There are many versions of the story of how the process of making silk was spread beyond the borders of imperial China into Central Asia. Some of the most popoular involve the tale of the Pincess and her Silkworm Head Dress. Even here there is more than one version of the tale. Here are two:
Version One: A Chinese Buddhist monk, Xuanzang, after he returned from a voyage to India in the seventh century CE, said that the people in Khotan are all Buddhists, and that this is how silk reached Khotan.
In the olden days, the people of the rocky land of Khotan knew nothing about mulberry trees nor silkworms. But they heard that these things existed in the East, in China. Therefore they sent a delegation to ask for the secret of producing silk. The emperor laughed at them. This is a secret, he said. It is forbidden to let outsiders find out how silk is made. He had all border stations watched and allowed neither mulberry seeds nor silkworm eggs to be taken out of the empire.
The king of Khotan then had an idea. As a sign of his veneration for the Chinese emperor, he asked if he could marry a princess of the emperors house. The emperor kindly agreed to this wish. The king of Khotan then sent an envoy to the princess to tell her that Khotan had neither mulberry trees nor silk worms. If she wanted to wear silk, she would have to bring some seeds and eggs, with which they could make her beautiful dresses. The princess heard this and considered it. Secretly she got some mulberry seeds and silk worm eggs which she hid in her huge head dress.
When the princess reached the border gates, the guards searched her throughly, but they dared not touch her hair. The princess was taken with great pomp to the royal palace and brought her mulberry seeds and silkworm eggs there.
In the spring the princess had the mulberry seeds sown. When it was time for the larvae to hatch, leaves were gathered for them. At first they had to eat any kind of leaves, before the real mulberry leaves were available. The queen had an inscription made on a stone which said: It is prohibited to kill the silkworm. In this way the secret of making silk was taken from China, and the people of Khotan began to wear not only furs but fine silk clothes.
Version Two: This tale is preserved in the oral tradtion of the people of Khotan.
The princess going to the King of Khotan was asked to bring three items: mulbery seeds, silkworm eggs, and technicians skilled in producing silk cloth. If she brought these, this would be her dowry. She would not have to bring gold, silver, gems and pearls as well.
In leaving China, the princess concealed the silkworms in her headdress. Also, one of her female servants hid the mulberry seeds among herbs in a medicine chest. When the princess reached Khotan, its minister asked her why no male technician who knew the art of silk making had come with her. She told him that she had indeed brought three excellent technicians. They were her maidservants, women skilled in planting mulberry trees, breeding and raising silk worms, and also in weaving. In China, she explained, these skills are considered to be womens work, and learned by all young girls.