Period: Tang dynasty (618–907)
Date: late 8th–early 9th century
Medium: Weft-faced compound twill
Dimensions: Overall: 24 x 28 in. (61 x 71.1 cm)
Mount (with plexi cover): 28 3/4 x 32 1/2 in. (73 x 82.6 cm)
Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1996
Accession Number: 1996.103.1
This textile is a magnificent example of Chinese silk of the high Tang period. The structure is of a type known as jin (weft-faced compound weave). The floral medallion is ubiquitous in Tang textiles and decorative arts. Both the medallion and its individual elements (such as the alternating open and closed blossoms of the outermost circle) came from the eastern Mediterranean and were transmitted through Central Asia in the early centuries of the Christian era. By the beginning of the eighth century, the "Chinese" floral medallion was found in eastern Central Asia, which was then part of the Tang empire.
This example is among the more complex of Chinese floral medallions. The motif is used alone in other Tang decorative arts, but in textiles it is always combined with the quatrefoil patterns seen here in the corners. The textile that compares most closely with this example is in the Shoso-in, Nara, Japan. Both are notable for the large scale of the design and the rich variety of colors.