Silk Production

Notes on Sericulture

This ukiyo-e print by Utagawa Yoshitora is another illustration depicting the sericulture process, but from the 19th century. Notice how a few of the steps from the Song dynasty painting are identifiable. We see women gathering the silkworms and mulberry leaves in the upper portion, and then sorting them and placing them into trays below. This print highlights the fact that sericulture is a process that has mostly stayed unchanged throughout the years.


Another Ukiyo-e print, this time by Chikanobu, depicts a woman weaving on a loom, with silk spools at her side. These two prints show that by the late 19th century, silk items, and thus their production, had become an everyday commodity. Whether or not this woman is weaving silk for herself or for a client is unknown, but the tapestry in the upper left-hand corner hints at the product being made. When the population and economy increased in the Edo period, a market for household decorations opened, and was easily filled with silk, still prized, but now more readily available and purchasable for the new middle class. This meant the silk industry in Japan also flourished at this time and continued into the Meiji period.

Written by Cassie Walker