This study, the first of two parts which will give a comprehensive account of Chinese textiles and textile technology, deals with the evolution of bast fibre spinning and silk-reeling in the history of China. These operations are the basic techniques in the production of yarn and thread, pre-requisite to weaving, and any study of Chinese textile technology must start with the raw material obtained from fibre plants such as hemp, ramie, jute, cotton, etc, and silk reeled off from cocoons of the domestic silkworm. Here for the first time in a publication outside China, the raw material, and the processing techniques applied to it, are documented in their context of historical evolution, geographical distribution and economic significance in an agrarian society. The time-span covered runs from the neolithic to the nineteenth century. Archaeological and pictoral evidence, the bulk of it hitherto unpublished in the West, is brought together with Chinese textual sources (which are extensively translated and interpreted) to illustrate Chinese achievements in this field. Professor Kuhn's study reveals the way in which Chinese textile-technological inventiveness has influenced textile production in other regions of the world and in medieval Europe. It explains how textile technology reached its high point between the tenth and thirteenth centuries and attempts to indicate the reasons for its subsequent relative decline. The development of the textile industry in Europe was a key factor in the rise of capitalism. In the case of China after Sung times, textile technology and the organisation of textile labour may help indicate why such a development did not take place in China.
List of illustrations; List of tables; List of abbreviations; Foreword Joseph Needham; Author's note; 31. Textile technology; Bibliographies; General index.
Reviews for Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9, Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling
This volume is a solid addition to the Science and Civilization in China series. Technology and Culture His accomplishment is immense. Science [An] astonishing and enduring study...[Needham brings] depth of emotion and technical finesse to his task. Jonathan Spence, New York Review of Books Perhaps the greatest single act of historical synthesis and intercultural communication ever attempted by one man. Laurence Picken, Cambridge University