Relatively little is known about how beads were combined to form larger structures in China. To address this situation, this paper focuses on Chinese bead curtains. Adopting an approach that is broad rather than deep and empirical rather than theoretical, it collates evidence from the textual, material, oral, and pictorial records to consider bead curtains from various perspectives. To begin, this study defines bead curtains as textiles, door and window ornaments, screens, and types of beadwork. It then discusses bead curtains of the imperial era (221 B.C.-A.D. 1911) as they are referenced in the Chinese textual record from the 4th century on. A discussion of bead curtains of the post-imperial era (1912-present) follows, offering a small database of 20th- and 21st-centuries examples composed of organic and inorganic bead materials. While contemporary, commercially-produced Chinese bead curtains are mentioned in passing, they are not the focus of this article. Nor are bead-embellished valances addressed. As further research is undertaken, it should be possible to refine or revise the information offered here.
The Society of Bead Researchers is a non-profit scientific-educational corporation founded in 1981 to foster historical, archaeological, and material cultural research on beads and beadwork of all materials and periods, and to expedite the dissemination of the resultant knowledge. Membership is open to all persons involved in the study of beads, as well as those interested in keeping abreast of current trends in bead research.
"Chinese Bead Curtains, Past and Present."
BEADS: Journal of the Society of Bead Researchers
25: 40-71. Available at: