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City renowned for long silk tradition

By Wang Qian (China Daily)

09:14, August 27, 2012

Girls dressed in silk cheongsam stand on an ancient street in Zhoucun, a district of Zibo known for its silk industry. (Zhang Hongxia / For China Daily)

As the capital of the Qi state for more than 800 years during the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100BC-770BC) and Warring States Period (475BC-221BC), Zibo has long been an important silk and textile production center in northern China.

According to historical sources, Zhoucun, a district of Zibo, used to be known for its handicraft industry and eventually developed into one of China's most booming marketplaces in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The silk and slurry-dye industry has become Zhoucun's main business in 1890s, when it held more than 40 slurry mills, 70 dyeing mills, and four silk mills, which introduced 600 advanced reeling machines from Italy.

By 1930s, Zhoucun was home to more than 10,000 workers who worked for 3,000 silk and textile mills. Around 63.2 percent of silk products from Shandong province were made in the district.

Today, there are still dozens of century-old silk stores on the ancient Silk Street of the district that sell fine silk and cotton cloth.

One of them is the Dong Laisheng Silk Mill, which was founded in the Qing Dynasty. Visitors to the shop can see the well-preserved spinning wheels, weaving machines, a dye tank and piles of colorful cloth.

With Zhoucun as its main production and trading center, Zibo has now established a complete industrial chain that includes silkworm breeding, silk reeling, weaving, printing and dyeing, silk product processing, and trading.

The city is now the largest silk production base in northern China, with an annual production of 1,200 tons of silk cocoons and 18 million meters of silk goods.

Its renowned silk is now available in fabrics, scarves, ties and other products that are also sold across the country and in international markets.

According to a survey made by the China Silk Association, the local Da Ranfang Silk Group has become China's largest silk producer both in output and sales revenue. About 80 percent of its products have been exported to more than 50 countries and regions, including the United States, Australia, Europe and Southeast Asia.
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