Eastern Zhou dynasty, Warring States period (475–221 B.C.)
Woven silk: warp-faced compound plain weave
Before conservation, Greatest Height 13.4 cm (weft); Greatest Width 24 cm (warp)
Purchase, The Vincent Astor Foundation Gift, 2002
Not on view
The oldest Chinese textiles in the Museum's collection (2002.558, .559), these two fragments with a pattern of geometric motifs and birds or dragonlike animals come from the same length of woven silk. The stripes, probably dyed with cinnabar, retain a fresh red color. Cinnabar was mined in China as early as three to four thousand years ago and has been found in Late Neolithic tombs. By the time of the Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1046–771 B.C.), the Chinese were refining and processing it to obtain the very best red color. Little of the mineral dye was produced, however, and its use was restricted to luxury textiles for the elite.