Archaeologists found the silk fragments that were about 5500 years far away from now in an archaeological survey of the Qingtai site in Xingyang, Henan Province in 1998. Another is saying that people had already found textile tools in the Hemudu site, which could infer that the use of silk was not later than in Liangzhu Culture. However, the most influential saying in the world is the silk fabric in 3700 BC, the first 3100 years (Dahankou period) founded by Chinese scientists in an archaeological survey in 1958.
Silk fabric technology had ever been monopolized by China for thousands of years. Due to the complicated craft of silk, its unique touch, and luster, silk deeply attracted people’s attention. Thus, Silk fabric was the primary international trade good and material in the world before the Industrial Revolution. Initially, silk could only be used by the emperor. However, the rapid development made silk culture constantly infiltrate into Chinese culture from geography and society and then became a senior item of Chinese businessmen in external trade.
The agriculture of the Shang Dynasty had great development and the silkworm industry had also formed a certain scale. In Western Zhou Dynasty, The ruler had strict organization and management for domestic industry and the silk production technology was better than Shang Dynasty. In Spring and Autumn period, the silkworm industry had also been highlighted, thus developing the silkworm industry had been a vital country strategy to make the country rich and powerful so that people could enjoy a prosperous life.
In the Warring States period, the specialization division of silk production was more distinct and the designs and variety of silk had also been enriched, mainly divided into three categories of tough silk, damask, and brocade. The appearance of brocade is an important milestone in the history of silk as it combined the excellent properties of silk with art so that it was not only a noble fabric but a work of art, highly improving the cultural connotation and historical value of silk production with far-reaching influence.
In the Qinhan period, the silk industry not only got big development but the trade and export of silk reached unprecedented prosperity with the large-scale external expansion and influence of the Chinese Han Dynasty. In Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, the Hexi Corridor leading to the Western Regions was controlled and the ways leading to the Western Regions and connecting Eurasia were got through.
The Silk Road
The promotion of trade had made the economic and cultural exchanges between the central plains and the frontier, China and its eastern and western neighbors develop further, thus forming the famous “The Silk Road”. This Road started from Changan, passed Gansu and Xinjiang, went straight west, passed Central Asia and Western Asia, and finally arrived in Europe. Three years of Yuanshuo (the First 126 years), under the westward policy of the Han Martial Emperor, Chinese silk fabric through the Silk Road had continuously transported into Central Asia, Western Asia, and finally arrived in Europe. Extensive silk fabrics of the Han Dynasty unearthed along the way on the Silk Road are material evidence of trade prosperity at that time. Chinese silk production technology spread to Central Asia in this period.
In the Suitang period, the silk industry reached a climax of development. Tang Dynasty was a period of great prosperity to produce silk. No matter production, quality, and variety reached an unprecedented level. Meanwhile, the trade of silk also got enormous development that not only were three passages of the Silk Road increased, but the frequency of trade was also unprecedented.
The silk trade of the Tang Dynasty was so developed and the land silk road preferred to adopt a circuitous road to the north. The Silk Road of the Sea also rose in this period. Silk production through the east China sea line and south China sea line were transported into the Korean Peninsula, Japan, Southeast Asia, India, even spread to Europe by Arab businessmen. The prosperity of the silk trade led to the spread of silk technology. By the 7th century, silk was produced from east of Japan, west of Europe, southwest of India, which basically laid a pattern for silk production areas in the future.
In Song Dynasty, Chinese silk had momentary glory with the development of silk technology. Not only did the design and variety increase apparently, but achieved a big surmount to silkworm production technology and promotion, particularly appearing Song brocade, silk, and gold fabric three characteristics new varieties.
The political situation of cultural communication at home and abroad and unification in the Yuan dynasty promoted silk technology grade. The silk production was divided meticulously and advanced the weaving technology, further improving and consolidating the state of silk production focus. The commercialization trend of silk production in the Ming dynasty was
increasingly distinct, and overseas trade of silk developed rapidly. Suhu area in the south of the Yangtze River had become the primary place of silk production and created a batch of typical professional silk towns while official weaving had increasingly become mature. At this time, Chinese silk production had developed into the most active period.
Many high-value academic works had been published during The Ming dynasty. For example, the Compendium of Materia Medica by Li Shizhen had scientifically classified the variety of mulberry;The Silkworm Chapter of Xu Guangqi’s The Complete Book of Agricultural Administration had a complete discussion of silkworm breeding and mulberry growing; the Heavenly Creation by Song Yingxin was the most significant work of silk production at that time.
After the Mid Ming dynasty, the general mood of society had increasingly trended to be extravagant. Under the operating condition of a commodity economy and professional division of labor, the industry and commerce of the Jiangnan region achieved incalculable prosperity. Silk products entered peripheral countries and areas as a form of reward from the imperial court. Chinese raw silk and silk fabrics were sold in a large quantity to Japan and Europe through the Macao area after the Mid Ming dynasty.
Nowadays, silk is popular all over the world. The pillowcases, sleep masks, clothes made of silk have numerous adorers with its unique features of high-level texture, unmatchable comfort, anti-wrinkle, antibacterial, anti-friction, etc.