Chinese Knots

History of Chinese Knots

Chinese KnotChinese Knot, an ancient Chinese handicraft

As a means of artistic decoration, the art of knotting is an ancient Chinese handicraft that dates as far back as the Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty (in contrast, the strictly practical use of knotting, both in China and elsewhere, dates farther back than the beginning of recorded time, as indicated by archeological finds in China of special needle-like implements fashioned of bone and believed to be used for the purpose of untying knots – thus implying the existence of knots – discoveries which have been carbon dated to be over 100,000 years old).

Though no knotted material, such as knotted rope, has survived China's prehistoric period, or even China's more recent pre-imperial era, depictions of knots do appear on pre-imperial bronze vessels, the earliest of which depictions date from the Warring States (BCE 475-221) Period of the Eastern Zhou (BCE 770-221) Dynasty (the Imperial Era begins with the Qin (BCE 221-207) Dynasty).

Categories of Chinese Decorative Knots

Colorful Chinese knotsDifferent styles and different colors of Chinese knots

Chinese Decorative Knotting can be divided into two main categories: knotting that hangs (on a pendant or a lanyard suspended from the ceiling or hanging on a wall) and knotting that forms part, albeit, sometimes only a decorative part, of articles of clothing. Knotting that is intended to hang, including some types of knotting that adorns clothing (think of dangling tassels) must be fashioned symmetrically, i.e., it must appear the same, front and back, while knotting which will only be seen from the front/ exterior (in the role of what one would call embroidery in the West) need not be symmetrical, in the same way that a rug is not generally made to be seen from both sides.

Note also that Chinese Decorative Knotting of both hanging and non-hanging types, where it is non-representational (some knotting may depict a flower, a butterfly, a fish, etc.), is generally of a two-sided (side-to-side or top-to-bottom), three-sided, or even of a four-sided symmetrical pattern, somewhat reminiscent of arabesque.

Usage of Chinese Knots

The most commonly used knotting material in China is silk, which comes in a variety of bright colors, red being the luckiest colors in China, as it symbolizes good luck, a long and prosperous life, etc.

Besides being used as a hanging decoration in the home and as an adornment to articles of clothing, examples of Chinese Decorative Knotting range from articles of jewelry (rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces, as well as small pendants that hang on bracelets and necklaces) to actual articles of clothing – albeit, "finishing", or ornamental, articles of clothing (however practical they may also be) – such as buttons and belts.

This seemingly simple art produces handicraft items that are intricately and exquisitely worked – it is no wonder therefore that the Chinese decorative knot has for centuries been worn by people of all walks of life as a talisman, or good-luck charm.

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