The craftsmanship of Nanjing Yunjin brocade is generally distributed in five areas of Nanjing city——Qinhuai, Jianye, Baixia, Xuanwu and Qixia. In ancient China, brocades were the representatives of top-class textiles. Nanjing Yunjin Brocade which belongs to traditional jacquard-weave brocade is famous for its magnificence, floweriness and luxuriance. The Nanjing Yunjin Brocade has also been the best among the three kinds of the most wonderful brocade (Yunjin, Songjin and Shujin). It enjoys the fame as “a unique talent of China” and “Rarity of the world”. About the name “Yunjin Brocade”, “Yun” means “cloud” in Chinese, “Jin” means “brocade”. People gave the name “Yunjin” to it since it was as gorgeous and florid as cloud. Another parlance indicated that the name “Yunjin” hailed from its cloud-like texture.
The craftsmanship of Nanjing Yunjin brocade was meticulous, innovative and exquisite. “Transfixing warps and severing wefts” was its specialty. The wooden looms used were 5.6 meters long, 1.4 meters wide and 4 meters in height. The design of the looms was very scientific and rational. Every loom was made up of two parts. The upper part was used for lifting the warps while the lower part was used for weaving the weft. Wefts were alternately weaved to meet the requirement of flexible colorway. The process was so complicated that 5~6 cm brocade took two persons the whole day to work. Here went the old saying: “one inch of brocade equal to one inch of gold”.
This craftsmanship had lots of advantages: One weft would be completed by several times of flowering so that there was no colorway restriction—same texture could be designed into different colors to make the brocade look elegant and harmonious. This unique craftsmanship still could not be replaced by any modern texture technology or machine.
Jacquard weaving was another specialty of this craftsmanship. Because of the complicated dermatoglyphic patterns, a sample picture in 1/3 meter was needed while weaving 1 inch of the brocade. Let’s describe it in this way: the Jacquard weaving method was the software while the dermatoglyphic patterns were the programs wrote by the ancient method of rope hitching. The upper worker keyed on the “keyboard” while the lower one followed the “screen” to flower it. The process was really amazing and miracle. Nowadays, it still belongs to security restriction of the nation.
Besides, intertexture of gold threads and silver threads was also an important craft of Yunjin Brocade, which made the brocade dignified and graceful to meet the royal requirements. For aulic use, flat cost was ignored during the producing, so that Nanjing Yunjin Brocade, the latercomer surpassed the formers to reach the textile’s peak of perfection.
The Gold-Thread Damask was also called “Storage Gold” since this kind of damask was put into the royal storages as soon as its complement. Alike, damask weaved with silver thread was called “Storage Silver”. Their larghezza was about 70cm.
You may confuse about “Brocade” and “Flowery Brocade” since both of them used boiled-off silk and were weaved after dyeing. Here are the differences: the “Flowery Brocade” was in free colorway by cutwork flowering, but in thick and non-symmetrical drapery; “Brocade” could just have four or five colors per piece, but in symmetrical drapery.
Signification of Lineage
There are important significations in Yunjin Brocade, which could deliver important information to Chinese histories of technology, crafts and culture. During the years of Emperor Kangxi and Jiaqing in Qing Dynasty, there are over 30,000 wooden looms in Nanjing to produce Yunjin brocade. At the end of Emperor Guangxu, comedown happened badly to the craftsmanship as time went by. To the year 1949, there were only four looms in Nanjing city weaving Yunjin Brocade. After then, great effort on protection was put on it by the government, so that the craft of Yunjin Brocade was passed down till today.
As the technology developing, more and more new kinds of cloths come out while the demand of Yunjin Brocade reduces much. Craftsmanship of Yujin Brocade needs plenty of training time and heavy workload so that seldom young men would like to do it. The craft of flowery Brocade has bordered on the extinction.