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Chinese Silk(part two)

Chinese Silk


Silk was highly sought after in Rome. in part due to its mysterious origins. but even more because of its exceptional quality. It was the first trade commodity to travel from China to the West. Like the scarlet fabric and glasswares also popular in Rome. silk was a luxury product. It was first used as decorative trim. then for cushion covers. and only much later for clothing. More supple. tough. and comfortable than flax or woolen fabrics. silk was popular with both men and women.

 Development of Chinese Silk

According to archeological evidence. silk and silk fabric emerged in China at least 5.500 years ago. The cultivation of the silkworm can be traced back to the third century BC. It was said that the demigod Leizu. a legendary figure of prehistoric China. was the first to plant mulberries and raise silkworms.

During the Zhou Dynasty (11th century-256BC). a special administration was set up to manage sericulture (silkworm breeding) and silk production. The famous Silk Road to the Middle East and Europe started under Zhang Qian . Under imperial order. he started his diplomatic mission to the West from 138 BC to 126 BC. Gradually. sericulture and silk production techniques spread to other countries. Chinese silk was highly prized among the wealthy of the ancient Roman Empire. Today. Chinese silk still enjoys its reputation for high quality throughout the world.

The business of raising silkworms and unwinding cocoons is now known as silk culture or sericulture. It takes an average of 25-28 days for a silkworm. which is no bigger than an ant. to grow old enough to spin a cocoon. Next. farmers (usually female) will pick them up and place them one by one onto piles of straws. Then each silkworm. with its legs stretched out. will attach itself to the straw and begin to spin.

The next step is unwinding the cocoons. a process that is usually done by ``reeling`` women. The cocoons are heated to kill the pupae. which must be done at the right time; otherwise. the pupas are bound to turn into moths. (Moths make a hole in the cocoon. an event that makes reeling useless.) 

To unwind the cocoons. first they are put into a basin filled with hot water. Then the reeling women find the loose end of the cocoons. and then twist them. Afterwards. the women carry the cocoons to a small wheel for unwinding. At last. two workers measure them into a certain length and twist them into so-called ``raw`` silk. which then are dyed and woven into cloth.



An interesting fact is that about 1.000 meters of can be unwound from one cocoon. while 111 cocoons are needed for a man`s tie. and 630 cocoons are needed for a woman`s blouse.

 The making of silk

The making of silk generally refers to the process of dividing raw silk from cocoons into strands horizontally and vertically. before weaving them together into pieces of fabric.

The actual manufacture processes of various silks vary. but can be generally categorized into two types: sheng zhi and shu zi.

In the sheng zhi process. weavers weave the raw silk into fabrics first. and then scour (clean) and bleach the fabrics. This process. which has lower costs and a shorter process. is currently the major way of making silk.

In the shu zhi method. weavers scour and bleach the longitude and latitude silks from cocoons first before actually weaving them. The woven products no longer need further processing and can be directly used. The method is usually used to produce advanced silk fabrics like brocade. 

Before the silk is woven. a lot preparations need to be done beforehand. like soaking the raw silk to soften the product. Meanwhile. as silk is very apt to absorb moisture. to make the silk damp-proof is very important before the weaving.

In terms of the silk pattern. the weaving methods can be generally divided into the common and jacquard methods. The former refers to the flat silk fabrics that have no weaved patterns. while the latter refers to the fabrics that are usually done by a jacquard loom (a loom that is mechanized to weave specific patterns).

When the silk fabrics are ready. the next step is the dyeing process (which is crucial in the whole procedure of making colorful and beautiful silk). With the dyeing technologies. the raw silk can be turned into flawless silk with patterns and colors to people`s desire.

In ancient China. once the cloth had been weaved. embroidery was used to give the cloth its delicate. often brilliant patterns. The Four Renowned Embroideries of China were regional in their origin: Su embroidery originated from East China`s Jiangsu Province; Yue embroidery originated from South China`s Guangdong Province; Xiang embroidery originated from Central China`s Hunan Province; and Shu embroidery originated from Southwest China`s Sichuan Province .

UPDATE[ 2007-9-14 ]    HIT[ 2855 ]
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