Shopping with a friend one after-noon, we happened to pause ata counter stocked with garmentscrafted of gambiered Canton silk.An elegant fabric with a history dating back500 years to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644),gambiered Canton silk was on the verge ofdisappearing in the late 20th Century. Thus,we were delighted to discover the fine fabricon the shelves of a modern shopping mall.
Gambiered Canton silk, also known asgambiered Canton gauze, has long been aluxurious and usually pricey fabric formedby a unique and very specialized manufac-turing process.
The making of gambiered Canton silk isa totally manual process. Artisans first weavegray cloth together with natural mulberrysilk, blend in a dye made of Dioscorea cir-rhosa lour, a medical herb, then dry the mate-rial in the sun. They then coat one side of thecloth with river silt rich in ferric oxide, whichcommences a chemical reaction when meet-ing the tannin of the Dioscorea cirrhosa lour.This step must be completed before dawn,because sunshine will penetrate to the otherside of the cloth, causing a similar chemicalreaction and a change in color. Consequently,the side processed with river silt will becomeblack, while the other side silk remains theoriginal color. The texture and pattern ofeach piece of cloth is unique. Emitting astrong herbal fragrance, the fabric is simpleand elegant, and after washing it becomessofter and smoother in texture.
Liang Zi became acquainted with thefabric in 1994. Her designs preserved the tra-ditional techniques and high quality, whilereviving the popularity of the time-honoredfabric. In 2002, UNESCO designated gam-biered Canton silk as part of World Naturaland Cultural Heritage. Over the course of 13years of effort, Liang Zi eventually rescuedthe fabric from extinction.