About Chinese Knotting

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A Perspective on the History of Chinese Knotting

The history of knots, due to the perishable nature of the media (plant fibres, animal hide strips, and yarns), is very poorly documented and mostly lost to antiquity. But baskets for carrying, ropes for snares, and lacing for garments were as crucial to the development of human civilization as flint spear heads, wooden boats, and bronze ploughs. Wherever utilitarian knots appeared, decorative knots were not far behind, and nowhere was the art of decorative knotting as highly developed as in Imperial China. A magnificent variety of complex knots ornamented everything from sword hilts to teapots, lady's fans to temple walls, and peasant coats to the empress's hair.

Due to the effects of industrialization & the cultural revolution on China, the art of Chinese knotting -- as with too many other arts and irreplacable cultural treasures -- was nearly lost. However, in the late 1970's a resurgence of interest occured in Taiwan, largely due to the efforts of Lydia Chen of the National Palace Museum who founded the Chinese Knotting Promotion Center. Currently, Chinese knotting enjoys wide popularity in Taiwan with numerous specialty shops to be found.

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Related Arts


Closely related to Chinese knotting is maedup, or Korean knotting. Of late (early 2003) I have discovered quite a few maedup sites which describe the history and cultural context of this art. The difference between Chinese and Korean knotting seems to be (1) proportion of tassel to knot (much longer tassels in Korean knotting) and (2) favoured cord type (Chinese knots traditionally used a flat-ish cord and currently uses satin cord, while Korean knots use a round braided cord) and (3) colour choices (Korean colour choices tend towards the 5 primaries: red, yellow, green, blue, black and often use all in the same tassel, while Chinese colour choices are wider, but usually only one or two in a single work).

A brief quote that I extracted from a an old Korean Trade and Investment magazine article makes pretty much the same point:

The Chinese style of maedup also looks very similar in pattern to the Korean, but differs in the colors used and the proportion of the knotted body to the tassel.
Of note is that Korea, like Taiwan, in promoting their culture considers maedup to be a Cultural Treasure. In a striking coincidence (!?!) Korean Macrame and Chinese Macrame are both #22 in their respective lists.

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A slightly more distant relative is Hanamusubi or Japanese Knotting. Hana means flower and musubi means knot. The Japanese aesthetic being more austere and terribly formal means that their version of decorative knotting tends to be limited in application to religious hangings, tea bags, and samuri armour (!), although there are exceptions.

About this Site

The Chinese Knotting Home Page?

Many moons ago, when the World Wide Web was young (1994 or so), as I taught myself HTML, Perl, and such, I cast about for what unique contribution I might be able to make. Using search engines to research the issue, I found nothing at all about Chinese knotting and in a moment of hubris decided that I would create The Chinese Knotting Home Page. Without a scanner, digital camera, or any of the other resources available to me today, I set about creating the authoritative site about Chinese knotting, independently and without any official affiliation of any kind. Soon thereafter (and before I got very far), I found a full-time job and got entirely sidetracked by life in general.

Interactive Chinese Knotting!

As usual with all my sites, they are for the most part just for me, presenting information I find interesting, broken down in a way that makes sense to me. But if you would like to comment, help, suggest, protest, request, etc. just send me some email, I'll be glad to hear from you. Most especially, I would like to hear from those who have tried the instructions and have comments to make on their clarity and usability.

Mailing Lists

I have set up an announcement mailing list for those who are interested in finding out when updates are made to the site. It is very low volume and your email addresses will not be used for any other purpose. To subscribe, simply send an email to majordomo@chineseknotting.org with subscribe sitenews in the body of the message.

There is now a decorative knotting discussion list. To subscribe, simply send an email to majordomo@chineseknotting.org with subscribe knottalk in the body of the message.


Creation Date: Sun Jul 2 17:37:25 PDT 2000
Last Modified: Friday, 10-Sep-2004 07:25:22 UTC
Page accessed at local time: Sunday, 14-Jul-2024 13:47:46 UTC