The origins of silk are foggy. Lei-Tsu was the very young wife of the Yellow Emperor whose reign lasted from 2697 till 2597 BC.
During his reign he taught hunters how to grow cereals and he introduced into society the taming of animals and clothing. They say that the ruler, precisely regarding this latter invention, got a considerable contribution of his wife Lei-Tsu. The odd legend tells that Lei-Tsu was having tea in the garden when a worm’s cocoon fell into her golden cup. Lei-Tsu, who was annoyed by that, grabbed the cocoon to remove it from her cup, but, also due to the heat of the drink, it started to unfold, meter by meter, untill it covered the whole garden.
At this moment Lei-Tsu observed the cocoon better and was able to distinguish its sheen and strength. She understood at once that that mysterious thread could be woven and worn. She removed the cocoon and noticed that a worm was hidden within it. That worm ate the leaves of the mulberry tree growing in the castle garden. Instead of getting rid of the other worms, she thus asked her husband permission to plant mulberry trees in order to grow silkworms.
With this move Lei-Tsu not only became the discoverer of silk, but above all the first sericulturist as well as the genuine inventor of silk looms. Indeed, on top of that, she started to teach the young women at the court how to spin the silkworm’s cocoon. These discoveries were so important that the emperor’s wife made it into the pantheon of the Chinese deities being called “Silkworm Mother”, which is Can Nai Nai in Chinese.
This discovery was the beginning of a tradition that for thousands of years provided China with a real monopoly.
One day, however, another princess decided to take this precious fabric out of the country, but that’s another beautiful story…