Chinese legend gives the title Goddess of Silk to Lady Hsi-Ling-Shih, wife of the mythical Yellow Emperor, who was said to have ruled China in about 3000 BC. She is credited with the introduction of silkworm rearing and the invention of the loom.
World silk production has approximately doubled during the last 30 years in spite of man-made fibers replacing silk for some uses. China and Japan during this period have been the two main producers, together manufacturing more than 50% of the world production each year. During the late 1970’s China, the country that first developed sericulture thousands years ago dramatically increased its silk production and has again become the world’s leading producer of silk.
Sericulture or silk production has a long and colorful history unknown to most people. For centuries the West knew very little about silk and the people who made it. Pliny, the Roman historian, wrote in his Natural History in 70 BC “Silk was obtained by removing the down from the leaves with the help of water”. For more than two thousand years the Chinese kept the secret of silk altogether to themselves. It was the most zealously guarded secret in history.
There is a wide range of silk fabrics depending on the weight, manufacturing technique and peculiarities. The more popular are taffetas, crepes,dupioni, chiffons, twills, satins, brocades and damasks.
In many varieties, the fabric is woven with grey yarn and then dyed and in others, the yarn may be dyed before the fabric is woven.
Silk has different uses like, women’s & men’s lingerie, garments – both for men and women, scarves, ties and interior decoration like furnishing, curtains and cushion covers.
Silk is is famous for its lustre, sensuousness and glamour. In India, silk has a special significance and is considered a pure fabric — a must for special occasions.
India has a rich and diverse weaving tradition. One can find different types of handlooms across the country, which produce a variety of fabric. Most of the traditional textile traditions use handspun yarn. India is known for fabrics made out of silk, cotton and wool. Silk and cotton weaving predominates the Indian weaving tradition, though wool is also used for weaving in many parts of the country.
Among China’s many contributions to civilization is silk, the cloth of commerce and legend for more than four thousand years. Initially spun by peasants, woven, and then worn by the nobility, it gradually became an accepted fabric for all classes of Chinese society.
In its native land it functioned as currency for buying expensive things as well as government offices, and as early as the second millennium B.C. there was a goddess of sericulture. The network of trade routes that connected China, India, and Europe, known as the Silk Road, was one of the world’s main thoroughfares for goods and ideas traveling both east and west.
The cultural history of Chinese silk goes back to time which tells its story from the time when its cultivation was a closely guarded secret through the early years of foreign trade in the Middle Ages to the extensive use of silk in Chinese and European households by the eighteenth century.