China, among other things, presented the world with silk – a unique material, very durable, pleasant to the touch, maintaining a comfortable temperature. It is known that silk is a product of the vital activity of the silkworm, which makes a strong cocoon around itself. But who was the first, or the first, to unravel this cocoon and make a thread, and then weave a fabric? Archaeological data show that, perhaps, in the Lunshan Late Neolithic culture (1st half of the 2nd millennium BC) and even before they knew the technology of silk production. In the people there were many legends, telling about the appearance and distribution of silk.
he most famous of them connects the appearance of sericulture with the name of Lei-tzu, the eldest wife of the mythical emperor Huangdi, who ruled the Middle Kingdom from 2698 to 2598 BC. e. Once a young woman drank tea in the garden, under a mulberry tree, when several silkworm cocoons accidentally fell into a cup. She began to take them out, and the cocoons began to unwind in a long thread. Then Lei-tzu began to tear down the rest of the cocoons hanging on the tree and unwind them. From the threads obtained, she weaved the fabric and sewed the clothes to her husband. Having learned about this discovery, Huangdi improved the methods of silkworm breeding and silk production. Thus, sericulture and silk weaving appeared.
Due to her discovery, Lei-tzu also began to be called Silin-chi – the Lady of the silk worm, and she began to be considered the patron goddess of silkworm breeding. So far in early April in the province of Zhejiang held festivals in honor of Lei-tzu.
According to another legend, the most fantastic, once a father lived with his daughter, and they had a magical horse that not only could fly in the sky, but also understood human language. One day my father went about his business and disappeared. Then his daughter took an oath: if the horse could find her father, she would marry this horse. The horse found his father, and they returned home together. However, when his father found out about this oath, he was shocked, and in order to prevent this marriage, he killed an innocent horse. But when they began to flay the carcass, the horse’s skin suddenly picked up the girl and carried her away. They flew and flew, and finally fell on the mulberry tree. And at that moment when the girl touched the branches, she turned into a silkworm. She let go of the long and thin threads that expressed her sense of separation from her beloved horse.
Another legend has it that women of ancient China accidentally discovered silk. They collected fruit from the trees and stumbled upon strange white fruits that were too hard to eat. Then they began to cook them to soften, but they were hardly suitable for food. In the end, women lost patience and began to beat them with thick sticks. And it was here that silk and silkworms were discovered. It turned out that the white fruit was nothing more than a silkworm cocoon!
For centuries, China under the penalty of the death penalty kept the secret of silk production. And yet he became known outside the country. On this score, too, there are several legends.
It happened in 440. The Chinese princess was engaged to Prince Khotan. And her fiance wished the princess to bring with them the seeds of the mulberry tree and the silkworm larvae. According to another version, the princess herself wanted to bring them to her new homeland. Be that as it may, she hid the seeds and larvae in her lush hairstyle and took them out of China. And from there, the secret of silk production has spread throughout the ecumene.
According to another semi-legendary semi-history, the secret was revealed by two Nestorian monks who, around 550, brought the silkworm larvae and mulberry seeds in their hollow bamboo staffs to Byzantium.
Thus, China lost its monopoly on silk production.