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Silk History

Silk History

Silk and silk production (known as sericulture) has a rich and colourful history, dating back thousands of years. It was brought to Europe in the fourth century BC, but originated in China, who kept the process a secret for several thousand years; anyone who was discovered trying to smuggle the secrets out of China was put to death.

How silk was discovered

According to Confucius, it was in 2640 B.C. that the Chinese princess Xi Ling Shi was the first to reel a cocoon of silk. After watching a silkworm spin its cocoon, it fell into her cup of tea. The long filaments started to loosen in the hot water and she succeeded in unraveling continuous strand several meters long. The princess instructed her serving women in the art of weaving rich beautiful fabrics from the long silk threads.

The Chinese were so grateful for her discovery that the named the princess a goddess and patron deity of weaving. From that historic moment, the Chinese discovered the life cycle of the silk worm and for the next 3000 years were to keep their monopoly of silk.

Silk riches

Throughout the 18th Century, the silk industry continued to prosper in Europe, Japan and especially in China. European missionaries to China reported that "even the simplest soldiers are dressed in silk". Silk became a major part of the Chinese economy.

For a period of time, it was used as a method of payment. Farmers would pay their taxes in silk. The government would reward its subjects who had provided outstanding services with silk and civil servants received their salary in silk. It also became a form of currency trade between China and foreign countries.

Chinese silk

Today, China produces approximately half of all silk made worldwide. Although there are many countries which produce very good quality silk, it is still the Chinese who are the masters at it. At Jasmine Silk we are extremely proud to maintain these high standards and uphold the position of China as the home of the best silk in the world.

Silk is made by the silkworm as it builds its cocoon. Although some animal hair can grow to considerable length, silk is the only natural fiber that is hundreds of meters long. Silk is actually extruded, or pushed out, by the worm in one continuous strand as it builds its cocoon.

According to Confucius, it was in 2640 B.C. that the Chinese princess Xi Ling Shi was the first to reel a cocoon of silk. After watching a silkworm spin its cocoon, she attempted to unwind the long filaments right there in her garden. After much experimentation she did succeed. The princess instructed her serving women in the art of weaving rich, beautiful fabrics from the long, silk threads. The Chinese were so grateful for her discovery that the named the princess a goddess and patron deity of weaving. From that historic moment, the Chinese discovered the life cycle of the silk worm and for the next 3000 years were to keep their monopoly of silk.

Throughout the 18th Century, silk industry continued to prosper in Europe, Japan and especially in China. European missionaries to China reported that "even the simplest oldiers are dressed in silk".

Silk was a major part of the Chinese economy. For a period of time, it was used as a method payment. Farmers would pay their taxes in silk. The government would reward its subjects who had provided outstanding services silk. Civil servants received payment for their services in silk also. It also became a form of currency trade between China and foreign countries.

Today, although there are many countries who produce world class silk, it is still the Chinese who are the masters at it. China produces approximately half of all the silk made in the world.