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Coat (chapan)

The ancient Silk Road stretches from China to the Mediterranean Sea across some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet. Before sea routes were developed in the 17th century, the Silk Road was the only trade route for goods moving between East and West. In addition to silk, the route was used to transport other precious commodities. Caravans heading east towards China carried gold, ivory, precious stones and glass. Moving west were goods such as furs, ceramics, jade, bronzes, lacquer and iron. Many of these goods were bartered along the way and items often changed hands several times.

Where was this textile created?

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The Silk Road

Coat (chapan)
Asia: Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Fergana, Uzbek people
Early 20th century
Dyed silk and cotton body, printed cotton lining
120 cm x 133 cm
Textile Museum of Canada
T77.0027 Textile Museum of Canada

The lining for this woman’s coat, or chapan, was factory-printed in Russia with chintz-like flowers and boteh patterns. The outside features silk warp ikat dyed using the tie-dyed technique. The Central Asian term for this prestigious fabric is abr, the Persian word for “cloud.” The dyed motifs have soft edges and look as if they are floating on the cloth.

For centuries, Chinese silks and porcelains astonished people in the West because no one knew how to make them. In the East, a Chinese emissary of the insular Han dynasty (200 BC - 200 AD) brought back horses from Central Asia that were famous for their strength and endurance in battle. Before this, the Chinese had not been eager to trade their silk for "Western" goods, but the horses changed their mind.

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