Inside these cocoons are silk worms. Before this point they've lived in a basket, were fed the freshest of mulberry leaves by diligent workers. Once they sense the time is right, they spin themselves right up into a lovely little yellow-white q-tip end.
Of course, from here things go a bit downhill, at least for the worm. Each of these will be boiled and then stretched out into skeins of silk, cleaned, dyed, woven and then sold. The worms aren't removed for this process, so in some ways this pile represents the pinnacle of the worms' achievements.
They are light and airy and stringy, with a strong color and unique texture. I find them quite beautiful, even in this state.