Japanese Art – Textiles

The textile industry in Japan made remarkable development in the 7th and the 8th centuries, and a number of excellent examples still remain in the Shoso-in treasury at Nara and in the Horyü-ji monastery near Nara. The de-signs of those examples are full of rich and bright colors and show a wonderful variety. Their motifs may be divided into flowers, animals, plants and landscapes. Some of them show a Chinese influence, but others are distinctly Persian, and typical of this Persian influence is a hunting scene, as will be observed in the example reproduced in Fig. 47, preserved in the Horyu-ji monastery.

The next remarkable development in the history of the textile industry took place in the 16th century. At this time Japan was again greatly indebted to Chinese influence. Chinese experts came to Japan and started to teach weaving at Sakai, a city near Osaka. In addition, Chinese trading-ships brought fine examples of the Chinese weaving art to Japan. Meanwhile, the Nishijin artisans of Kyoto learned advanced Chinese methods of weaving from Sakai artisans, and they made Kyoto the most important center of high-grade weaving in Japan. Moreover, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese merchants brought European textiles, such as figured satins, velvets, and gobelins, giving for the first time an important Western influences to Japanese textile industry

Under these foreign influences the Japanese textile industry made great strides in the Edo Period.

The most gorgeous textile fabrics, which were used in the Noh drama, were produced mostly in Edo and Kyoto. The bright colors and intricate patterns of these Noh costumes were appreciated especially by the nobility, and by military leaders in times of peace (Fig. 48).

Various kinds of silk needed by rich people have also remarkably improved. The silk fabrics used most for making kimono, and obi or sashes, were satin or shusu, figured damask or donsu, crepe or chirimen, rinzu and yuzen.

To such silk stuffs, most pleasing patterns were applied by dyeing, embroidery, or weaving out in the loom. But some special design was from time to time painted by an artist himself.

Contemporary textile fabrics have made praiseworthy progress in designs, dyeing, and weaving. The most artistic are Nishijin, yuzen and embroidery, and the best of these are produced in Kyoto. But in recent years rayon has achieved a noteworthy change in the silk industry by evolving a higher quality through mixing natural silk thread with it.