Silk Mill

Experience how world famous South China silk is made by visiting a real silk mill.

TravelCurious Tip

Its not just clothes that are made of silk: there are various beauty products too. Try them!

The silkworm feeds on mulberry leaves and produces the silk strands that people weave into garments. The worm undergoes complete metamorphosis in its lifetime: from egg, to larva, to pupa, and finally to moth. China was the first country in the world to recognise their value and raise silkworms to make silks. Tombs over 4,000 years old in China have been discovered that contain jade depictions of silkworms, so raising silkworms is an ancient tradition.

Legend has it that the process was first invented by the wife of the Yellow Emperor, Leizu, around 3000BC. The idea came to her when she was having tea in the imperial gardens and a cocoon fell into her cup. It unravelled and she saw it was actually made from a long thread that was both strong and soft. She then invented the silk loom to combine individual threads into a soft cloth, which could be fashioned into garments.

Much of the process remains the same today, and you can visit silk mills across China to experience it. A tour can show you how the larva hatch from eggs, are fed mulberry leaves for a month until they are plump and spin their cocoons. Then the cocoons are first steamed to kill the developing moth within, before being rinsed in hot water to loosen the threads. The threads are then woven into cloth before being pounded to make it softer.

The process was kept secret by the Chinese was thousands of years, until 550AD when it allegedly became known to other countries after two monks from the Byzantine Empire managed to smuggle silkworm eggs out of the country hidden in their bamboo walking sticks.

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