The first leg of our research trip to China with our visit to Yantai to take part in the first Biennale of the Sino-British Contemporary Art Exhibition has been completed. Our time in Yantai has been a great introduction to the Chinese people and culture. Yantai Art Museum, their director and their curator Wen Wang were fantastic hosts and we thank them for inviting Ruth to undertake an artist residency there with Contemporary British Painting and for showing our film The River Runs Through Us. We hope to return to YAM again in the future.
During our time there we visited the artist studio of Zu Zuejie, an exhibition of the calligraphy of Pan Yingqi and saw the stone carving on Yunfeng mountain. We made field recordings in east port fishing port and market and explored Yantaishan Park with its steep hill, twisting paths and former consulate buildings where we saw evidence of silk including threads, a loom, silk shoes and boots.
Ruth's first glimpse of silk was at Yantai Folk Museum, on the day of the Moon Festival where the temple and trees were decorated with silk ribbons, and there are a small number of silk artefacts in their collection.
A particular highlight for FSR was a visit to Yantai Museum where we had an interesting tour by the director, Felipe Lee. The collections there contain early evidence of spinning from the Neolithic age, with spinning whorls, early hand tools, a bone needle, silk waving shuttle, spindle, loom. We heard about the role of the trading routes during the Sui and Tang Dynasties when Yantai was a departure port and played an active role in trade and cultural communication with Silla (now on the Korean Peninsula) and then Japan.
We saw booklets documenting import tariffs and sale of silk clothing, old silk clothing, cocaine, cinnabar, cinnamon, cochineal, coffins with corpses, cloves, cornelians, corals, cotton fluff, copperas, amongst other things! Documents included the trade mark of the Yantai Changsheng Silk Factory, and information on the textiles trade, showing increase or decrease of articles exported in 1885. Figures showed that silk pongees had increased, raw silk decreased. Lace making was also important for them.
The museum has a very interesting collection of silk garments, with many wall hangings, shoes and other artefacts. Much of the silk was lightweight and had been embroidered.
Now we have travelled over 1300km west to the very important silk trading city of Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, to begin the next part of our research.