Empire of Style
Silk and Fashion in Tang China
- PUBLISHED: July 2019
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / China, History, Art / Textiles
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 272 Pages, 7 x 10 in, 96 color illus., 23 b&w illus., 3 tables
- ISBN: 9780295745305
Tang dynasty (618–907) China hummed with cosmopolitan trends. Its capital at Chang’an was the most populous city in the world and was connected via the Silk Road with the critical markets and thriving cultures of Central Asia and the Middle East. In Empire of Style, BuYun Chen reveals a vibrant fashion system that emerged through the efforts of Tang artisans, wearers, and critics of clothing. Across the empire, elite men and women subverted regulations on dress to acquire majestic silks and au courant designs, as shifts in economic and social structures gave rise to what we now recognize as precursors of a modern fashion system: a new consciousness of time, a game of imitation and emulation, and a shift in modes of production.
This first book on fashion in premodern China is informed by archaeological sources—paintings, figurines, and silk artifacts—and textual records such as dynastic annals, poetry, tax documents, economic treatises, and sumptuary laws. Tang fashion is shown to have flourished in response to a confluence of social, economic, and political changes that brought innovative weavers and chic court elites to the forefront of history.
Art History Publication Initiative. For more information, visit http://arthistorypi.org/books/empire-of-style
Authors & Contributors
BuYun Chen is assistant professor of history at Swarthmore College.
Chen makes the case for a thriving culture of fashion in seventh- to early-tenth-century China. . . . Empire of Style is thorough and convincing. Chen not only details the styles of garments and ornamentation during the period but also the social and economic structures that supported opportunities for ‘aesthetic play.’- Choice
Depicts a fascinating world of clothing and fashion in Tang China and makes contributions to the studies of clothing history, art history, and cultural history in general. . . . [A] fine example of scholarship on the cultural history of traditional China.- Journal of Chinese History
Empire of Style is a book that every scholar interested in gender, identity, art, material culture, and literature in premodern China should read. . . . BuYun Chen has advanced the state of scholarship on medieval Chinese fashion by leaps and bounds both conceptually and methodologically.- Shao-yun Yang, China Review International: A Journal of Reviews of Scholarly Literature in Chinese Studies
[A]n important book that is a pathbreaking examination of premodern Chinese fashion and a model of interdisciplinary research.- Journal of Chinese Studies
An outstanding and groundbreaking book. BuYun Chen argues that during the Tang dynasty, as today, fashion both tracks and influences changes in society. Empire of Style makes many contributions to the study of Chinese material culture and social history.- Suzanne Cahill, author of Warriors, Tombs, and Temples: China's Enduring Legacy
Surviving Tang textiles, figurines, and paintings provide Chen with wonderful source material for this fluently written study of Tang fashion.- Patricia Buckley Ebrey, author of Accumulating Culture: The Collections of Emperor Huizong
Is fashion a Western phenomenon associated with the rise of capitalism in Europe? That has been the party line for many years. But in her brilliant new book Empire of Style, BuYun Chen demonstrates the existence of a thriving fashion culture in Tang dynasty China.- Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at FIT, and editor in chief of Fashion Theory