Examples of 20th Century JiaXie Prints
Chinese Ancient Fabric Printing
Homer Babbidge Library, Stevens Gallery
Curator: Qi Lu and Jane Recchio
JiaXie, an ancient Chinese fabric printing and dyeing process employing woodblocks, was practiced widely in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). After the Song Dynasty (960-1279), multi-colored designs gave way to indigoes and white. This traditional art threatened to disappear over the centuries; it fell out of popularity, and few people had mastered the technique.
In some rural regions of China, however, JiaXie quilts, usually made of cotton or flax, were still an essential part of nuptial celebrations in the 1950s and 60s. Intricate designs incorporating phoenixes eating peonies, dragons and other mythical animals, and intertwining flowers traditionally were used to encourage fertility or good fortune; these were later replaced with industrious comrades in Mao jackets.
Fearful that this art form might be lost forever, Ruixing Lu, a resident of Wuxi, began in the 1980s to research and seek examples of the fabric and artifacts related to JiaXie. He was particularly interested in capturing the cultural history of the day-to-day lives of Chinese. The working classes had typically used ‘country’ cloth; those items had not been well preserved in China or abroad in the way that ancient silk pieces had been.
Lu’s research led to his appointment as curator of the Wuxi Folk Blue Printed Cloth Museum, located northwest of Shanghai. His daughter, Qi Lu, a graduate student at UConn, has organized this exhibit. Examples of the fabric are displayed, along with stories about the patterns used and explanations of the clamp-resist dyeing method, which allows the same pattern to be dyed onto both sides of the cloth at the same time.
Gallery Walks for the JiaXie exhibit:
April 16 (Friday)
April 26 (Monday)
May 14 (Friday)
May 24 (Monday)
June 4 (Friday)