Silk : queen of fibres – The concise story

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Apichart Sonthisombat
Peter Speakman


Most historians agree that silk and sericulture—the cultivation of silkworms – had their origin in china nearly 2500 BC when the Empress Si-Ling-Chi, a queen of the famous Emperor Huang-Ti, learned how to rear the silkworms and unwind their cocoons to produce fine filament fibres. After finding this knowledge, china kept it as a secret and held a monopoly in the silk industry for nearly 4,000 years. After this period, sericulture spread 10 Korea and Japan [1,2] and it also spread around the world. Details about silk history and sericulture can be found in references 3 to 7.

                Silk, called the ‘Queen of fibres’s, is a continuous protein fibre produced by  the silkworm so as to form its cocoon[8]. The silk fibre is also produced by some spiders belonging to the Arachnida family [1,9,10]. Unlike the silkworms’fibre, the spiders’ fibre cannot be commercially produced, and therefore, the silk fibre referred to in this work is the fibre coming from the silkworm.

                The silk fibre is a natural animal fibre. Unlike wool, silk contains a very small amount of a sulphur [11]. There are two main types of the silk worms:  mulberry silk (Bombyx mori), also called ‘cultivated silk’, and ‘wild silk’ of which Tussah silk is the most important representative. Mulberry silk is produced by silkworm larvae cultivated in provided habitats and fed with fleshy picked mulberry leaves. Cultivated silk is different from Tussah silk—native…


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Sonthisombat, A., & Speakman, P. (2003). Silk : queen of fibres – The concise story. Journal of Engineering, RMUTT, 4, 84–97. Retrieved from
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