YUNJIN, also called cloud brocade, is a traditional Chinese silk brocade made in Jiangsu since the end of the Song dynasty, and based on weft-weaving techniques from both the Song and Tang dynasties.
It is shuttle-woven, and often incorporates gold and silver threads with the colored silks. During the Ming dynasty, the YUNJIN weavers developed a technique of swivel weaving that enabled them to weave colorful designs onto a base fabric in other weaves, such as satin.
Each knot controls a group of silk threads. The weaver who sits at the top of the machine was in charge of lifting the correct knots while the one who sat in the lower position was in charge of making the design. The vertical thread has to be cut off each time, and a new one picked up; only the horizontal ones remained through the entire piece of textile. By cutting off the vertical threads, complicated patterns could be created in multi-colors. Two skillful crafts workers only produced 4 to 5 cm of this kind of fabric per day, so that one piece of textile needed for a royal robe would take two years to complete. It takes around 13 years of training to become an expert weaver.
Each inch of the textile was worth its weight in gold. Such textiles could only be used for the royal family’s official uniforms and sometimes for their everyday wear, for bed covers and accessories in the palace, for high officials’ uniforms, and as grant by the emperors. Nanjing was not the only place that produced brocade, but only Nanjing produced the cloud brocade, which gained its name due to its extremely beautiful patterns, unique designs, and colors that resembled the colorful clouds of heaven.
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