Silk production was one of the central sources of income in dynastic China, and the means of choice to prevent wars and maintain peace with its neighbors. Scholar officials traditionally occupied themselves intensively with the study of the silk worm, which was seen as a model organism of the world. Around the time of the millennium, however, an almost unnoticed shift took place and the topics of spinning and weaving moved into the foreground and became the focus of written discussions. This contribution illustrates the role of silk in nature and daily life in China between the 12th and 14th century and investigates how the silk worm faded from scholar’s thoughts as silk threads gained significance.
This talk and accompanying lunch workshop on March 31st is co-sponsored by Professor Benjamin Elman's Mellon Achievement Grant and the Program of History of Science at Princeton University.