Chinese Wallpaper | WALLCOVERChinese wallpaper is the oldest in the world, which already came out during the Han dynasty. In ancient China, they were initially made from silk panels, which were embroidered by hand. This wallpaper was used to decorate the walls of the palaces of the Chinese nobility. Later on, as the bamboo fiber paper was designed, more and more paper wall hangings also came out. This first paper wall covering, however, was not very durable and the wallpaper was reared on linen panels before they were hung.
The special feature of Chinese wallpaper was their choice in motives. Both, motives and the kind of design are based on the traditional Chinese painting. Delicate flower patterns of lotus blossoms or cherry and litchi-trees as well as animal motives such as peacocks and butterflies can be found on these wall hangings. Here, also the symbolic character of the motives was important. They refer to various properties, or wishes, and some are likely to bring good luck. Also landscape and representations of scenes from everyday life were very popular.
Within their environment, these wall hangings did have a completely everyday look. For the modern, European visitor, however, these are rather exotic pictures of a foreign culture. Here we can find market scenes, workshops, where different handcrafts are done. But also scenes of brothels or jails do appear on these wall hangings. Other popular subjects were scenes from legends and fairy tales, as well as portraits of big heroic deeds of Chinese wars. During the Ming Dynasty, also ornamental patterns came into fashion.
In the 16th century, among other export items, Chinese wallpaper came to Europe, where, however, it was so expensive that it was affordable only for the nobility. The wallpaper did hold a big fascination for the Europeans and soon also a European production of Chinese wall hangings did begin – called “Chinoiserie”.
Today, few Chinese wall coverings are preserved, which can be seen in various museums. So there is multi-layered Chinese wallpaper in a Kassel Museum, which represents a complete funeral procession. Other Chinese wallpaper shows a palace scene. In this way, Chinese wallpaper does not only provide an insight into the Chinese interior decoration of past centuries but with its motives also Chinese customs and ways of life are shown. Beyond its decorative value, many Chinese wall hangings do have a message and tell a story. Often they do look more like a painting than like wallpaper.
In our times too, there are Chinese wall coverings. They are produced from different materials, among others also made from Silk. Many of them show motives, which are based on the ancient wallpaper. Delicate branches and flowers decorate these wall hangings as well as artfully written Chinese characters.
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