Chinese silk has a legendary history of thousands of years.

In the Sichuan area silk production is believed to be invented or started by Cancong, legendary ruler of Shu kingdom (Chengdu region of Sichuan), and Shu brocade silk is recorded in history since at least the Warring States Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC).

After the Qin dynasty united China, Shu brocade continued and gained in importance.  Chengdu became the start of the southern Silk Road exporting silk to the Roman empire and others.

The Romans were so concerned about the economic impact of Roman silver being send to China in exchange for silk that they unsuccessfully attempted to ban silk.

On the Chinese side, silk production became a national secret, kept for 1,000 years, with death penalty imposed for anyone breaking it!    Silk became part of official uniforms, the emperor appointed a special brocade officer in Chengdu to supervise the industry, and since at least the Song Dynasty an imperial Shu brocade workshop was established to provide for the court and gifts for distinguished royal guests.

If you have the chance to visit the Chengdu area, the Sichuan Silk Museum is not far from the Giant Panda Breeding Research base.

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Comments: 3

  1. […] The Shu kingdom was taken over when the Qin dynasty united China over 2,000 years ago, and is now part of the Sichuan area around Chengdu. The Shu name and silk making tradition still survives and is used most famously for Shu brocade silk. […]

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