Meet Leizu the Legendary Chinese Empress who is Credited with Inventing Silk by Women Rock Science

Meet Leizu the Legendary Chinese Empress who is Credited with Inventing Silk by Women Rock Science



This is Leizu (aka  Xi Ling Shi) the ancient Chinese empress credited with inventing silk in 2640 BC. A teenager and wife of the Yellow Emperor Leizu was outside having tea one day when a silk worm cocoon fell into her cup. She fiddled and toyed with the cocoon and noticed fine shiny strands emanating from it. Leizu, totally fascinated by the strands, gathered together her ladies in waiting to formulate a technique of weaving the strands together to make a cloth. Eventually they succeeded and she presented this cloth to her husband, the Emperor. Leizu went on the develop sericulture, the science behind producing silk.


Chinese Women Producing Silk 12th Century AD

The legendary tale of how she invented this wonderous material was recorded by Chinese academic, Confucius. No one truly knows how much of the story is true and how much of it is myth but Leizu went on to be revered and respected by the Chinese people. Sericulture remained a woman only science in China for thousands of years. Silk went on to become one of China’s biggest exports with cloths found all over the world. The method of production was kept secret for 3000 years and people found trying to teach others or smuggle worms out of China were executed.

Sources British Silk Association Women in ScienceInsects Through the Seasons


Women Rock Science: A site dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women and girls in science