serindia, ii. pp. 897 sqq.   4 Cf. Serindia, iii. pp. 1097 sq., 1143 sqq.

See above, ii. pp. 669 sq.   3 Cf. above, ii. p. 67o.   5 See ibid., ii. pp. 897 sqq.

Abundance of silk fabrics.


Origin of plain silk materials.


Polychrome figured silks used for face-covers.