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Legend has it that the Lady Silkworm lives at the valley of the mountain.
Long ago, in the province of Hangzhou lived a beautiful, capable little girl named Ah-Qiao. When Ah-Qiao was 9 years old, her mother passed away, leaving Ah-Giao and her 4 year old brother alone to her father. Soon the evil stepmother came into the scene. One day, in the dead of winter, stepmother commanded Ah-Qiao to fetch grass for the sheeps. But in the midst of this deep freeze, where would there be fresh grass? Ah-Qiao ran from morning till night, from the streams to the valleys, and found no fresh grass. She was cold and scared. She sat by a rock and wept. Suddenly, she heard a voice,
“To get fresh grass, go to the valley!”
“To get fresh grass, go to the valley!”
“Ah-Qiao lifted up her head and saw a whit- necked bird flying toward the mountains. She stood up, wiped her tears and took follow. The white-necked bird suddenly made a turn and disappeared, but Ah-Qiao was taken aback by the scene ahead of her: there was an old juniper, whose luscious branches were as big as an umbrella. It canopied over the entire area. Ah-Qiao brushed away the branches, made her way around the statuesque tree and saw water flowing through a stream. Beautiful flowers and green grass adorned the banks, looking like a beautiful spring day.
Ah-Qiao proceeded to cut and collect the grass. But unknowingly, she was slowly making her way down stream.
As her basket became filled, she stood up to wipe her forehead. Not far away stood a beautiful lady all dressed in white. She was smiling and waving at her:
Ah-Qiao looked up, in front of her eyes appeared another world! There was a row of houses with white walls and white shingles. In front of the houses was a small grouping of trees, whose glossy leaves were larger than her palms. There were many white clothed ladies. Each of them carried a basket, singing and laughing, picking leaves off those trees.
“Little girl, what a rare guest! Come stay with us for a few days!”
Ah-Qiao was quite pleased with the offer, and decidedly stayed on.
Ah-Qiao made this place her home. She picked leaves during the day and during the nights she fed these leaves to white little caterpillars. Overtime, these caterpillars grew. They spun walnut-like snow-white cocoons. They were silk. The white-clothes ladies taught Ah-Qiao to pull, spin and color the silk threads. These white caterpillars are known as “heaven worms”(天虫). The leaves are mulberry leaves. They made beautiful dresses and gowns out of these silk. These clothes were to be worn by the heaven god and goddesses.
Three months had passed. Ah-Qiao missed her brother dearly. One day at the crack of dawn she took leave, without saying goodbye to the white clothed ladies. But before she left, Ah-Qiao took with her a sheet of freshly laid “Heaven worm” eggs. She also took with her two bagful of mulberry leaves. As she walked on, she threw them onto the ground, marking her trail for next day’s return trip.
Ah-Qiao arrived home and found 15 years had already gone by. Brother and father anxiously inquired Ah-Qiao’s whereabouts. Ah-Qiao told them the whole story. The neighbors heard, and they said she had rendezvoused with the fairies.
The next day morning, Ah-Qiao started to head her way back to the mountain valley. Instead of finding a trail of leaves, she was surprised upon by the fully grown trees. She followed the tree-outlined trail and reached her destination. The old juniper stood the same but she couldn’t find the way in.
As she stood there looking dumbfounded, the white-necked bird flew from behind the tree, and quacked
“Ah-Qiao stole treasure! Ah-Qiao stole treasure!”
It suddenly occurred to Ah-Qiao that she didn’t say her goodbyes to the white-clothed ladies before she left. Not only that, they must also be upset with her for taking the eggs and the mulberry leaves. This was the reason that the roads had become hidden from her.
Ah-Qiao returned home and hatched the eggs and fed them the remaining leaves. She started rearing “heaven worms” in her home.
This was how “Heaven worms” ended up on earth and became domesticated by the humans. The Chinese character, “heaven”(天) when placed above the character “worm”（虫）becomes the character “silkworm” (蚕). Legend has it, that the white clothed lady that Ah-Qiao met with, was the goddess that raised and watched over the silkworms.
She was Lady Silkworm.