Archaeological studies indicate that the art of tying knots dates back to prehistoric times. Recent discoveries include 100,000-year old bone needles used for sewing and bodkins, which were used to untie knots. However, due to the delicate nature of the medium, few examples of prehistoric Chinese knotting exist today. Some of the earliest evidence of knotting have been preserved on bronze vessels of the Warring States period (481–221 BCE), Buddhist carvings of the Northern Dynasties period (317–581) and on silk paintings during the Western Han period (206 BCE–CE6).
Further references to knotting have also been found in literature, poetry and the private letters of some of the most infamous rulers of China. In the 1700s, one book that talked extensively about the art was Dream of the Red Chamber.
The phenomenon of knot tying continued to steadily evolve over the course of thousands of years with the development of more sophisticated techniques and increasingly intricate woven patterns. During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) knotting finally broke from its pure folklore status, becoming an acceptable art form in Chinese society and reached the pinnacle of its success. Knotting continued to flourish up until about the end of imperial China and the founding of the Republic of China in 1911 AD when China began its modernization period. From 1912 to the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, the art of Chinese knotting was almost lost.
In the late 1970s a resurgence of interest occurred in Taiwan, largely due to the efforts of Lydia Chen (Chen Hsia-Sheng 陳夏盛) of the National Palace Museum who founded the Chinese Knotting Promotion Center. In the 1980s, Mrs. Chen focused her energies on the knotting artifacts preserved during the Qing Dynasty. Currently, Chinese knotting enjoys wide popularity in Taiwan with numerous specialty shops to be found.
One major characteristic of decorative knotwork is that all the knots are tied using one thread, which is usually about one-meter in length. However, when finished the knot looks identical from both the front and back. They can come in a variety of colours such as; gold, green, blue or black, though the most commonly used colour is red. This is because it symbolizes good luck and prosperity.
There are many different shapes of Chinese knots. The most common being butterflies, flowers, birds, dragons, fish, and even shoes. Culturally they were expected to ward off evil spirits similar to bagua mirrors or act as good-luck charms for Chinese s.
This knot is unique in that it looks different from the front and the back. The front looks like a cross, but the back looks like a square. Therefore, sometimes it’s called a Square Knot. This is a relatively simple knot to make. It is frequently combined with other knots. A common application of this knot is to use it to make a fire cracker by repeating the pattern over and over again.
Materials: Use two pieces of thread 8-10 inches of No. 5 thread.
Step 1. Lay two strands of thread over each other in the form a cross, the horizontal strand over the vertical.
Step 2. Take top of vertical and fold over horizontal to the right forming a loop.
Step 3. Take the right strand of the horizontal and fold over the loop.
Step 4. Fold left strand of vertical over the loop formed by the horizontal.
Step 5. Take upper strand of the horizontal, fold back and insert into the loop.
Step 6. Tighten and adjust and the Cross Knot is complete.
Hints: Follow the arrow in Step 4 and slowly pull the string in all four directions. Make sure the strings are not twisting.
1. Chang, Zonglin. Li, Xukui.  (2006). Aspect of Chinese culture. 中国文化导读. 清华大学出版社 publishing
3. Chen, Lydia.  (2003). Chinese Knotting: Creative Designs that are Easy and Fun. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0804833990