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.
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