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Dyeing Practice and the Society: A Study of Historical Chinese Dyes of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911) by Chemical Analysis and History of Art

By Jing Han and Anita Quye


In Imperial China, the colour of costume and textiles was an important symbol of status and much emphasis\ud was placed on it. There is now increasing interest and research in historical Chinese costume and textiles to\ud identify their dye sources. Through our research, we aim to improve understanding of the use of dyes in a\ud wider context by studying further the practical regulations of dyeing and the influence of social factors. This\ud research also aims to establish a methodology for the chemical identification analysis of historical Chinese\ud dyes by Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC) with different detection methods.\ud The historical and archaeological dyes for our research are being collected from museums and archaeological\ud institutes in both China and the UK. So far, 56 samples of various colour shades have been collected from 23\ud provenanced costumes and textiles belonging to the imperial family and officials of different ranks. Based on\ud historical Chinese dyeing treatises from the 14th\ud to 19th centuries, twelve common Chinese dyes and two\ud mordants of historical significance have been selected and used to dye silk in the laboratory for analytical\ud references.\ud Initial chemical analysis was carried out by UPLC with Photo Diode Array detection (UPLC-PDA) and UPLCPDA-mass\ud spectrometry. A database of the chemical composition of reference dyes has been created. The\ud change of their chemical composition during ageing was being studied.\ud Historical samples are being analysed by UPLC-PDA in a semi-quantitative study of the dye sources. This\ud enables relationships between different dyes and practical regulations for their use in the historical costumes\ud and textiles to be studied, such as difference and communalities between the dyes used for yarns for patterns,\ud and those used for fabrics for grounds and linings. The change in use of dyes over time and geographical\ud areas will be discussed. Analytical results will also be compared systematically with historical dye recipes to\ud investigate how closely theoretical procedure and practical use align. Meanwhile, the cultural meaning behind\ud the use of dyes, such as the influence of the status of people and people’s preference of certain colours will be\ud revealed

Year: 2014
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Provided by: Enlighten
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