A brief history of silk: Part 1 of 2

I read an Associated Press piece by Mansur Mirovalev about silk’s so-called dark side where Uzbek children had to work and grow cocoons.

Silkworms in a Chinese silk factory

However, that’s not what this post is about.  I will say this. I didn’t see much that was wrong in Mirovalev’s piece about what was taking place in Uzbekistan. About a century ago, American children once worked in the fields alongside their parents. I see nothing wrong with that.

In fact, for most of history, children were just seen as smaller people and had to work just like adults did.

Worker makes silk cloth from a silkworm.

I’ve often read about the Silk Road, but I was curious and wanted to know more about the history of silk so I did some Google research and discovered that silk has a long history in China.

For example, in 1984, silk fabric dating back more than 5000 years was found in Henan Province.

How silk is made.

According to legend, Lei Zu, the queen of China’s legendary Yellow Emperor, was drinking a cup of tea beneath a mulberry tree one day when a silkworm cocoon fell into her cup. Further investigation revealed that the unraveling fibers were light and tough, ripe for spinning. Thus China’s silk industry was born.

What I didn’t know was that merchants from the Roman Empire sent ships by sea to China and traded directly with the Han Dynasty. It’s well known that China traded with India, the Persians and even Europe using a land route called the silk road across Asia. But this was the first time I heard of ships from Europe reaching China about two thousand years ago.

Continued on August 29, 2013 in A brief history of silk: Part 2

Discover A Millennia of History at a Silk Road Oasis


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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