A Silken Tale from the Neolithic Age
By WEN Haoting
In the Neolithic Age, more than 5,000 years ago, people wore animal skins and ate wild fruits, leading a hard life.
Life Cycle of Silkworm (PHOTO: VCG)
There was a tribal girl named Lei Zu. One day, she picked what looked like white fruits from the mulberry tree near her house, but they were too hard to chew. She tried boiling them in hot water, but after a few minutes, the white fruits gradually disappeared, with only the white fruit skins remaining.
Lei found that the white fruit skins were dense enough to block things, and thought, "If I could get more of these skins, I would be able to use that to cover my body instead of using leaves."
Therefore, she took some white caterpillars, as well as some white fruit from the mulberry tree to her house, and amazing things happened. There were little white moths coming out of the white fruits fluttering their wings, then she realized that the white fruits were actually cocoons used to protect the little moths.
Soon the grown white moths laid eggs on the mulberry leaves. Lei saw that egg shells went from light to a darker color, and then little caterpillars emerged from the eggs. She then understood that actually the white caterpillars were larva of the white moths.
From then on, Lei gathered more mulberry leaves to feed the white caterpillars. When some of the grown white caterpillars started to weave cocoons, she tied up some hay and reed stalks modeling the mulberry tree, and the white caterpillars weaved a lot of cocoons on it.
Lei then put all of the white fruits in hot water to separate the skin from the pupas inside. She called it silk reeling.
As she reeled more and more silk, Lei spread them into a thin layer and made it into a silk apron to replace the leaves that covered her body before. The silk apron shone so brightly in the sun that her mother couldn't help praising it.
Under the help of the Yellow Emperor, the skills of silkworm breading and silk reeling were soon widely spread.
Thus, descendants of the Yellow Emperor became the first group of people in the world to master the art of silkworm breeding and silk weaving.
Source: Shanghai Educational Publishing House