Silk Production in Uzbekistan

Rachel Allen

25th November 2017 • Featured, Meet The Locals, Our Films

A film showing tradition methods of silk production are still alive and well in the heart of the old Silk Road.

The History of Silk

Legend has it that a Chinese princess discovered silk in the 4th millennia BC when a silk worm cocoon fell out of a mulberry tree into her tea. Pulling it out she noticed the multiple threads disentangle for the sheath and decided to spin it into a fine yarn. And from that yarn she wove the fabric we now call silk.

Silk remain the preserve of the Chinese until the early days of the Silk Road. In 125BC the Chinese armies were having a hard time on the empires western flank. Out manoeuvred by the better horses of a marauding tribe known as the White Hun – early Mongolian warriors – emperor Han Wadi dispatched an emissary to the Ferghana Valley, in modern day Uzbekistan, to find the legendary horses that were said to reside there.


The Silk Road

Known as Heavenly Horses, these giant steeds were renowned for the speed and stamina, and were therefore far better suited to the rigours of warfare than the inferior Chinese steppe pony. Although it took some 10 years, the emissary, Zhang Qain, did eventually trade the horses for the precious silk, took the horses back to Xi’an, and so the Silk Road was born.

These horses, known today as Akhal Tekes, can still be found in Turkmenistan and make up one third of the British thoroughbred. And silk is of course still considered the finest material known to man.  Although now produced all over the world, silk remains a fundamental part of Central Asia culture and dress.

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