Silk is one of the China's contributions to the world. China is the first country to manufacture and use silk. According to the legend, Lai Zu, wife of the Yellow Emperor, taught the ancient Chinese people the technique of sericulture.
Since the ancient times, silk has been one of China's exports. Chinese fine silks were exported during the Western Han Dynasty in the second century B.C.. A portion of the exports was shipped to Korean and Japan, but the majority was carried in camels' back along the famous caravan route known as the ‘Silk Road' to the Middle East, and eventually reaching Western Europe.
Kinds of silk
So far as texture and workmanship are concerned, there are four kinds of Chinese silk which can be ranged as the finest and most popular. They are made respectively in Jingsu, Hunan, Sichuan and Guangdong Provinces.
After thousands of years of development and influenced by geographical conditions, local customs, art and culture, each of these silks has evolved a style of its own and some characteristics. Some favour fine composition, bright color and great varieties, and some lay stress on naturalness and follow the principle that the silk thread should go with the growth or development of the things or animals to be embroidered.
With its unique texture, exquisite skills, and strong national style, Chinese silk has become more and more popular throughout the world.
Coming to Know China through Silk
Chinese silk first made its way to Rome sometime during the 1st century BC, where it was known as "serice" Silk, like other precious fabrics, had to pass through many hands before reaching Rome. It is possible that the term "serice" was derived from the Chinese word si (silk), the original pronunciation having been corrupted by successive relays of merchants traveling west. The Romans had never seen anything like "serice" before, and believed that it was made by some distant people they called "Sericians". It was also rumored that beyond the "Silk Kingdom" of the Sericians was an even more distant and mysterious land, known as "Chine."
Silk was highly sought after in Rome, in part due to its mysterious origins, but even more because of its exceptional quality. It was the first trade commodity to travel from China to the West. Like the scarlet fabric and glass wares also popular in Rome, silk was a luxury product. It was first used as decorative trim, then for cushion covers, and only much later for clothing. More supple, tough, and comfortable than flax or woolen fabrics, silk was popular with both men and women.