China is known as a country with a rich heritage of textile manufacturing. Ancient Chinese textiles developed to an advanced stage in terms of growing cotton, flax, and mulberry trees, as well as keeping silkworms, using minerals and plants as dyes, and developing textile equipment. Of all the different Chinese textiles, silk is the most popular one all over the world, and the exquisite appearance of silk made silk manufacturing an important and sophisticated handcraft industry in ancient China.
Originating in China, silk appeared as early as the middle Neolithic Age, about five to six thousand years ago. The emergence of brocade is a milestone in the history of silk. Brocade combines silk’s excellent qualities with art, and thus silk is not only the noblest of clothing materials; it is also a work of art. Especially in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), when there was growing development of economic and cultural ties between China and its neighboring countries, China’s silk trade and exports flourished as never before; this led to the establishment of the renowned Silk Road.
China silk fabric styles consist mainly of open-work silk, brocade, damask, thin silk, gauze, and thick waterproof silk. The Chinese styles, Song Brocade, Yun (cloud-pattern) Brocade, Shu Brocade and Zhuang Brocade enjoy an exalted reputation both at home and abroad.
Song Brocade, as its name implies, is a kind of brocade developed during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). It is mainly produced in Suzhou, the ancient “Silk City,” and hence is also called Suzhou Song Brocade. As an ancient city of silk famous in China, Suzhou has been recognized as the land of brocade and satin. Suzhou Song Brocade is characterized by its bright color, exquisite patterns, and solid but soft texture, and has been acknowledged as one of the three types of celebrated brocade in China, together with Yun Brocade of Nanjing and Shu Brocade of Sichuan.