Situated at the southern bank of the West Lake, in Hangzhou City of Zhejiang Province, China National Silk Museum is the first state-level professional silk museum in China as well as the biggest silk museum throughout the world. It opened to the public in 1992 and since 2004 people can visit it for free.
The museum owns eight exhibition halls, including: the Preface Hall, Relics Hall, Folk-custom Hall, Dyeing and Weaving Hall and Modern Achievements Hall.
The Preface Hall introduces the 5000-year-long history of Chinese silk culture. China is the earliest country that engaged in sericulture, filature and making clothes with silk. This hall provides strong evidence for this fact and shows the history of the Silk Road through which silk was spread abroad.
Relics Hall presents several preserved relics, which cover almost every dynasty of ancient China, and a number of pictures to explain Chinese traditional silk culture. These relics are from various districts of China, including those excavated along the Silk Road, on the grassland of Northern China, and in the south of China. It should be mentioned that tourists can appreciate a piece of fragmentary brocade that dates back 5,630 years. That is the earliest silk that has ever been discovered
The Silk Culture Hall exhibits a large number of ancient silk artifacts, as well as models and photographs. Articles from the neolithic period include certain items from more than 4,700 years and even a dyed piece of silk woven fabric from more than 5,600 years ago. Woven silk pieces excavated from the Jiangling Mashan Chu Tomb in Hubei Province show the high level of weaving technology during the Warring States period.
By the Han period, the development of Chinese silk weaving had reached its first peak. The fabric excavated from the #1 Tomb at Mawangdui that is exhibited here is extraordinary. It lay underground for more than 2,000 years and yet is still as lustrous and beautiful today as it was when it was buried.
During the Tang dynasty, silk weaving entered a period of innovation due to extensive east-west cultural exchange. The pieces excavated from a group of tombs at Astana in Turfan, Xinjiang, exhibit the artistic style of those times. Printing-on-silk technology was highly developed during the Tang period. All of the printing technology methods that we have today were already in existence at the time of the Tang dynasty and some of these are exhibited here.
Woven silk fabrics in the Song and Yuan dynasties include numerous weaving techniques that are both complex and very beautiful. Weaving with gold came to be one of the more refined techniques and some pieces are displayed that were excavated from a site in Inner Mongolia. Silk brocades were used in the Song and Yuan periods but were most vibrant in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Exhibited here are a number of brocade items that were worn by emperors, empresses, and senior officials.
The Silkworms and Mulberry Hall exhibits the entire process of cultivating silkworms. On display are materials about some live mulberry trees in China that are over one thousand years old. The life cycle of a silkworm is shown, and specimens from around the country are on display. One can watch the birth and growth of the little worm, the way it spits out the silk and creates its own cocoon and the way that cocoon is then unwound to create silk threads. The Silk Production Hall gives the history of the tools of the trade. The Weaving Hall displays all kinds of traditional looms and allows visitors to actually sit at a loom and try for themselves. The Dying Hall has specimens of many kinds of plants and minerals that were used in traditional dyes. Nearby is also a small botanical garden that raises some of the plants used for these dyes. In addition to displaying the processes of dying, printing and embroidery, demonstrations are given by masters on the spot of the various techniques.
Folk-custom Hall displays some prominent products created by outstanding weavers. Dyeing and Weaving Hall tells people how to dye and weave silk and the scientific theory of it. There are also weavers showing the whole process. Tourists are welcome to participate in the activity and do it themselves. Modern Achievements Hall displays the achievements of New China in silk production, silk research and silk trade and so on.
China National Silk Museum is a museum equipped with modern facilities and is dedicated to providing convenience for tourists. It offers free guide, free audio guide, free pamphlets on silk information, and even free wheelchairs for the disabled. People can also choose their favorite silk goods in the museum shop and relax in the teahouse.
Take Bus 12, K12, 809, Y3 (Tourism Bus Line 3) and alight at Silk Museum Station.