Sericulture and silk craftsmanship of China

Updated: Jun 14, 2019 ich.unesco.org Print
A female silkworm farmer is reeling the Tsatlee raw silk in Cong’an village, Tongxiang of Jiaxing city, Zhejiang province. Tsatlee raw silk is the most famous silk made in China on the international market in the second half of the 19th century. [Photo/China National Silk Museum]
Two weavers at the Chengdu Shu Silk Institute in Sichuan province are weaving Shu silk. The silk is produced on greater draw looms, and through cooperation between the drawer sitting atop the platform and the weaver sitting at the loom below treadles. [Photo/China National Silk Museum]

Sericulture and silk craftsmanship of China, based in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces near Shanghai and Chengdu in Sichuan province, have an ancient history. Traditionally an important role for women in the economy of rural regions, silk-making encompasses planting mulberry, raising silkworms, unreeling silk, making thread, and designing and weaving fabric. It has been handed down within families and through apprenticeship, with techniques often spreading within local groups. The life cycle of the silkworm was seen as representing the life, death and rebirth of human beings. In the ponds that dot the villages, silkworm waste is fed to fishes, while mud from the ponds fertilizes the mulberry trees, and the leaves in turn feed the silkworms. Near the beginning of the lunar year, silkworm farmers invite artisans into their homes to perform the story of the Goddess of the Silkworm, to ward off evil and ensure a bountiful harvest. Every April, female silkworm farmers adorn themselves with colourful flowers made of silk or paper and make harvest offerings as part of the Silkworm Flower festival. Silk touches the lives of rural Chinese in more material ways, too, in the form of the silk clothes, quilts, umbrellas, fans and flowers that punctuate everyday life.

(Quoted from the entry of UNESCO Intangible Heritage List)

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