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The History of Silk

The history of Chinese silk stretches back more than 2,000 years. China produces about 150,000 metric tons annually. (78% of the world’s silk) whereas Indian industry produces about 30,000 metric tons. In China Silk is mainly produced in the south of the Yangtze River Delta. Renowned silk-producing regions are Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Sichuan provinces. Cities such as Suzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and Shaoxing are well known for their silk industries. The history of silk-making stretches back 6,000 years, and the earliest example of silk fabric that has been discovered dates from 3,630 BC in Henan.

India’s textile history is rich and complex, with its silk production dating back 4000 years ago in the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro. With a number of indigenous silk moths, many of whose cocoons are suitable for weaving, India’s silk history is vastly different from that of other countries. In India, about 97% of the raw mulberry silk is produced in the Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. Mysore and North Bangalore, the up coming site of a US$20 million “Silk City”, contribute to a majority of silk production. Another emerging silk producer in Tamil Nadu where mulberry cultivation is concentrated in Salem, Erode, and Dharmapuri districts. Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, and Gobichettipalayam, Tamil Nadu were the first locations to have automated silk reeling units.

In China, Silk garments were worn by emperors and royalty, and it was a status symbol. Common people were prohibited from wearing silk. Silk was also used for a number of other applications including luxury writing material. Silk fabric was invented in Ancient China and played an important role in their culture and economy for thousands of years. Legend has it that the process for making silk cloth was first invented by the wife of the Yellow Emperor, Leizu, around the year 2696 BC.

A qipao (旗袍 /chee-paoww/) is a unique souvenir or silk item.It became popular in Shanghai before WWII, and the elegant qipao is worn by some women for evening wear or party attire. It is a unique Chinese one-piece dress that features a high neck, close fit, and a straight skirt with a high slit on one or both sides.

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Qipao (courtesy pic. Longfeng Palace, Henan

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