Brocade armband witnesses ethnic integration
Source:“道中华”微信公众号 Release Date:September 13, 2023浏览(10)人次 SubmissionCollection

THIS is the Shu brocade armband of the Han Dynasty—"Five Stars Rise in the East Benefiting China". As one of the greatest discoveries in Chinese archaeology of the 20th century, it has witnessed the ethnic interaction and integration along the Silk Road for thousands of years.

In October 1995, under the Kunlun Mountains, the Sino-Japanese academic expedition to the Niya site found a piece of brightly colored brocade in the Hotan area of Xinjiang. Between the colorful patterns of the brocade, eight Chinese characters in seal script leaped out—"五星出东方利中国 (Five Stars Rise in the East Benefiting China)". This is the earliest record of the Chinese characters "中国" (meaning China) ever found in Xinjiang, dating back to the Han Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago. At that time, "中国" was a regional concept, referring to the Yellow River Basin in the Central Plains.

The texture of this armband, the Shu brocade, was more precious than gold at that time due to its exclusive places of production—ancient Chang'an and Chengdu cities. The armband of thick texture was woven according to the highest standard in the Han Dynasty: five sets of colorful warp intersecting with one set of weft. The sets of warp in blue, green, red, yellow and white correspond respectively with the five elements in traditional Chinese culture—metal, wood, water, fire and earth, each representing a planet in the solar system (metal for Venus, wood for Jupiter, water for Mercury, fire for Mars, earth for Saturn). It was then known as a very auspicious celestial phenomenon for the five planets to come together.

In addition to the colors and the weaving method, the pattern of the armband is also exceptionally beautiful. The Chinese characters in seal script were woven harmoniously with the star and cloud motifs, the peacocks, the cranes, the talisman tigers and other auspicious animals.

Scholars believe that the armband was woven by Shu brocade artisans for the royal family in the Han Dynasty. But their appearance in tombs in Xinjiang may well suggest a close relationship between the ancient Western Regions and the Central Plains during the Han Dynasty.

More than 130 pieces of “national treasures” made their debut in this year’s first big exhibition in the Palace Museum, the Shu brocade armband being one of them.

In June 2021, the dance drama Five Stars Rise in the East premiered in Beijing. It later won the 17th Wenhua Grand Prize, the highest government award for stage art in China.


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