Silk in Vietnam

According to conventional wisdom in Vietnam, the country originally embraced the north of modern Vietnam and a part of what is now southern China. Silk is believed to have appeared in the sixth dynasty of Hung Vuong. There were eighteen dynasties of Hung kings Bang period who reigned in Vietnam from around 2879 BC to around 258 BC. From the list of 18 lines of Hung kings, many kings with the name Hung Huy Vuong reigned during the period 1712-1632 BC. So it may be deduced that sericulture began in Vietnam during this period.

As a clothing material, silk was ideally suited to Vietnam, a long narrow country stretching from a temperate north around the capital Hanoi, a thousand miles south to a tropical south around the largest city, Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon). Silk, with its low thermal conductivity, was found to be warm in the northern winter and cool in the northern summer as well as in the perpetual tropical heat of the south where its ability to absorb perspiration was also appreciated. And although silk was always expensive to produce and silk clothes were luxury items, they were durable, and if well looked after, they could be handed down from generation to generation, becoming family heirlooms.

Although silk production in Vietnam is on a much smaller scale than in China, Vietnam is the world’s sixth largest producer with an output of 550 metric tons. Much of this output is exported as silk cloth and sewn garments, the most famous of which is the ladies’ ao dai dress: a high-necked, figure-hugging, silk sheath with a high side slit to aid ambulation. In recent years, Vietnamese textile designers have produced many new attractive printed cloths and the ao dai has been evolved to ever greater beauty. After nearly four thousand years of development, the silk industry of Vietnam is still engaging the skill and imagination of its people.