• Document: SERICULTURE AND SILK INDUSTRY
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86 CHAPTER - IV SERICULTURE AND SILK INDUSTRY - Global, National and Regional Scenario 4.1. History Though the Chinese sources say that Fo-xi, the first emperor of China as the first person to introduce mulberry cultivation, silkworm rearing, it is Si-ling-chi, the wife of the emperor Hoang-ti who has been considered as the Lady of the Silkworms.1 The great prince, Hoang-ti, directed his wife, Si-ling-chi, to examine the silkworm and test the practicability of using the thread. Thereafter, Si-ling-chi discovered not only the means of raising silkworms, but also the manner of reeling the silk, and of employing it to make garments. Si-ling-chi was later deified for her work and honored with the name Seine-Than, or "The Goddess of Silkworms". Sericulture during the following centuries spread through China and silk became a precious commodity highly sought by other countries. The reign of the emperor Hoang-ti dates back to 2677 – 2597 BC and it is observed that sericulture was already a long-established profession. According to Chinese records, the discovery of silk production from Bombyx mori occurred about 2700 B.C. There are many varieties of silks found around the world and are known by different names. In India, all the four types of major silkworms are reared. While the mulberry silkworms (Bombyx mori) are domestically raised, the others are wild varieties. The mulberry silkworm produces the thread or filament which is smoother, fine and round shaped than any other type of silkworms. This round filament of mulberry silkworm can be reeled into a long and continuous thread which is relatively stronger. The silk producing mulberry silkworm transforms to a moth which can not fly on its own, but produces eggs for the next generation of silkworms. Hence the cycle goes on perpetuating the whole process of silk production. 1 Geetha, P.G. (2007) Reshme Ugama, Belavanige–Ithihaasada Putagalinda, In Suvarna Reshme, Smarana Sanchike-1956-57 to 2006-07 (Kannada), Department of Sericulture, Government of Karnataka, Bangalore, pp.1-8 87 With the Chinese domination of the silkworm Bombyx mori, the subsequent story moved through a very interesting path across civilizations in the past. The Chinese zealously guarded the secret of production of silk for about 3000 years and traded silk besides spices and rare treasures along the world's longest trade route called “Silk Road”, which stretched from the Eastern China to the Mediterranean Sea (Map – 4.I). Richthofen in the nineteenth century referred to ancient trade routes over land and water. Along these routes, goods passed through east to west had mainly one important commercial trade stuff: the silk. Silk was proclaimed as sumptuous, royal, heavenly, exotic, sensual material from the east. The qualities of silk are unrivalled by any other fibre or fabric, and any comparison to silk is flattering to be compared. During the sixth century BC, Greek traders settled around the Black Sea and in Asia Minor and carried silk to the Mediterranean region. The silk probably could have been transported via Yarkand on the Silk Road to reach Greek traders at the mouth of the Indus, from where ships carried it, with goods including silk from India, to the markets of Mediterranean and the dyers of Phoenicia.2 The Chinese emigrants smuggled silk cultivation to Korea from where the silkworm was taken to Japan between 200 B.C. and 300 A.D.3 Japan eventually became the top producer of silk. Map 4.I.: Silk Route 2 Geetha, P.G. (2007) Op. Cit. pp.1-8 3 Furusawa, T. (1997) The History of Sericulture in Japan – The Old and Innovative Technique for Industry, Report, Center for Bioresource Field Science, Kyoto Institute of Technology, Japan, p.5. 88 Silk is a natural fibre and hence it breathes and conducts moisture away from the body. Its isothermal properties make it cool in summer and warm in winter. The cloth’s absorbency helps in dyeing with any colour, thus obtaining infinite shades, designs and finishes. The applications of silk are many including the furnishings, costumes, embroideries etc., making it a desired material in fashion designing. Silk is also used as a ground material for painting and printing. In order to satisfy the demands of the fashion world, the history tells us that there are many weavers, artists and technicians who have worked on silk. As per the historical events, though the silk traveled towards west, the Silk Road is generally referred to as having been ‘opened’ in the second century BC during the time of Romans and the reign of the Han emperor Wu. Wu’s ambassadors traveled as far west as Persia and Meso

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