Sericulture of China : Legendary Silk

Silk weaving comes to us from China. According to legend, its origins date back to around 2700 BC. Princess Si Ling Chi, while sipping tea in the shade of a mulberry tree, was surprised by a cocoon falling into her cup. As she tried to remove it from her drink, the cocoon decomposed into an endless thread which was so fine that she had the idea of using it to make fabrics. Delighted with the results obtained by her weavers, she used the silk exclusively in her wardrobe, and the secret of this new soft and precious fabric was jealously guarded for centuries.
Today, although the culture of silk has crossed the boundaries of China, it remains a cultural pillar. Mainly in rural areas near Shanghai, in the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu, as well as Chengdu in Sichuan, the knowledge is passed on from mother to daughter, or from master to apprentice. It involves the cultivation of mulberry trees (whose leaves feed silkworms), silkworm rearing, silk reeling, spinning, and finally weaving.
© 2005 China National Silk Museum
In line with the legend which defines their origins, sericulture and silk craftsmanship are highly ritualized activities: in time with the lunar cycles, the silk makers celebrate each year the Goddess of silkworms at a ceremony to drive away evil spirits and ensure a bountiful harvest of cocoons. In April, silkworm farmers adorn themselves with thousands of silk or paper flowers, make offerings and pray for plentiful fruits.
Carrying continuity and a sense of identity, this traditional Chinese handcraft is among the oldest, added in 2009 onto UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.