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February 6, 2016 By Andy Ross

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An animated scroll

At the moment on BBC iPlayer there is a very interesting series called "The Story of China". Inextricably linked with that story is the craft of weaving. 

The second in the series deals with the fabled Silk Road, that through-route which brought Chinese commerce and industry to East and West Europe. And it was known the Silk Road because of the fabrics that made that journey from China. But it was not only silk; tea formed a major part of the trade as did precious metals and spices, and philosophies and religions spread across the world along the road. 

In the third programme, broadcast this week, there is a visit to the Song dynasty capital of China, known today as Kaifeng. One of the treasures of this period, indeed one of China's most important artefacts is a scroll painting (above, taken from the Wikipedia entry) called "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" which shows everyday life in the city sometime around 1100 AD. Although the accepted analysis of the picture is disputed, it is a fascinating glimpse into everyday life, showing in extraordinary details the clothes of the people and the activities that they took part in. And yes, weaving included. On our trip to Shanghai we saw an amazing computer animation of this scroll, more than thirty times the size of the original and it really brought the painting to life in an amazing way as it showed day and night scenes of people and animals making their way through the city. See the movie below for a short extract, and if you are in that city, go the China Art Museum to see it for yourself. 

To watch this fascinating series (it is unavailable to those outside the UK on iPlayer but it may be available through other licenced sites or on DVD shortly), follow this link