It is a consensus view that silk fabric was invented by Chinese, but the opinions are divided as to since when Chinese started to produce silk.
Some researchers believe it began since the age of Fuxi (伏羲), which was during the Paleolithic age, and others consider it must be during the time when Yellow Emperor reigned, which was the period of Neolithic.
In an earlier excavation in 1958 at Wuxing Qianshanyang archaeological site, also in Zhejiang, silk fabric and silk threads made more than 5,000 years ago were unearthed.
According to the Book of Documents (尚书), one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature, as early as 2,700 BC, it was made into the law for certain garments worn on certain occasions to be made with embroidered silk fabric (衣画而裳绣).
In 1972 during the Cultural Revolution, a golden age of Chinese archaeological discovery and research, a Han Dynasty tomb known as Mawangdui in Hunan Province was excavated. Among the cultural relics unearthed, there are embroidered silk clothes and fabric.
This is a piece of silk fabric unearthed from Mawangdui embroidered with images of swallows (a common migratory bird in China) and flowering plants, which indicate the promised return of spring, thus the embroidery design is named Promise Message (信期绣).
This is a 2,000-year-old Chinese perfume bag made with silk fabric embroidered Promise Message pattern, unearthed from Mawangdui tomb.
This is a piece of silk fabric unearthed from Mawangdui embroidered with a design called Longevity, which uses coloured silk threads to illustrate the profiles of dragons among the rolling clouds.
In Chinese mythology, the Chinese dragon (Looog) is the guild on the path to immortality.
A close look at the Longevity embroidery design.
This is a piece of silk fabric called Cloud Rider, which uses coloured silk threads to illustrate the profiles of Pheonix and images of clouds.
The rhombus-shaped patterns with a black round dot in the middle represent the phoenix’s eyes. In Chinese mythology, phoenixes only appear when peace is about to grace the land.
A close look at the Cloud Rider embroidery design.
While most embroidery works discovered in Mawangdui employ classic Chain Stitches, this one utilises running stitches to create a sharp end of the plants. Running stitch is more commonly used today.
This is a piece of embroidered silk fabric that uses Single Chain Stitch to create a Chess Board pattern. Also unearthed from Mawangdui.
A 2,300-year-old woven silk garment, unearthed from a Warring States Period burial site.
A 3,000-year-old Chinese silk woven garment unearthed from a West Zhou burial site.