China International Silk Forum Part 2
Silk in China, in some ways, seems to be an old man's game. One of the recent major successes has been to determine the genetic sequence of both the silk worm and the mulberry - a project headed by Xiang Zhonghuai Chongqing who is an octogenarian. This and other discoveries, such as the production of yellow, green and red mulberry silk (colour that is actually incorporated in the silk fibre itself) and the development of silk from other sort of silkworms – the tussah, the ricinus and the chestnut - are the result of the work of vast teams of people. Other work has been on how to use all of the silkworm - the cocoon, the pupa, and even the silkworm excreta – as well as all of the mulberry – the fruit as well as the branches after the leaves are gone.
(Poster seen in Chongqing showing varieties of silkworms, silk cocoons, silk moths and eggs)
Yao then reported on various other technical innovations including something called ‘embedded composite spinning technology’. This takes any natural short fibre or any synthetic fibre and allows it to be woven together with silk to produce a material with new properties. There have been other 'quantum leaps' too: silk can now be woven on broader and more sophisticated looms, and the dyeing process is also being greatly improved.
Yao Mu's talk was brief – a series of bullet points – as if he had no time to waste. China’s total textile production has increased hugely in the past few years, he said, mainly due to the increased production of artificial fibre. However, this domination of artificial fibre is unlikely to last for long. It depends on oil and oil is running out. This is why natural fibres such as silk need to be developed: they are renewable, recyclable, and degradable. Silk is a fibre for the future world.