The legend of the silk discovery is narrated in China in the following way:
More than 4000 years ago at the royal court of the chinese Emperor.
One young concubine, named Lei Tsu, takes the cocoon of some worms, which she finds on the mulberry tree and starts playing around with them. In her playfulness the young concubine drops the cocoon in a pot full of boiled water. As she tries to get the cocoon out of the hot water, she discovers that a long yarn can be extracted from the cocoon, when they are in the boiled water. For her astonishment the yarn is not just long but also very beautiful and strong.
With her newly earned knowledge the young concubine decides to weave a colorful dress for the chinese Emperor, who is very impressed by the grace and beauty of his new dress. From there on the silk production started and came to big fame all around the world for the color and smoothness of its weavings.
This is the most famous legend about the discovery of silk. However it is not the only one and in retrospect it is difficult to say how true this story really is.
But one thing is for sure. The silk, which is described as the smoothest and most colorful textile known to mankind, was in the early stages of the silk production only worn by the royal courtyard of the chinese Emperor.
After some time silk was also used as diplomatic gifts and to bribe nomadic tribes who threaten the chinese Empire.
The knowledge of the silk production was a well kept secret in the chinese Empire. The export of silk worms or mulberry cuttings was strictly forbidden and smuggling those secrets was punished by death sentence.
Finally all those efforts had an end, when a chinese princess smuggled mulberry cuttings and the silk worm to Khotan (today Afghanistan) in 140 BC, because she had to marry and emigrate from China and could not image a life without silk.
From there the secret of the silk production made it to India and one century later to Korea, Japan and Thailand.
A new theory questions that Thailand had to gather the silk secret from other countries. It argues that silk was cultivated by the mysterious people of Ban Chiang in northeastern Thailand 5000 years ago. This theory is based on archaeological findings, which discovered unweaven rests of silk on a plateau that was once settled by the people of Ban Chiang.
But this is just a theory and based on signs without clear evidence. However the silk weaving is still a trade mainly practiced in the northeast of Thailand. From those villages in the northeast thai silk came to world fame in the 1960īs.