ABSTRACT This paper discusses on the life cycle of the silkworm, two main types of silk. It also shows how silk is associated with ancient Chinese culture for clothing, writing on silk and Silk Road. Silk was very important in ancient Chinese culture as it brought a lot of improvements to the Chinese more especially through the Silk Roads which brought beneficial effects to the people living along the Silk Road which spread to all people. Keywords: Silkworm, Silk, Culture, Silk Road.
INTRODUCTIONSilk is strong materials composed of thin and a continuous strand called fibers that was discovered by man and acquired from plants which is produced by silkworms. The mostly known silk is known as mulberry silkworm. It discharges the fluid state as single filament by a caterpillar known as silkworm which is used for spinning of silk, Silk has only four stages in its whole life which include eggs, silkworm larvae, pupa and moth but man interferes in its life cycle to make more silk within a short period that is used for various purposes such as commercial goals.
THE LIFE CYCLE OF SILKWORMThe life cycle of silkworms begins when the female moth lays eggs and after some days each egg becomes a silkworm larva that eats mulberry plants and grows bigger the larva spins a cocoon of silk threads around itself inside the cocoon the larva changes into a pupa, and the pupa changes into a moth, the moth comes out of the cocoon then the adult moths mate with each other, and the life circle begins again.The large number of silk comes from a deliberate production process, known as sericulture that extends over all stages of production, in the sericulture the life cycle of silkworms depends on temperature, the higher the temperature the higher the life cycle of silkworms will be reduced and many silks will be produced in accordance to the care that is given to them. TYPES OF SILKThere are mainly two types of silk which includes mulberry and non-mulberry silk. Mulberry silk is mostly used in silk production because of its availability .other types that don’t feed on mulberry leaves are known as non-mulberry silks.Mulberry silk: This type of silk is produced by the Bombyx mori silkworms which are fed from the mulberry plant thus its name, the silk threads produced by Bombyx Mori silkworms is white or yellowish. Mulberry silk is the most essential and contributes as much as 90 percent of world productionNon- Mulberry silk: It include all other types of silks that are solely not fed on the mulberry plants, the most known economically Non-mulberry silk include Tasar silk produced by the worm called Tasar silk in which the silk threads are brown colored It is mostly found in India, China and Sri Lanka, Eric silk this type of silk mainly feeds on castor plants to produce a white or brick-red silk popularly known as Eri silk, Muga silk this type of silk produces golden-yellow silk thread which is very attractive and strong.Figure 01: Different types of silkSILK IN ANCIENT CHINESE CULTURESilk is one of the developments in ancient China that brought a lot of contributions to the development of China. In ancient times, Chinese used silk in many ways such as decorations, clothing and it was even used as currency and a reward. Silk became very important and due to that silk factories were established for more silk production and due to that it was traded to other countries for more advantages.Silk Road The Silk Road was an ancient trading route) that came about during the Han Dynasty (207 BCE”220 CE) when the silk production had reached high technical level. The Han dynasty expanded the Central Asian section of the trade routes around 114 BCE through the research and operation of the Chinese imperial envoy Zhang Qian as directed by the Emperor. Silk road consist of both the land Silk Route divided into three main routes in the territory of China (North Route of Tianshan Mountain, North Route of Western China and South Route of Western China) and Marine Silk Route with three main navigations of the Maritime Silk Route (East Route from China to Korea and Japan, South Route from China to Southeast Asia, West Route from China to South Asia, Arabia and East African coastal countries). Silk Road was essential in Chinese culture because Economically, It helped china in trading with the west, east and Europe, and due to that the Chinese were able to trade their goods and made money hence economic development to the Chinese and due to that different technologies were introduced such as gun powder, paper making and many other.Culturally, it introduced more cultures to the people living along the Silk Road and later it extended to other people that are not living near the Silk Road. Some cultures that were introduced through Silk Road include dancing, the ways of dressing and many art works.Socially, new ways to communicate to the people were brought whereby various languages were introduced in the process of making the trade effective and different belief were brought forward through the Silk Road which include Islam, Buddhism and Christianity.Silk Clothing China is the first nation that recognised silk production. The idea of silk arose from the queen named Leizu around the year 2696 BC the wife of Yellow Emperor who was having her tea under the mulberry tree, when a cocoon suddenly fell into her hot tea from the mulberry plant and unraveled producing silk threads around itself that when she discovered that the cocoon was made of long threads that were both soft and strong Leizu then discovered how to combine the silk fibers into a thread and hence the disclosure of silk. The wealthy and the poor dressed quite differently, the people of higher status like high ranking officials; member of the emperors’ court wore clothes made of silk. The silk cloth was valued in Ancient china, wearing silk was an important status symbol and due to that only the noble class were allowed to use silk cloth. Merchants and peasants were not allowed to wear silk, it was even used as money during some Ancient Chinese dynasties.Silk was used to make clothing which was valued in ancient Chinese culture, the wealthy and the poor dressed quite differently, the people of higher status wore clothes made of silk and the lower class were not allowed to wear silk, later silk spread through Chinese culture and then to many countries around the world were able to wear silk clothes.Silk as Writing Materialin ancient China silk was considered as writing material, from the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.) silk was much lighter and could be cut in desired shapes and sizes and be folded easily, the better to be kept and carried than other previous writing materials such as wood slips and bamboo though it was very expensive. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 B. C),it was normal to weave the lines into plain white silk to be used exclusively for writings which were mainly for educational purposes and handing down knowledge to the future generations.First the Chinese were writing on wooden plates which were very heavy to carry and not comfortable and it was also very cheap compared to other writing materials in ancient china because of its availability in all most all parts of china and it was sized according to the need it depended on how long the writings had to be, then later on they started writing on silks which was more useful than wooden plates and after using silk for some time Chinese invented paper which was less expensive than silk.