There are many legends of the origin of silk, but this story from the American Museum of Natural History is my favorite .
Empress Xi-Ling, was drinking hot tea under the mulberry bush when a cocoon dropped into her tea cup. When she attempted to pick it out of her cup, a strand began unraveling from the cocoon. This accidental incident was the birth of silk.
Silk has over a 4,000 year old history in China. Most of us have learned about how the West had a great desire of this luxurious textile which led to the development of the Silk Road, the trade routes between China and the West. Growing up in Tokyo and traveling in the East, there are opportunities to observe the sericulture process. I found the sight of all those worms made me squeamish, but to see it transform into the beautiful, white cocoons resembling tiny eggs are really nature’s wonder. Here is a video from Unesco: Sericualture and Silk Craftsmanship of China.
Traditional arts and crafts are interwoven in culture and traditions, often shaping and influencing our communities in more ways than we can imagine. Unfortunately, many of these arts are slowly dying as interest continues to diminish. It just breaks my heart to think that we are losing some of these traditions with so much history. Yet, there is still hope. Sometimes, a few special people recognize these precious arts must be preserved and they have the inspiration and foresight to revive and re-invent these special crafts.
One of these persons is Christopher Leung, founder of Art of Silk. During a trip to Suzhou, China, Christopher first came across the traditional 2,500 year old Chinese art of silk embroidery. Hand sewn silk threads are stitched one by one to create intricate and elaborate Asian images. Of course, this process is extremely time consuming and expensive, making these works unaffordable to most. He wished to make this beautiful art form available to everyone, not only the wealthy. His efforts have finally paid off with the creation of the Art of Silk. With the use of modern technology, the Art of Silk now produces embroidery art at an affordable price using the best materials without compromising the design. To learn more about the Art of Silk, please visit their website: Art of Silk
Here are a few samples of their new products:
In Asia, symbolism plays a large role in our culture. Images have intentions and meanings. In the practice of feng shui, we say that what we hang on our walls or display on our shelves are not only visually pleasing to us, they carry information. Therefore, it’s important to use careful thought of what we use to decorate our space.
Here is an Art of Silk embroidery of a water chestnut vase depicting an image of a dragon. Not only do we appreciate the aesthetics of the intricate workmanship and colors, we think about the information in the image. In Chinese, vase is pronounced “ping” and its homonym means “safety” and “peace”. The dragon is an auspicious celestial creature, representing good fortune. So, when we hang such an image, we hope for peace, safety, and good fortune.
For myself, it’s so wonderful to know that the ancient Chinese art form of silk embroidery has taken a new life and will not be forgotten. Furthermore, by combining this with Asian symbolism, it is a wonderful way to bring good chi energy to your environment!