Part of the Traveling the Silk Road exhibition.

The Secret of Silk

The secret of silk, carefully guarded for centuries, brought wealth and prestige to Chinese empires. Legend has it has almost 5,000 years ago, a Chinese empress named Xi Ling was drinking tea in her garden when a small cocoon dropped from the branches of a mulberry tree into her cup. As she fished it out, the cocoon unwound into a single shimmering silk strand. Mesmerized by the thread, the empress gathered more cocoons, plunged them in hot water, unraveled the strands and wove the world's first silk cloth.

A painting of ten Chinese women in different areas of a large room, working with thread and fabric.