100 Famous Women in China
1，嫘祖 Leizu (discoverer of silk)
Leizu (?--?) was the wife of Xuanyuan Huangdi (Huangdi literally meaning Yellow Emperor, living round 2550 BC. Chinese people, i.e., Han tribe, deem themselves the posterity of Huangdi.) A legend had it that Huangdi had a war with another tribe, whose leader was Chiyou, who, it was said, had the ability to raise heavy fog so that the army of Huangdi could not find the way where to go. And it was also said that Huangdi invented a guide cart, on which there was a flat plate with a magnet in the shape of a big spoon. The spoon could turn round and the handle of the spoon always pointed south. It was the earliest type of compass.
When Huangdi defeated Chiyou, he returned in triumph and had a feast of celebration. All of a sudden the goddess of silkworm came to offer the silk to Huangdi for congratulations. Huangdi gave it to his wife, who loved the glistening thin thread very much. She began to breed silkworm and wove the thread into silk cloth and made a gown for her husband. She also taught people to breed silkworm. She was thus called Lady Silkworm, and in later history was deemed the Goddess of Silkworm. She died on the way in company of Huangdi when he traveled over the country.
But there was another legend about the original goddess of silkworm. A girl and her father lived together. The father went to fight for Huangdi. There was a horse in the house. One day the girl thought of her father badly, and she said to the horse, “Oh, horse, if you can bring back my father, I will marry you.” the horse ran away immediately and after some time the father came home on the horseback. The girl was glad, but she forgot her promise to marry the horse entirely. However, the horse remembered it and got sick. The father asked his daughter about the sick horse. The girl was reminded of her promise and told it to her father, who, of course, would not let her daughter marry a horse. Therefore he killed the horse and flayed the hide of the horse. Then he lay the hide on the ground in the sun to make it dry. The daughter came close to the hide and said, “You, horse, how can I, a human, marry you, a horse?” Then she stamped her foot on the hide. Suddenly the hide flew up and wrapped around the girl. The girl was frightened out of her senses and ran off from home to the nearby woods with mulberry trees. Then she began to eat mulberry leaves and spewed out silk threads.