Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chinese Silkweaving, Multiple Scripts

During a visit to the Freer Gallery of Art last year, I came across this 13th-century scroll painting that depicts the art of Chinese silkweaving. The scroll links together 24 sheets of paper unfurling from left to right, and its visual content is fascinating (the scenes represent all the stages of silk production). Its verbal content is interesting as well. Each scene is accompanied by a poem that is written out in a formal style of calligraphy called "seal script." Next to each character of text in the poem there's a tiny gloss "translating" the character into standard script. There are also various inscriptions in "running script" throughout the scroll, in addition to the seals of multiple owners that have accrued over time.

To see more images of the scroll and download detailed documentation about its contents, see this website.

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