Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Sometimes our minds wander to inane thoughts and we wonder about them, but rarely take the time to check the origins or history of the thought in question.

I don't know why, but I was thinking about silk the other day. It's genesis was probably a new silk tie I bought. I wondered about how humankind and a little worm could produce such beauty.

So I did some research. To wit:

A long time ago someone discovered that the tiny threads of a silkworm cocoon, two to three thousand feet long, could be unraveled and then twisted into strands of fiber. Who it was has been lost in history, but there are legends.

Going back to three-thousand BC, the Chinese say silk culture or sericulture was discovered by Hsi-Ling-Chi, the 14 year old wife of the mythological Emperor Huang-Ti. For centuries the Chinese only allowed nobility to wear silk and they regarded the art of making it as top secret.

It wasn't until 552 AD that two Persian monks, who had lived in China, stole the secret and brought it to Constantinople. They hid silkworm eggs and their prime source of food, Mulberry seeds, inside hollowed out bamboo canes. The silkworm thrives mainly on the leaves of the Mulberry tree.

Under the emperor Justinian I, the city of Constantinople became the occidental center of raw silk production. The Greeks, Syrians and the Arabs then learned the silk art in that famed city.

Many attempts have been made to introduce silk culture into the United States. The first U.S. silk-weaving mill was built in 1810 and in the 1830's, Patterson, New Jersey, called itself "The silk City of the World", but an American domestic silk industry failed. The mulberry trees needed to feed the worms didn't grow well in the North American climate.

Maybe tomorrow I'll think of contentious elitists or congress. Whoops, I guess that's redundant.

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