This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Whence came this silk-worm? What is its country and that of the mulberry - for the tree and the animal seem to have always travelled side by side? Every thing seems to indicate that China - Northern China- is its point of departure. Chinese annals establish the existence of industries connected with it from those remote and semi-fabulous times when the emperors of the Celestial Empire had, it is said, the head of a tiger, the body of a dragon, and the horns of cattle. They attribute to the Emperor Fo-Hi, 3,400 years before our era, the merit of employing silk in a musical instrument of his own invention. This date carries us back 5,265 years. They are said to have employed the silk of wild caterpillars, and to have spun a sort of floss. At that time they knew nothing of raising the worm or of winding the cocoon into skeins.
This double industry appears to have arisen 2,650 years before our era, or 4,515 years ago, through the efforts of an empress named Si-ling-Chi. To her is attributed the invention of silk stuffs. You will not be surprised to see that the fabrication of silks should have a woman as its inventor.
Si-ling-Chi, in creating this industry, which was to be so immensely developed, enriched her country. Her countrymen seem to have understood the extent of the benefit, and to have been not ungrateful. They placed her among their deities, under the name of Sein-Thsan, two words that, according to M. Stanislas Julien, signify the first who raised the silk-worm. And still, in our time, the empresses of China, with their maids-of-honor, on an appointed day, offer solemn sacrifices to Sein-Thsan. They lay aside their brilliant dress, renounce their sewing, their embroidery, and their habitual work, and devote themselves to raising the silk-worm. In their sphere they imitate the Emperor of China, who on his part, descends once a year from his throne to trace a furrow with the plough. - A. De Qua-trefages, in Popular Science Monthly for October.