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Book recommendation: Cultural exchanges through textiles and clothing along the Silk Roads

By Simone Preuss


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Image: Quang Nguyen Vinh / Pexels

The China National Silk Museum and UNESCO have together assembled a thematic collection on cultural exchanges along the silk roads with a focus on textiles and clothing. This has resulted in a joint publishing project.

Feng Zhao, honorary director of the museum, and Shahbaz Khan, director of UNESCO's Beijing office, recently launched the first volume of the book project, titled “Thematic Collection of the Cultural Exchanges along the Silk Roads: Textiles and Clothing Volume”.

The first volume, compiled by editors-in-chief Marie-Louise Nosch, president of the Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters, and Feng Zhao, reflects the central role of textiles and clothing in human society, particularly with regard to the development of the Silk Roads.

The book's 22 chapters include contributions from 30 renowned international scholars in the field of textiles and clothing from 15 countries, including Denmark, Russia, UK, USA, Canada, Italy, South Korea, India, Japan, Egypt, Ghana and China. They interpret and explain the development of textile materials, technology, patterns, art, culture and function of the Silk Roads from different perspectives, as well as exchanges along the routes.

Almost 4,000 years of textiles

“The book provides a grand, comprehensive overview of the role that textiles and fabrics have played in global history, which helps readers understand the implications of this broad topic that spans almost four millennia,” states a release.

“I hope this fascinating volume will act as a valuable resource for the expert and general reader alike. It will further knowledge on this important topic and contribute to the wider goals of the Thematic Collection to deepen our collective understanding of these cultural exchanges and their contemporary legacy,” commented Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO's assistant director-general for social and human sciences.

“We learn how patterns, dyes and fashions were important elements of imitation, influence and exchange, as well as why, when and where particular designs and motifs were adopted and how they evolved in their new settings,” added historian Peter Frankopan, who also wrote the book's foreword.