Silk is the thread or cloth made from the fine web of the silkworm, a certain kind of caterpillar. The web is actually a cocoon that the worm spins during a stage of its development into a moth. The secret of making silk thread and cloth was known to the Chinese about 4,000 years ago. There is a legend that a young Chinese empress called Si-Ling-Shi accidentally dropped a caterpillar cocoon into her hand basin and discovered that shining threads could be unwound from the cocoon.
She is said to have experimented with the raising of silkworms and the use of silk threads for weaving. For hundreds of years, the Chinese guarded the secret of raising the silkworms and making silk.
Traders front other countries would come to the border of China to obtain precious silks and other goods. Sometimes, in regions such as ancient Persia and the Greek islands, the silk cloths would be taken apart and rewoven in new designs.
The secret of silk raising was brought to Japan about the third century A.D. About the year 550, Justinian, Emperor of Byzantium, is said to have sent two Persian monks to China to bring back eggs of silkworms in a bamboo tube. This small beginning started a silk industry in the region around Constantinople.
From there the raising of silk spread slowly throughout South-Eastern Europe. Italy became famous for lovely brocades, damasks, and velvets made of Italian-grown silk.
When Was Silk First Used?
2700 BCE & come from the site of Qianshanyang in China.