The Silk Road was an ancient trade route network between China and the West. It was established by the Han Dynasty in 130 BC and was active through to the 15th century when the Ottoman Empire cut off trade with the West. The Silk Road began in the modern Xi’an of Shaanxi province (Ancient Chang'an) in north-central China and the road stretched for 4,000 miles. As the name would suggest, it was used by merchants to export silk to Europe and to import wool and gold to the East. The Silk Road still exists in part today as a highway between Pakistan and Xinjiang, and the terminology of ‘Silk Road’ only appeared in the 19th century when it was used by German historian Ferdinand von Richthofen.
Exported from China, silk would become a sought-after material across the Western world and in particular in Rome, Greece and Egypt. The trade route to Greece began between the first and second century B.C and consequently, the ancient Greek word for China is “Seres”, which means “the land of silk”.
The merchandise would travel across the Silk Road in a caravan tract, usually using camels, and then would travel across the Mediterranean Sea to mainland Europe. As well as silk, the trade route would be used to transport tea, porcelain and spices from China to the West. One of the greatest legacies of the Silk Road is its cultural significance, and how it carried not only merchandise but also architecture, science and philosophy between the East and West.
China is synonymous with silk production, and the country had a monopoly on silk for generations, having created the original silk-making process of sericulture over 6,000 years ago. Silk was originally a status symbol, worn only by royalty while commoners were prohibited from wearing it, before it entered more general use, including in household items and even paper.
According to myth, the process of silk farming known as sericulture was created by Lady Xi Ling-shi (西陵氏), the wife of the Yellow Emperor who ruled China around 2,700BC, who started the practice of silkworm farming and created the loom used to make silk from the fibres. The process of silk-making was kept as a closely guarded secret for hundreds of years and is a long process that requires close attention throughout. The practice of sericulture expanded widely across China, with most women being trained in the art of silk production, as well as weaving and embroidery. By 500 BC, at least six provinces in China were producing silk. China held such pride in its silk production that anyone found smuggling silkworm eggs, or teaching the process of sericulture outside of China, could be punished by death.
At SKYLENCE, we are proud to integrate this important piece of Chinese heritage into our clothing and silk is featured in some of our most iconic designs. Our Lily Tea Dress, available in green and purple, invokes the glamour and simplicity of the 1930s and is crafted using floaty crepe silk. The elegant Short-Sleeved Quiaochu EMB Peacock Dress is a modern piece of art which features traditional Chinese motifs and has a white silk bodice for an added touch of heritage. Our ultra-feminine Summer Palace Ruffle Blouse is a workwear essential that is created using luxurious silk with the modern additions of ruffle cuffs and an oversized pussycat bow. For the minimalist, the Han City Vest is a pure silk garment featuring a woven dragon detailing to represent good luck and fortune. Finally, to give our Yanxi Embroidered and Windsor Ming coats a luxurious feel, we have incorporated silk lining into these garments that are inspired by European silhouettes as a nod to the legacy of Chinese silk.