Jadwiga Rodowicz-Czechowska, Cesarzowa i Jedwabnik. Starożytne dziedzictwo



Jadwiga Rodowicz-Czechowska

The Empress and the Silkworm – Antiquity and Contemporary Times

The article deals with the sericulture as practiced presently by the Empress Michiko in the springtime of each year. The current practice was established by the Empress Shōken in 1871 in high society, as a work of importance, to be promoted amongst women, in order to support Japan’s economy and increase her market share abroad. Sericulture was a major branch of Japan’s economy in ancient times, as silk was used in exchange for other goods. The history of sericulture in ancient times is closely tied to the history of the Hata family, its rise and fall, between the 6th and 9th centuries A.D., a family of well educated immigrant entrepreneurs and politicians, prominent in the history of performative arts of Japan. Appearance of the image of the silkworm in literature appears both in historical records and poetry, and it stands for the symbol of eternal life undergoing transformations of shape, size and abilities. Empress Michiko took over the noble duty of raising silkworms (Jpn. kaiko) after her predecessor, Empress Kōjun, and currently appears to successfully maintain it as one of the most important events in the field of the protection of the intangible industrial heritage of Japan. Recently an exhibition was held in France under the title „KAIKO: Sericulture of the Imperial Household, Ancient Textiles from the Shōsōin Repository, and Exchanges of Silk between Japan and France”. The silk produced by the endemic variety of silkworm at the Imperial Household (Jpn. koishimaru) is used in the restoration work of various items belonging to the treasuries of Buddhist temples and the Shōsōin. Michiko, as an outstanding poetess, wrote several verses devoted to the silkworm and sericulture, a few of which are translated in the text.