|Silk and China go together. Silk was discovered in ancient China somewhere around 2500 BC. The tradition is that the first emperor of China, Huang Di, had a wife named Lei-tzu. One day she was playing with a cocoon and accidently dropped it in her hot tea. The cocoon began to unwind and the rest is history.
One important aspect of this history is that silk production remained women's work and was carried out in the household. When the Chinese dynasties began to collect taxes in the form of silk, it was the women who were responsible for growing, harvesting, and weaving the silk in their homes while the men tended the fields.
Above you see a silk reel. It is used to draw the fibers from the cocoon in groups of 3 or 4 and wind them into a single thread. The technology has remained the same for thousands of years, the machines have changed their style and materials. The biggest innovations have been in the different manners in which the strands are combined, to make different types of thread.
China Index >> Shanghai, Bund, and Pudong >> Shanghai Textile Industry
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Last update: February 2007
© Marilyn Shea 1996, 1999, 2002, 2007