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leaving only variability in color as a barrier to creating a commercial silk industry based on wild silks in the parts of the world where wild silk moths thrive, such as in Africa and South America.Genetic modification of domesticated silkworms is used to facilitate the production of more useful types of silk.Silk is described in a chapter on mulberry planting by Si Shengzhi of the Western Han (206 BC – 9 AD).
The Emperors of China strove to keep knowledge of sericulture secret to maintain the Chinese monopoly.
Silk is produced by several insects, like silk worms but generally only the silk of moth caterpillars has been used for textile manufacturing.
There has been some research into other types of silk, which differ at the molecular level.
Several kinds of wild silk, which are produced by caterpillars other than the mulberry silkworm, have been known and used in China, South Asia, and Europe since ancient times.
However, the scale of production was always far smaller than for cultivated silks.
Because of its texture and lustre, silk rapidly became a popular luxury fabric in the many areas accessible to Chinese merchants.