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African & Asian Textiles

Kinran (silk and gold brocade)
Japanese, ca. 1700
67.5 x 13.75 in. (171.5 x 34.9 cm)
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Beginning during the Song dynasty (960–1279), luxurious Chinese textiles were imported into Japan. Among these were Kinran, a term that combines the Japanese characters for kin, or gold, and ran, designating a flowing Chinese robe. These gold-brocaded silks were initially used by affluent Buddhist clergy for their garments and temple hangings; as importation increased between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, much sought-after kinran were acquired by wealthy military families and practitioners of the elaborate ritual of the tea ceremony. In the late sixteenth century, the Nishijin textile manufacturing district of Kyoto began to produce kinran, with weavers specializing their output for particular patrons including the court, clergy, and Noh schools.

Similar to other surviving examples of kinran, these two panels feature lustrous brocaded gold flowers set off against a deep purple silk satin ground. Arranged in offset rows, upright lotus and drooping peonies are encircled and connected by delicate, double-banded stems sprouting small florals, foliage, and curlicues. Unlike the flat metallic strips or metallic strips wounds around a silk or linen core used for brocading in European silks, Chinese and Japanese silks employ gold-leaf-over-lacquered-paper strips.

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