Thousand Years of Vietnamese Silk – The Identity of East Asian Ethnic

Danh Mục

1. Origin of Vietnamese Silk

1.1 Origin

Silk is believed to have originated in China about 3000 years ago BCE. A legend says that silk was invented by a Chinese empress in an accidental situation. One day, the empress was enjoying tea in the orchard, accidentally discovered on the mulberry tree. There were silkworms which were releasing special iridescent silk. After she studied the white cocoons made by this mulberry-eating silkworm, she had immediately come up with the idea of creating fabrics using this rare silk. From that day, silk fabric was invented.

Picture: Old wooden looms

1.2 Imported into Vietnam

Since Vietnam was colonized by China, Vietnamese people had imported foreign culture and learned to raise and produce silk from silkworms. In the bibliography, it says that “There are two rice crops in a year, eight generations of silkworms”. It shows that our villagers were inherently very good at weaving silk, and silk was very famous at that time.
The ancestor of the Vietnamese silk industry was King Hung’s sixth daughter who followed to “Mother of the world” Mau Lieu Hanh. Later, traditional craft villages widely spread everywhere from the plains to the highlands. They have formed many thousand-year-old traditional silk villages of our country: Van Phuc silk village (Ha Dong), Nha Xa silk village (Ha Nam), Tan silk village. Chau (An Giang)…

2. Past & present of Vietnamese silk

2.1 The mircale made up old tradition

“From the ordinary silkworm to the world’s most luxurious fabric”
  Vietnamese silk is a natural, lightweight, moisture-wicking, heat-insulating fabric which is cool in summer and warm in winter. Silk fabrics were made mainly by hand. They have to go through a lot of processes. At first, cultivating silkworms and waiting them to start pupating in their cocoons, later weaving and embroidering. This job requires a skillful combination of men and women. The process of cultivating silkworms is mostly done by men. In addition, the spinning and embroidery processes, women will have to work wonders. Each process requires great perseverance, hard work, meticulousness and sophistication.

Picture: Spinning thread process needs to be meticulous

2.2 In the history of Vietnam

In the history of the Vietnam, silk is an extremely rare hand made product which is only used for “Kings or Mandarins “. The shiny, smooth, noble beauty of this premium fabric exuded the elegant and powerful beauty of the elite at that time. Then, silk fabric has been widely spread through the generations of kings.
At that time, it would be very proud to see a village with girls sitting in front of the house. With a spinning loom, there is a beauty of diligence in every piece of fabric that has just been completed.
In addition, pictures of the annual holiday, the girls went to the capital to apply for admission to the palace to learn sewing, embroidery and making costumes for the “royal”. Because people believe that each created beautiful costume which the king put on his body would be a national pride, professional pride, traditional national identity. It has preserved and passed down from generation to generation.

Silk became a popular Vietnamese national costume material in the past

2.3 Silks nowadays

Today, with the modern development of society, there are many beautiful and diverse product designs for us to choose. People often forget the “old features” but somewhere, there are still traditional silk villages that do not fade. They determine to preserve the “soul” of the nation.
One day, when we need to find a peaceful and quiet place in a very private space in the soul to find the ancient traditions in the most famous silk villages in Vietnam.

Van Phuc Silk Village, Ha Dong, Hanoi – Traditional Beauty

“Nga Son mat, Bat Trang brick, Nam Dinh silk fabric, Ha Dong village silk”
Whenever this verse is mentioned, people think of Van Phuc silk village – A place famous for the traditional silk called Van silk. It was also a staple in the past, only for kings and mandarins especially during the Nguyen Dynasty.
Leaning on the banks of Nhue River, the Van Phuc village still retains its ancient style. When we walk on the village road, we are immersed in the “very ancient” beauty of the Vietnam. The image of the wooden loom is still preserved. Fabric, costume and scarf store are opening along the street, attracting many domestic and foreign tourists to visit.

Van Phuc Silk Village

Nha Xa Silk Village, Ha Nam – An ancient characteristic beauty

The second silk village that we cannot ignore is the Nha Xa silk village which quietly located on the left bank of the Red River. Legend says that the craft village was created by a multi-talented general – Tran Khanh Du. Nha Xa is famous for a silk production place with diverse silk and color designs of 100% silk materials. Nha Xa also focuses on environmental protection, using dyes from nature. When we visit this place, we do not see the silks displayed as goods for sale. Instead, we will see the image of white silk bundles hanging up to stir-fry bamboo. Or the “silk stretched across the sky” blends with the bustling sound of household looms.

Picture: Nha Xa Silk Village

Passing now

“Silk Road” after thousands of years of ups and downs, it has taken away sweat and tears. In return, a cultural identity will forever be preserved and preserved for a long time.
A walk around in the craft villages, witnessing the process of creating silk products and the respectable skills in the traditional silk craft, people can understand why the price of silk is so expensive.

3. Vietnamese silk from the perspective of the world

Currently, Vietnam is in the Top 3 of Asia, and the Top 6 of silk producing countries in the world. The silk-weaving industry of Vietnam has created many premium products that can satisfy the hard demands of markets such as Japan, India, France, the EU, and the US… Vietnamese premium silk fabric is very popular in the world, this fabric can be used to make blankets, pillows, drapes, towels… The reason why Vietnam has a good position exportation thanks to the prestige and belief in the nature of Vietnamese people. 100% natural material brings smoothness, sophistication, and beauty to international consumers.

 Perspectives on Vietnam’s silk industry

The Secretary General of the World Silk Association commented that:

“Among Southeast Asian countries, Vietnamese silk industry has the best foundation with thousands of years ancient craft villages. Vietnam exports more yarn than Japan and China, and exports more raw silk than Cambodia and Thailand.”

Showing that Vietnam’s silk industry is always highly appreciated by the world, this is a national pride. Therefore, in order to keep the lasting features forever, Vietnam will need to have better orientations in the future with the potential of domestic and international market demand. Vietnam should develop a brand of high quality silk and create an international reputation by a combination of tradition and modern new technology.