Why Is Silk Important?

Bob Mical/CC-BY 2.0

Silk is important because the desire for it started trade between China and the Old World. Silk was a main staple of pre-industrial trade. The Silk Road, which stretched from China to India, Persia and Europe, linked together many civilizations. The trade fostered economic development. Various goods were traded along the Silk Road, and the trade route opened up political and economic relationships between China, India, Persia, Arabia and Europe.

Silk production began in China in the 27th Century B.C. It was originally only worn by emperors but quickly spread through upper class families. During the Han Dynasty, between 206 BC and A.D. 220, silk was used as a monetary value, along with bronze coins and gold. Around this time, silk was beginning to be traded along what would later be known as the Silk Road. What was also traded along the Silk Road were technologies, religious views, philosophies and diseases. By 30 BC, the desire for silk in Rome was so strong that the Roman Senate tried to outlaw it, because too much gold was leaving Rome and going to China.

Silk was an incredibly important trade commodity until the Industrial Revolution, which made cotton production significantly less expensive, and the desire for the expensive silk waned.