Chinese knots, with its long history, can date back to the remote antiquity when it originated, the Tang and Song dynasties when it developed rapidly, and to the Ming and Qing dynasties when it boomed. As history
classics show, “People of the remote antiquity made knots to keep records, which was later replaced by inscribed words invented by prophets.” Knots in beaks of flying birds found in the patterns on bronze mirrors of the Tang Dynasty were embodiment of love and marriage lasting for ever. Thousands of years flashing by, knots are not used to keep records any more today when, however, they have developed into delicate artworks.
Knots were widely used in ancient
China. Clothes then had knots as fasteners, just like buttons and zippers today. The Chinese are used to dressing ornaments fastened to clothes with a thick knotted thread. Seals, import
objects carried by ancient Chinese wherever they went, had holes in them for the convenience of knotting. Similar things happened to bronze mirrors. Ancient Chinese were fond of expressing their love with knotted brocade strips which they named romantically the “knot of crossing hearts” or the “true love knot”.
“Thousands of knots in the heart”
Zhang Xian, a famous lyric writer of the Song Dynasty, once composed something well-known to almost every Chinese even up to today which reads “A crossing silk net my heart is, made of thousands of knots” to describe the complicated feelings of a lovelorn girl tortured by a broken love. “Knot” in classics of Chinese literature has always been the embodiment of tangling feelings of young people in love.
The great variety of knots is just like the richness of human emotions.
“Knot”, endowed by sentiment people with subtle emotions beyond verbal expression, has gone so far away from its original meaning that many Chinese words involving “unity”, such as words meaning “to become sworn brothers”, “to make association”, “to ally”, “to unit”, have it as a figurative component. Similar cases can be found in words related with marriages such as “to be spousal”, “matrimony”, “and marriage”, “to combine”, etc. “Knot”, to “unify” or to “interlace”, is the beginning of things. Since the “beginning” is the way leading to the “end”, many words in Chinese with the component of “knot” can also stand for “result” or “ending”. The “knot of crossing hearts”, or the “truelove
knot”, has always been the keepsake exchanged between lovers to show their lasting love. Other knots like the “Embroidered couple knot” are acknowledged “promise” for exclusive love or marriage between lovers.
Some of the Chinese knots, such as “the lucky knot” and “the longevity knot”, are considered divine objects to exorcise the evil, guard the house or pray for health and bliss. As talismans of mysterious religious power, they are widely used and inherited among folks. This may also be one of the reasons of the flourishing of the “Knot Culture”.
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