The oldest extant Japanese textiles date from the Nara Period (710-785AD) and impressions of cords have been found on earthenware pots from the Jomon period of Japanese History (10,000-300 BC).Apart from these examples, very little is known of Japanese textiles prior to the 8th Century. However, Japanese textiles were strongly influenced by Chinese and Korean textiles from their inception and we can follow the evolution of Japanese textiles by studying the history of early Chinese and Korean textiles.
The textile industry in China and Korea dates back to around 5000BC with woven textiles found in archaeological sites from this period.The raising of silk worms in captivity (sericulture) became widespread around 4000BC.The traditional use of textiles in these countries was for clothing, furnishings and ceremonial purposes such as alter clothes and ceremonial robes.
The main fibres used for textiles in the China/Korea region were hemp, ramie, cotton and silk. The Chinese followed strict codes of dress according to classes and introduced strict sumptuary laws to enforce these codes.These laws dictated what fabrics, colours and designs should be worn by different classes of people.Royalty wore mostly silk and clothes decorated with embroidery.Commoners wore hemp, ramie and course cotton clothing.
Tapestry, the use of weft threads that do not extend across the entire width of a piece of fabric but individual colours used in discrete areas, was introduced during the Sang Dynasty (960-1279 AD).
Japanese textiles throughout the ages
The oldest textiles in Japan can be found in a collection at the Shoshoin Temple in Nara, the ancient capital of Japan, near modern day Kyoto.These probably come from China and Korea because they were produced on a draw loom and it is not believed that the Japanese wove used draw looms in the 8th Century.Among this collection of textiles can be found Nishiki which is a textile with a …

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