Silk weaving in Cambodia: An age-old tradition struggles to survive « Kiva Stories from the Field

Silk weaving in Cambodia: An age-old tradition struggles to survive « Kiva Stories from the Field.

Cambodia has a long and rich history in silk production and weaving dating back more than a thousand years. Women across southern Cambodia have looms in their homes, and they practice the art passed down from their mothers and grandmothers. But now the ancient craft is slowly dying as the cost of imported raw silk continues to climb while the price of finished silk textiles drops.
Silk weaving has been part of Cambodia culture for centuries. At Angkor Wat, the ancient temple complex built in the early 12th century, images of women wearing traditional silk garments that are still worn today are carved in bas-relief. Zhou Daguan, a Chinese diplomat who visited Cambodia in the 13th century wrote, in one of the only first-hand accounts of the Angkor empire, about immigrants from Siam raising mulberry trees and silkworms to feed the thriving silk trade. Raw silk was one of Cambodia’s main exports to China during this period.
Now, however, the Cambodian silk industry relies on China and Vietnam for most of its raw silk. The Khmer Rouge era decimated the mulberry tree population which are the exclusive foodstuffs of silkworms. Before the Khmer Rouge took power, Cambodia was producing an estimated 150,000 kilograms of silk per year. That number dropped to just 800 kilograms after years of political and civil unrest.

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