Saturday, November 14, 2009

China International Silk Forum Part 2

YAO Mu is an academician of China Academy of Engineering and an honorary chancellor of Xi’an University of Science and Technology, and is quite elderly. In China age is revered so the audience listened quietly (instead of talking throughout as they did with younger speakers), and there was a polite applause and some not-too-arduous questions when he'd finished. Later, when I encountered him standing by a table at the banquet, he nodded and indicated that I should sit (but unfortunately I was in the process of doing so already - displaying an embarrassing lapse of etiquette).

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.


Blogger Nora Lumiere said...

I was hoping you’d write about silk. I love silk, the feel of it, the sheen of it, the amazing process of getting it. Didn’t know there were different worms that made different colored silk and always wondered how/why they got so specialized.
Such a good point that silk is sustainable, applause totally warranted.
Down with polyester, nothing but silk (and cotton, love cotton) from now on. Silk backpacks, silk shoes, silk sheets, silk cargo pants.

Sat Nov 14, 07:52:00 pm  
Blogger Nora Lumiere said...

Specialised on mulberry leaves, that is.

Sat Nov 14, 07:53:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ha. another silk fan! I agree completely! Thank you Nora - I've been spending some time investigating silk and finding it fascinating - the silk-making process and the material itself.

Sun Nov 15, 10:50:00 am  
Blogger Daisy Hugon said...

My childhood bed. I used to pretend that my bad was a recreation vehicle and the pillow was a steering wheel. My dreams took me on the best adventures.

Mon Jun 02, 10:40:00 pm  

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