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Not Just Knots

October 21, 2000|NORINE DRESSER | Norine Dresser's latest book is "Multicultural Celebrations" (Three Rivers Press, 1999). E-mail: norined@earthlink.net

At the recent Chinatown Moon Festival, visitors flocked to a booth where a man and a woman knotted red- and gold-flecked string, fashioning it into bracelets for each person. Those who received them were elated.

What did it mean?

According to Chinese tradition, the knots symbolize good luck. Knotting flourished in pre-industrial China, when decorative knot-tying was considered an essential skill for all young unmarried women. The practice faded with the Industrial Revolution, but was revived 30 years ago, especially in Taiwan, where until that time, only a few senior citizens could remember anything about the art. In addition to good-luck symbols, other knot designs have different meanings, such as longevity, reunion, wealth and long life.

Artisans create intricate knotwork as decorations for fans, scepters, sashes, belts and ornamental artifacts. In the U.S., the leading exponent of string knotting is designer and teacher Fay Wang of String Arts Inc. in Monterey Park. A distinguished member of the International Institute of Oriental Arts and Crafts, Wang has been a major force in the string-knotting renaissance here and abroad.

According to the 11th century B.C. I Ching (Book of Changes), in prehistoric times events were recorded by tying knots. In our own time, "tying the knot" means marriage and derives from the ancient European belief that knots can ward off evil spirits.

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