Monday, September 17, 2012

Legend of Silk (and Tea), and Beijing Silk Factory


Did you know that the legend of silk's discovery is related to tea?

The story goes that Chinese empress Lei-tzu (wife of the Yellow Emperor Huang Di, approx 2697–2597 BC) was enjoying tea in her garden when a silkworm cocoon drifted into her cup.  The hot tea loosened the filament and as she removed it, she realized it was one long strand.  From there, an industry began...

When I toured China last fall, we visited a silk factory in Beijing.
Removing the larvae from the cocoon

Since I enjoy textiles, I found this to be very interesting.  We saw the production process from silkworm cocoon into fabric.  The machine above removes the larvae from the cocoon.  (Wasting nothing, the silkworm larvae become a beer snack, and I brought some home for the DH.)

The cocoons are boiled, allowing the filament to loosen into a strand.  These strands are then woven into fabric (or other methods employed).  Below, we saw how a small piece of what seemed like felted silk was stretched into the size necessary for a comforter.

Stretching the silk into paper-thin layers

Of course, the tour finished at the silk store where comforters, scarves and clothing were artfully displayed.  I found pretty travel jewelry rolls for my mom and sister.  For my niece, I purchased what I thought was a doll dress (but turned out to be a wine bottle topper - oops!  ;-)  I should have come home with the bright scarf, below.  I was really drawn to the bold colors and modern graphic style.

11 comments:

Snap said...

Thank you for sharing snippets from your marvelous trip. Tea and silk ... who knew?!!!!!

relevanttealeaf said...

Oh how interesting, Steph! I didn't realize tea and silk were linked, but I should have known since all wonderful things associate themselves with tea!
;-)

Angela McRae said...

How beautiful, and I did *not* know about the tea and silk connection, so thank you for enlightening me (yet again!).

Steph said...

I should point out that with these very ancient stories, it might be best to label them as legends. What's real and what's not is very hard to deduce.

Karen said...

What a great story/legend about tea and silk! It must have been quite fascinating visiting the silk factory, thanks for sharing.

Tea in England said...

How very interesting, Stephanie - and glad you reminded us about the stuff of legends. Just earlier this afternoon I read that if she was not satisfied with the quality of her tea, Queen Victoria would throw her teacup across the room! Now REALLY ... I just can't imagine that is true!

Thank you for teaching me something new about tea. x

Marilyn said...

I have always had a weakness for silk and would have loved visiting the silk factory. What a treat for you to do this and to learn the story too. I don't think I remember ever hearing that story in relationship to tea. I still have a piece of silk my husband brought back from China over 25 years ago. I need to do something with it one of these days.

Ginger said...

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Naren said...

Oh, great good information.. thank you.

bram said...

Good memories return. I visited that place (probably the same) I couple of years ago.

Did not remember the tea story though, but I might have been distracted by the machines.

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