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Silk and Painting

Silk was once used as a main material for writing and painting, before being replaced by paper upon the latter's invention. However, the tradition of painting on silk was kept, used not only for professional artistic works, but also as decorations on silk clothes.

A hand-painted colored gauze (thin, transparent silk fabric) was unearthed at the Mawangdui Relics Site of the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). By the Tang Dynasty (618-907), more hand-painted silk appeared, such as those excavated from the Famen Temple in Fufeng County of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, and the Dunhuang Grottoes in Northwest China's Gansu Province.

The largest excavation to date has been from the Tomb of Yelu Yu in the Liao Dynasty (916-1125). In addition, the unique flowing-style painting technique of the excavated silk is of very high artistic quality.

Kesi, a type of silk weaving by the tapestry method, first appeared in the Tang Dynasty. Kesi artworks were usually based on painting works. While the kesi art was still mainly for daily use at the beginning of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), it gradually developed into mainly an object for artistic appreciation only, accelerated by the special passion of the emperors and the rapid development of painting skills.

In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the silk weaving art was more closely related to painting, and the style was profoundly influenced by the paintings from the south of the Yangtze River. The styles of kesi and embroidery works were almost identical to that of the paintings of the time. 

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