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Classic Silks

( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2011-09-21

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The charm, beauty, and complexity of Suzhou can all be depicted through its Classic Silks, true pieces of art. Even the smallest pieces of silk and embroideries require incredible amounts of patience, knowledge, technique, and skill, all of which have been passed down from generation to generation, for centuries, earning Suzhou the position of China’s silk capital.

Classic Silks

Throughout China’s Imperial past, Suzhou silk weavers have been associated with high-quality silk products, supplying silks to ancient royal families. By the 13th century, Suzhou was already the center of the profitable silk trade, attracting foreign explorers like Marco Polo.

Suzhou maintains its importance in the silk industry and any single Suzhou silk product can tell its holder tales of creation, imagination, and beauty. These, big or small, narrate the life of tiny silk worms, from birth, to feeding on delicate mulberry leafs, all the way to their seclusion in cocoons. The cocoons are where fine strands of silk lie, but they must first go through several processes before being ready for use. To prepare each thread, eight strands of silk are united and processed by innovative machinery. And, in order for silk clothes to be made, either artisanal means or hi-tech production lines are used. The final stage in the production of silk objects is also the most beautiful. It is in this final step that skilled hands and imagination take over, creating beautifully decorated works of art. To fully appreciate the delicate and intricate nature behind it all, a visit to silk factories and institutes is necessary. Though there are many similar places, the No. 1 Silk Museum and the Silk Institute offers the most complete understanding.

Classic Silks

Suzhou artisans are also masters of silk embroidery. Beddings, clothes, wall art, and many other objects can carry stitched works of the local Su style, one of China’s Four Traditional Embroidery Styles. Large wall arts, equivalent of laborious paintings can take years to complete, carefully choosing the perfect threads by color and thickness. Through highly skilled motions and unparalleled dedication, artists create unbelievable realism. Suzhou specializes in double-sided embroidery, where one single piece of cloth can display different images on either side. If you are interested in admiring these works, the Suzhou Institute of Embroidery showcases magnificent pieces. There is also an Embroidery Street, lined with privately owned stores and work shops.

Another splendid Suzhou art that requires just as much passion and skill is the wood and stone carvings. Detailed furniture carvings and decorations are part of China’s history, while stone carvings immortalize poems and legendary figures. Both these art forms flourished throughout China during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, however Suzhou has perfected both. Strolls through most of the city’s attractions will provide splendid views of carvings, but if you want to see truly unique and awe-inspiring pieces, visit one of Suzhou’s museums.

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