History of Silk
Silk is smooth and beautiful and luxurious and sexy and about 5,000 years old. Silk is a noun and an adjective and a metaphor and a simile which fell from a mulberry tree one day in the form of a cocoon.
The cocoon tumbled into a cup of tea that Lady Hsi-Ling was drinking. The Yellow Emperor's wife noticed that a delicate thread had started to unravel. On closer inspection the Empress saw many similar cocoons in the mulberry tree. Being a young energetic lady and having recognized the beauty of the fine threads, Hsi-Ling sponsored the development of the reel and loom as well as the tending of silkworms.
The Emperor saw the fabric as magical and reserved its wear for his own family and important persons of the court. As techniques for nurturing the silkworms improved, silk became more common. But the Chinese realized the value of the material and began to trade silk in Persia, Mesopotamia and Baghdad.
The industry was shrouded in secrecy as the Chinese sought to keep the secret of silk away from the rest of the world. Demand for the lustrous fabric created a route to China that became known as the "Silk Road". The Chinese guarded the secret of silk production carefully, searching travelers at the border. Anyone caught smuggling silkworms, cocoons or eggs was summarily executed.
The Chinese were able maintain their control of silk production until around 200 B C when Chinese immigrants to Korea started an industry there. The secret of silk was making its way out of China by other means as well. The Indians mysteriously started producing silk 100 years later and a Chinese princess smuggled eggs out of China hidden in her hair.
Toward the middle of the 1st century AD, the Byzantine emperor ordered 2 monks who were traveling to China to smuggle some moth eggs when they returned. The monks concealed the precious eggs in bamboo walking staffs. The church established a silk industry as an imperial monopoly.