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Chinese Knot is a traditional decorative handicraft with a long history and profound cultural connotations. Totally hand-made, a Chinese knot is made by a string or several strings tangling and twining together, and the wishes the artisan wishes to convey vary according to different shapes. Originated very long ago from the ancient habit of recording events by the knots of the rope, Chinese knots have played an important role in the Chinese decorative, costume and blessing-praying cultures.
Origin and History
Chinese knots have a long history. According to archeological findings, Chinese knots were originated from recording important events by the knots of the rope as early as the Paleolithic period. In the Zhou Dynasty (1046BC-256BC), people began to use Chinese knots as a medium to carry jade as a daily accessory. The images of Chinese knots were also found on some bronze vessels of the Warring States Period (475BC-221BC). It was during the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911) that Chinese knots became the popular folk art form, and nowadays, Chinese knots are widelt used as home decorations, presents and accessorys. With a delicate shape, unique configuration and auspicious connotation, the Chinese knot fully embodies the ingenuity and deftness of the Chinese working class.
Chinese knots can be divided into two major types: hanging knots and ancillary knots. Hanging knots are attached on a pendant or a lanyard which are suspended from the ceiling or hagned on the wall. Ancillary knots are used as a decorative part that adorns clothes, tassels, jade pendants, buckles and so on.
Every basic knot is named after either their inner meaning or outer form. It requires two or more cords to arrange and tangle into different knots. There are about eleven basic types of knotwork, and the more complex knotworks are constructed from combining or repeating the basic ones. By combining or arranging the different knotworks into various and auspicious patterns, the traditional Chinese knot finally comes into being, and conveys the wishes that the artisan wants to extend, such as happiness, longevity, joy, luck and so on. The one major rule of the knots is that all the knots must be tied using only one thread. When the knots are finishes, they should be double-layered and look symmetrical from both front and back.
The most commonly used material for making Chinese knots is silk threads. Chinese knots come in a variety of colors and shapes. The popular colors are gold, green, black or blue, however, the most commonly used is always red, which is the symbol of prosperity and luck in Chinese culture. As for the shapes of Chinese knots, you can often see shapes of flower, bird, fruit and animal. These traditional decorative images are considered to be able to drive away evil spirits and act as good-luck charm for the people who wear the knots.
Application and Cultural Connotations
Since ancient times, people began to use rope knots to decorate vessels, which initiated the first aesthetic function of knots. They are also used in ancient people’s clothing and accessories, therefore Chinese knots are an important element in China’s ancient classical clothing. Nowadays, the Chinese knots are widely used as a hanging decoration (such as wall hanging, car hanging and home hanging) and as an accessory (such as rings, earrings, bracelets, belts, buckles and necklaces).
The intricately and exquisitely worked Chinese knots have been used as a good-luck charm for many centuries. Their different images and knotworkings convey different messages and wishes. The following are a few examples. Double butterfly knots means the wish for the life-long togetherness and happiness for the married couple. Chinese knots with the Chinese character 福 (blessing) extends the wish of full blessing, protection and prosperity. A fish-shaped Chinese knot is to wish the carrier to be affluent and superabundant year after year. A Ruyi (literally meaning “as one wishes”) knot is to wish everything being satisfactory and go as one wishes.
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