Silkworm II

Monday, December 14, 2009
By Joe Hung, Special to The China Post

The father finally had time to ask his daughter what was all about. “What did you made the horse to come seek me out and get me back home for?” he questioned her.

The question reminded the daughter what she had promised the animal. She was worried, with her eyebrows knitted together. That worried her father, of course. “What's all about?” he repeated the question. “Why aren't you happy seeing me again? What are you worried?”

All she had to do was to tell him of her promise to marry the horse if he was brought back home in one piece.

“How dare you do that!” an irate father shouted. “Now that the wrong has been done,” he declared, “the only thing I can do is to kill the animal.”

The horse was slaughtered. The father skinned the animal. The hide was left in the yard of the little cottage house where the father and daughter lived. He wanted the hide to be sun-dried.

One day after the horse had been killed and skinned, the father left home for the nearby village on business. The daughter went out to the yard for the first time after the killing had taken place. She wanted to see the horsehide.

“You were killed,” she said, with her eyes riveted on the pelt, “because you thought you could marry a woman while you were alive. I think you understand.”

Thereupon, the hide placed flat on the ground started taking the shape of a horse that embraced the girl. Then both disappeared into the thin air.

A few hours later, her father returned home only to find his daughter and the horsehide gone. He then rushed out to search for them. Finally he was able to track them down.

He sighted something like a horsehide hanging high up on a treetop faraway from his home. He went near the tree and found a larva wrapped up in the horsehide. That larva was his daughter.

The larva continued to grow. It spun a large amount of strong protein fiber for a cocoon. The larva then became a pupa within the cocoon. Then it metamorphosed into a moth. The daughter was the first silkworm in China.

Japan has a similar story.

Once upon a time, so the story goes, there lived a king, who had a very beautiful princess and a very beautiful chestnut steed. The horse, however, fell in love with the princess. The king became so angry that he had the animal killed. And the princess cried herself to death in unbearable sorrow. On the second day of their death, their souls that had gone all the way up to Heaven came down to dwell atop a huge mulberry tree. They continued to live on as silkworms feeding on mulberry leaves. But the fact is that silkworms were smuggled into Japan from China around the seventh century. Silk became one top item of export from Japan after the country was opened to the West by Commodore Matthew Perry, who led a U.S. Asiatic fleet to the Bay of Tokyo in 1854.

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