by James White, Contributing Writer
There is a natural fiber that is so strong, with such a rich legacy, it connects you with 5,000 years of human culture. That sacred fiber is silk—a material born of legend, and so valuable it opened up the most significant trade route in human history. The Silk Road bridged the East and West, spreading spirituality, tradition, values, science and culture. Like a thread of destiny, silk has bridged time, space, and mankind together.
Shen Yun Shop’s enchanting collection of silk scarves allow you to wrap yourself in silk’s divine legacy, timeless traditions, and an angelic beauty that will never age.
A Goddess’s Creation
It all began nearly 5,000 years ago when Empress Leizu was enjoying her afternoon tea. In a gift of fate, a silkworm cocoon fell into her warm tea cup and began to slowly unravel. Enchanted, Leizu played with the lovely thread, wrapping it around her finger, mesmerized by its paradoxical softness and strength. She continued to unwrap the silk until it stretched across her garden. At the end of the silk, she found the silkworm responsible for spinning this magical thread.
Leizu persuaded her husband, the Yellow Emperor, to plant a grove of mulberry trees, where she could domesticate silkworms and make this precious fiber. She invented the first silk reel, which joins the fine silk filaments into a fiber strong enough for weaving. She then developed the first silk loom to weave those threads into textiles for clothing, and even paper. Leizu has been revered throughout history as the Goddess of Silkworms, and the Yellow Emperor is believed to have practiced self-cultivation, eventually ascending to Heaven as an immortal.
Sericulture—the raising of silkworms to produce silk—hasn’t changed much over thousands of years.
Silkworm cocoons are still heated in water, which loosens the silk to be collected. Each silkworm can amazingly create one kilometer of silk filament, which is spun together with more filaments to create a stronger silk fiber used for luxurious garments.
Though silk is smooth and supple, it’s actually one of the strongest natural fibers in existence. By weight, it’s even stronger than steel, and can be stretched to 40 percent of its length before breaking. Not only is silk soft and strong, but it naturally shimmers as light bounces off it, giving it a lifelike glow that dances off the fabric. These almost mystical qualities have distinguished silk throughout the millennia, making it much more than just a fabric, but a symbol of high status, wealth, and culture, synonymous with the glory of China’s ancient civilization.
Connecting the East and West
The secret to making silk was guarded by Chinese people for 3,000 years. The precious fiber was so highly valued, anyone caught smuggling silkworm eggs, cocoons, or mulberry seeds was sentenced to death.
With these strict laws in place, Chinese silk became one of the world’s most sought-after items, like gold. Ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians were enamored with Chinese silk, and it became such an important textile it was even used as currency. The ancient trade routes linking China with the West later became known as the Silk Road for the lucrative trade of this precious material.
The Silk Road spanned 4,000 miles across China, India, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Merchants carried valuable goods and ideas back and forth between the two great civilizations of the time—China and Rome. Silk, paper, and gunpowder travelled West from China, and wools, “winged horses” (strong, fast horses excellent for battle), gold, and silver, among many other products, went East. Christianity and Buddhism also entered China via the Silk Road, illustrating the cultural, spiritual and ideological impact of these ancient routes.
Today, China continues to be the largest producer of silk. But where can you find products truly fitting the divine origin, ancient wisdom, extraordinary qualities, and historical brilliance of the fabulous fiber known as silk?
The Shen Yun Shop’s enchanting collection of silk scarves allows you to wrap yourself in silk’s rich traditions and a beauty that will never age. We invite you to join the fabulous heritage of silk and carry it on your shoulders into a glorious future.