Apsara, the heavenly dancers would have been nothing without their silk wraps. Imagine royal courts without the rustle of silk and the riot of colours so much associated with traditional silk. Silk has been so important in our history that the great transportation route from China to Europe has been called the Silk Road.
For the Chinese, the silk process is guarded as an Imperial secret and instant death was visited on those that would steal the process. So, the revival of the silk industry in Cambodia is much more than just a polishing up of another tourist attraction.
Visiting the silk farm in Angkor, we watched how the villagers make silk.
In its day, silk was produced in many villages in the country and the different weaves and patterns were strong elements in the artistic heritage found by the French but the relentless influence of mechanisation, the onslaught of Jim Thompson and the rebirth of Thai silk and the creation of fake silk by every dime store chemical factory in China saw the gradual disappearance of Cambodian silk.
But today, for those who visit Cambodia, there is again the joy of watching the endless swing of the hand loom as the pattern of the past re-emerge in glorious colour. Visiting small villages near Phnom Penh and in the north is an artistic pleasure and the gem in this trip has to be the mulberry farms, spinning and silk weaving of the Artisans d'Angkor close to Siem Reap.
The women doing the work are chatting in the same way that village communities were sustained in the old days and the silk they weave while certainly not inexpensive gives the buyer a piece of living art that stretches back a thousand years and more.
Cambodia may not be in the top 10 of countries producing silk but it is hoping to improve its effort to enhance the quality of its silk.
Top 10 countries in silk production:
For more on the history of silk, click here.
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