On October 5, 1956, a movie was made in color, at a cost of $13 million called “The Ten Commandments” with the main stars being Charleston Heston as Moses, Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Seti I, Yul Brynner as Ramses II, Anne Baxter as Nefertari,and Yvonne DeCarlo as Sephora. In one segment. the Pharaoh of Egypt, Seti I, receives a gift from one of the many visiting diplomats from foreign lands. He gives the Pharaoh a gift of a long, bright, beautifully made red silk cloak, claiming it is a gift of the gods that has no thread seems.
Specimens of ancient Chinese silk; recognizable from the high level of Chinese sophistication weaving techniques only possessed by the Chinese from the Shang Dynasty (circa 1600 BC to 1046 BCE) were found in the Valley of the Egyptian Kings in a tomb dating from 1070 BC during the death of Pharaoh Ramses XI. This period in Egyptian history ended the New Kingdom and was eventually followed by the what is considered the Late Period.
This occurrence would be with Menmautre Seti I; a Pharaoh of the New Kingdom Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, the Son of Ramses I and Sitre, and the father of Ramses II. Pharaoh Seti I was born in 1323 BC and died in 1279 BC. In fact, silk was given by high government officials to Egyptian royalty in ancient times. It is believed that early land and sea trade routes coined “The Silk Road“, by German explorer Baron Ferdinand von Ricthofen in 1877 connected several countries within Europe, notably Italy with Japan, China and the orient for thousands of years. Many land routes were often poor roads some traversing great mountains difficult to travel, plagued by thieving bandits and hostile tribes.
Voyage by sea was another uncertainty too; storms, primitive ship construction and even pirates. However the trade industry was a prosperous one that include silk, cotton, tea, jade, porcelain, ivory, gold, silver and horses. Egypt is not widely known for trade with China as the ancient Romans, but the discovery of Chinese silk from the days of the Great Pharaoh’s is a certainty.
When silk fabric was invented by the Chinese, it was a great secret; punishable by death if revealed. For thousands of years, China’s mystery was protected until Chinese silk producers were threatened to “die a thousand deaths” (slow, torturous painful death) by armed men if they did not talk.
Silk comes from worms: silk worms. The silk worm is the larva or caterpillar of a silk moth. Silk worms are found on mulberry tree leaves, which they eat. For some reason the worms only eat mulberry leaves. The white mulberry is native to China. The silk is a natural protein fiber. Silk worms will start to pupate in cocoons they have made. Silk hunters pluck the cocoons off the tree, put the cocoons in boiling, hot water which dissolves them. Then, individual long silk fibers are extracted and sewed into silk fabrics. Silk production involves killing the silkworms. Roughly 3,000 are killed to make a single pound of silk. Silk is a delicate, stringy substance. It is carefully gathered and wounded up tightly so that it is strong enough to make clothes. The process is expensive and silkworms are rare and hard to find.
According to ancient Chinese legend, the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi who was regarded as a deity and his wife, Emperoress Hsi (Xi ) Ling Shi, were having tea. Silk threads where accidentally discovered when a silkworm cocoon dropped into the teacup of Emperoress Shi. She found the cocoon unraveled to yield about 3,300 feet (1 Kilometer) of thread. The Yellow Emperor was born in 2712 BC, Shou Qinu and died 2599 BC. giving us a clue on how long silk has been produced in China.
Likewise in old Neolithic India, within the Indus Valley Civilization, there was some type of silk production utilizing the Antheraea moth. The discovery of certain stone age tools have been found for silk producing. However, historians claim there were various problems, particularly in the weaving process and their silk was highly inferior.
The ancient Chinese learned how to conquer these obstacles and produce beautiful; highly professionally; extremely skillfully made silk items on a extraordinary scale.