The story of silk: from Empress Leizu to Silkinc

The beginning of the silk dates back thousands of years, so long ago that history and stories are truly intertwined. Silk is a core part of Ancient China’s history, and the story of silk has been written by Confucius, one of China’s most famous philosophers and politicians…

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful Chinese empress, Leizu (also known as Xi Ling Shi). She sat under a Mulberry tree drinking her tea, and a single silkworm cocoon dropped into her small cup.

The hot water slowly softened the fibres and loosened the soft strands. When Leizu gently lifted the cocoon from her teacup, it began to unravel. Leizu’s keen eyes and inquisitive mind noticed that the cocoon was made out of a single long strand of fibre, and she thought to herself that she could weave this beautiful thread into a piece of fabric.

Empress Leizu shared her unbelievable discovery with her husband, the Yellow Emperor Huangdi, who encouraged her to explore this further. By observing the life of a silkworm in her grove of Mulberry trees, she learned and eventually started to raise the silkworms.

She grew a team around her to support this initiative, and it is even said that she invented the silk reel, a device used to spin the silk fibres from multiple cocoons into one thread, and the silk loom, a tool used to weave silk.

This innovative Empress, now known as the Goddess of the Silkworm and the Silkworm Mother, is said to have been the entrepreneur of sericulture, the process of farming silkworms to create silk fabrics. Whilst Confusis’ writings form the story of silk from 2700BC, archaeologists have confirmed that silk fabrics have been found dating back hundreds of years before Empress Leizu’s alleged discovery…

The story of silk eventually started to spread globally despite the complex terrain gating China and word of this stunning and durable fabric got around to ancient Egypt, Persia, Greek and Roman Empires. Silk Road has been one of the longest and most flourishing trade routes in the world, and its name is no mistake! In order to trade, this route was established and due to the volume and importance of trading this precious fabric, it was aptly named the Silk Road (despite the other valuable goods China had to offer such as tea and paper!).

Until 500AD, China was the only country which had the natural resources and knowledge to produce silk and it was only after Emperor Byzantine hired monks to smuggle silkworm eggs and sericulture knowledge to Constantinople did the production of silk become more widespread.

Other than a few technological advances to speed up the production process, silk today is still roughly produced the same way as it was thousands of years ago, and Silkinc is doing its best to stay true to this millennium of experience whilst putting in the time and resource to see what more we can learn and do with this phenomenal fibre.

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