Valencia is the third largest city in Spain. In the fifteenth century, it became the largest city in Spain because of its silk trade. However, in the nineteenth century, the silk trade encountered a decline and gradually disappeared. The growing pace of the city steadily slowed down. In 2014, China proposed "The Belt and Road Initiatives," and as a result, Valencia held some silk and Silk Road events. In 2016, it was named "the silk capital of the world" by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Silk Road project proposed by China is a very good opportunity for Valencia to show our culture and history, craftsmanship and traditional silk. We would like to take this opportunity to show that Valencia is a special city. It is the only one of all the Mediterranean cities which has inherited many things from the eastern countries, such as silk, ceramics, and mandarin oranges. We want to show that Valencia is a city with a rich history and a tradition to communicate with the East.
Following the Silk Road, the crew arrived at the downtown of the ancient silk exchange. This place has seen more than 520 years of history. It was trading place for silk and other commodities until the nineteenth century. The magnificent buildings are a witness to the pomp of the silk trade in those days.
At that time, Valencia basically survived on its silk manufacturing industry. Italy and other neighboring countries, including the Arabic countries, were all doing business here. It was the Arabs who brought the luxury goods from China to this area through the Silk Road. During this time, trade was very well developed especially with the port cities of Italy, such as Genoa, Venice and Sicily. This made Valencia one of the most important cities in Europe.
15 years ago, the curator came to work at the exchange, back then, visitors were less than 100 people day, but in recent years, the number of visitors is increasing, he is busier than ever. Everyday, he'd tell people from all over the world to the stories that happened here that were related to the silk road.
Even at its peak, a little over 100 people would do business here because only big merchants and members of the superstructure would come to do commodity business. Other less important business was conducted outside. The church we saw just now was a store before. The whole area was doing business and was prosperous. This large hall used to be a trading court.
To smooth the silk trade exchanges, the Exchange built a special court, which was used for most of the civil cases, bringing fairness and justice to the Silk Road. At the same time, the Silk Road also brought eastern artistry to them.
Silk originates from mulberry leaves. Thousands of years ago, China's silk craft was introduced into Valencia, and has been passed on since. The crew found a local sericulturist named Charlie. For generations, his family depended on sericulture. Now Charlie uses sericulture as a tourist attraction, to show tourists from all over the world the technique which has been passed on for the past century.
What we can see now is mulberry tree, the place of sericulture. Mulberry trees used to be grown in this whole area. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, people here started large-scale cultivation of mulberry. At this time, the Silk Road was also at its most prosperous time. What we are now seeing are the local traditional houses.
Charlie's ancestors lived in these kinds of houses that were built from mud and straw. It was the home of a poor family, so the entire family and their cattle lived in here together. With the prosperity of the Silk Road, silkworms also became members of every local family, which unexpectedly brought wealth for them.
You can go upstairs with me. This is the house once used for the storage of food. After the fifteenth century, basically each house would have a special place like this and many were bigger than this. I can take you to feed our silkworms, and see how they eat mulberry leaves. Almost all of the local people living in Valencia now are no longer working in sericulture, but this is something we have remembered in our heart. In the past, every family will have a lot of silkworms with a lot of partitions. Each partition is very large with about 15 cm between them.
Now, the Valencia municipal government of Spain hopes to seize the opportunities of "The Belt and Road ", to promote the comprehensive development of the city. Qi Jilue, the director of the Silk Road project of UNESCO Spain, said: "we are all builders and fellow travellers of the Silk Road, let us all unite to build a better future together."