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The Silk Road extending from Southern Europe through Arabia, Somalia, Egypt, Persia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Java, and Vietnam until it reaches China. Land routes are red, water routes blue

The Silk Road (German: Seidenstraße) (or Silk Routes) is an extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian continent connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, as well as North and Northeast Africa and Europe. The term "Seidenstraße" (literally "Silk Road") was coined retrospectively by the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877 and has found since its way into general usage. It gets its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade, which began during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), and was the major reason for the connection of trade routes into an extensive trans-continental network.[1][2][3] In recent years, both the maritime and overland Silk Routes are again being used, often closely following the ancient routes.

Contents

Overview

Woven silk textile from Tomb No. 1 at Mawangdui, Changsha, Hunan province, China, 2nd century BCE, Han Dynasty

The Silk Routes (collectively known as the 'Silk Road') were important paths for cultural, commercial and technological exchange between traders, merchants, pilgrims, missionaries, soldiers, nomads and urban dwellers from Ancient China, Ancient India, Persia and Mediterranean countries for almost 3,000 years.[4]

Extending 4,000 miles, the routes enabled people to transport goods, especially luxuries such as slaves, silk, satin and other fine fabrics, musk, other perfumes, spices, medicines, jewels, glassware and even rhubarb, as well as serving as a conduit for the spread of knowledge, ideas, cultures and diseases[5] between different parts of the world (Ancient China, Ancient India, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean). Trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the great civilizations of China, India, Egypt, Persia, Arabia and Rome, and in several respects helped lay the foundations for the modern world. Although the term the Silk Road implies a continuous journey, very few who traveled the route traversed it from end to end. For the most part, goods were transported by a series of agents on varying routes and were traded in the bustling mercantile markets of the oasis towns.[5]

The ruins of a Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) Chinese watchtower made of rammed earth at Dunhuang, Gansu province

The central Asian sections of the trade routes were expanded around 114 BCE by the Han dynasty,[6] largely through the missions and explorations of Zhang Qian,[7] but earlier trade routes across the continents already existed.[citation needed] In the late Middle Ages, transcontinental trade over the land routes of the Silk Road declined as sea trade increased.[8] Though silk was certainly the major trade item from China, many other products were traded, and various technologies, religions and philosophies as well as the bubonic plague (the so-called 'Black Death') also traveled along the Silk Routes.

Etymology

The first person who used the term "Seidenstraße" (literally "Silk Road") was the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877. The Silk Road gets its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade, a major reason for the connection of trade routes into an extensive trans-continental network.[1][2][9]

Routes taken

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Overland silk routes

The Silk Road in the 1st century.

As it extends westwards from the ancient commercial centers of China, the overland, intercontinental Silk Road divides into the northern and southern routes bypassing the Taklamakan Desert and Lop Nur.

The northern route started at Chang'an (now called Xi'an), the capital of the ancient Chinese Kingdom, which, in the Later Han, was moved further east to Luoyang. The route was defined about the 1st Century BCE as Han Wudi put an end to harassment by nomadic tribes.[citation needed]

The route travels northwest through the Chinese province of Gansu from Shaanxi Province, and splits into three further routes, two of them following the mountain ranges to the north and south of the Taklamakan Desert to rejoin at Kashgar; and the other going north of the Tian Shan mountains through Turpan, Talgar and Almaty (in what is now southeast Kazakhstan). The routes split west of Kashgar with one branch heading down the Alai Valley towards Termez and Balkh, while the other traveled through Kokand in the Fergana Valley, and then west across the Karakum Desert towards Merv, joining the southern route briefly.

One of the branch routes turned northwest to the north of the Aral and Caspian seas then and on to the Black Sea. Yet another route started at Xi'an, passed through the Western corridor beyond the Yellow Rivers, Xinjiang, Fergana (in present-day eastern Uzbekistan), Persia and Iraq before joining the western boundary of the Roman Empire. A route for caravans, the northern Silk Road brought to China many goods such as "dates, saffron powder and pistachio nuts from Persia; frankincense, aloes and myrrh from Somalia; sandalwood from India; glass bottles from Egypt, and other expensive and desirable goods from other parts of the world." In exchange, the caravans sent back bolts of silk brocade, lacquer ware and porcelain.[10]

The southern route is mainly a single route running from China, through Karakoram (Pakistan). Here it is nowadays the international paved road connecting Pakistan and China as the Korakoram Highway. It then continues to TurkestanKhorasan region, Mesopotamia, and into Anatolia, with southward spurs enabling the journey to be completed by sea from various points. It starts out southwards in China. Crossing the high mountains, then it passes through northern Pakistan, over the Hindu Kush mountains, and into Afghanistan, rejoining the northern route briefly near Merv. From there it follows a nearly straight line west through mountainous northern Iran and the northern tip of the Syrian Desert to the Levant, where Mediterranean trading ships plied regular routes to Italy, and land routes went either north through Anatolia or south to North Africa. Another branch road traveled from Herat through Susa to Charax Spasinu at the head of the Persian Gulf and across to Petra and on to Alexandria and other eastern Mediterranean ports from where ships carried the cargoes to Rome.

Part of a series on Trade routes
Amber Road · Hærvejen . Incense Route
Kamboja-Dvaravati Route . King's Highway
Roman-India routes . Royal Road
Silk Road · Spice Route . Tea route
Varangians to the Greeks · Via Maris
Triangular trade .Volga trade route
Trans-Saharan trade . Salt Route
Hanseatic League . Grand Trunk Road

Maritime silk routes

As much as 1400 years ago, during China's Eastern Han Dynasty, a sea route, although not part of the formal Silk Route, led from the mouth of the Red River near modern Hanoi, through the Malacca Straits to Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka and India, and then on to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea kingdom of Axum and eventual Roman ports. From ports on the Red Sea goods, including silks, were transported overland to the Nile and then to Alexandria from where they were shipped to Rome, Constantinople and other Mediterranean ports.[11]

Another branch of these sea routes led down the East African coast, called "Azania" by the Greeks and Romans in the 1st century CE, as described in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (and, very probably, 澤散 Zesan in the 3rd century by the Chinese),[12] at least as far as the port known to the Romans as "Rhapta," which was probably located in the delta of the Rufiji River in modern Tanzania.[13]

The Silk Road extends from Guangzhou, located in southern China, to present day Brunei, Myanmar (Burma) Thailand, Malacca, Ceylon, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Iran and Iraq. In Europe it extends from Israel, Lebanon (Collectively, the Levant), Egypt, and Italy (historically, Venice) in the Mediterranean Sea to other European ports or caravan routes such as the great Hanseatic League fairs via the Spanish road and other Alpine routes. This water route in some sources is called the Indian Ocean Maritime System.

Background

Cross-continental journeys

As the domestication of pack animals and the development of shipping technology both increased the capacity for prehistoric peoples to carry heavier loads over greater distances, cultural exchanges and trade developed rapidly.

In addition, grassland provides fertile grazing, water, and easy passage for caravans. The vast grassland steppes of Asia enable merchants to travel immense distances, from the shores of the Pacific to Africa and deep into Europe, without trespassing on agricultural lands and arousing hostility.

Prehistoric transport and trade

Epipalaeolithic Natufians carried parthenocarpic figs from Africa to the southwestern corner of the Fertile Crescent, circa 10,000 BCE.[14] Later migrations out of the Fertile Crescent would carry early agricultural practices to neighboring regions — westward to Europe and North Africa, northward to Crimea, and eastward to Mongolia.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26]

The ancient peoples of the Sahara imported domesticated animals from Asia between 6000 and 4000 BCE. In Nabta Playa by the end of the 7th millennium BCE, prehistoric Egyptians had imported goats and sheep from Southwest Asia.[27]

Foreign artifacts dating to the 5th millennium BCE in the Badarian culture in Egypt indicate contact with distant Syria. In predynastic Egypt, by the beginning of the 4th millennium BCE, ancient Egyptians in Maadi were importing pottery[28] as well as construction ideas from Canaan.

By the 4th millennium BCE shipping was well established, and the donkey and possibly the dromedary had been domesticated. Domestication of the Bactrian camel and use of the horse for transport then followed. Charcoal samples found in the tombs of Nekhen, which were dated to the Naqada I and II periods, have been identified as cedar from Lebanon.[29] Predynastic Egyptians of the Naqada I period also imported obsidian from Ethiopia, used to shape blades and other objects from flakes.[30] The Naqadans traded with Nubia to the south, the oases of the western desert to the west, and the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean to the east.[31]

Pottery and other artifacts from the Levant that date to the Naqadan era have been found in ancient Egypt.[32] Egyptian artifacts dating to this era have been found in Canaan[33] and other regions of the Near East, including Tell Brak[34] and Uruk and Susa[35] in Mesopotamia.

By the second half of the 4th millennium BCE, the gemstone lapis lazuli was being traded from its only known source in the ancient world — Badakshan, in what is now northeastern Afghanistan — as far as Mesopotamia and Egypt. By the 3rd millennium BCE, the lapis lazuli trade was extended to Harappa, Lothal and Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley Civilization (Ancient India) of modern day Pakistan and northwestern India. The Indus Valley was also known as Meluhha, the earliest maritime trading partner of the Sumerians and Akkadians in Mesopotamia. The ancient harbor constructed in Lothal, India, around 2400 BCE is the oldest seafaring harbour known.[36]

Trans-Saharan trade

Main article: Trans-Saharan trade.

The overland route through the Wadi Hammamat from the Nile to the Red Sea was known as early as predynastic times;[37] drawings depicting Egyptian reed boats have been found along the path dating to 4000 BCE.[38] Ancient cities dating to the First Dynasty of Egypt arose along both its Nile and Red Sea junctions,[37] testifying to the route's ancient popularity. It became a major route from Thebes to the Red Sea port of Elim, where travelers then moved on to either Asia, Arabia or the Horn of Africa.[37] Records exist documenting knowledge of the route among Senusret I, Seti, Ramesses IV and also, later, the Roman Empire, especially for mining.[39]

The Darb el-Arbain trade route, passing through Kharga in the south and Asyut in the north, was used from as early as the Old Kingdom of Egypt for the transport and trade of gold, ivory, spices, wheat, animals and plants.[40] Later, Ancient Romans would protect the route by lining it with varied forts and small outposts, some guarding large settlements complete with cultivation.[41] Described by Herodotus as a road "traversed ... in forty days," it became by his time an important land route facilitating trade between Nubia and Egypt.[42] Its maximum extent was northward from Kobbei, 25 miles north of al-Fashir, passing through the desert, through Bir Natrum and Wadi Howar, and ending in Egypt.[43]

Egyptian maritime trade

Shipbuilding was known to the Ancient Egyptians as early as 3000 BCE,[44][45] and perhaps earlier.[45] Ancient Egyptians knew how to assemble planks of wood into a ship hull, with woven straps used to lash the planks together,[44] and reeds or grass stuffed between the planks helped to seal the seams.[44] The Archaeological Institute of America reports[44] that the earliest dated ship — 75 feet long, dating to 3000 BCE[45] — may have possibly belonged to Pharaoh Aha.[45]

An Egyptian colony stationed in southern Canaan dates to slightly before the First Dynasty.[46] Narmer had Egyptian pottery produced in Canaan — with his name stamped on vessels — and exported back to Egypt,[47] from regions such as Arad, En Besor, Rafiah, and Tel Erani.[47] In 1994 excavators discovered an incised ceramic shard with the serekh sign of Narmer, dating to circa 3000 BCE. Mineralogical studies reveal the shard to be a fragment of a wine jar exported from the Nile valley to Palestine.

Model of a paddling funerary boat from the tomb of Meketre. From the time of the Twelfth dynasty of Egypt, early in the reign of Amenemhat I, circa 1931–1975 BCE.

The Palermo stone mentions King Sneferu of the 4th Dynasty sending ship to import high-quality cedar from Lebanon. In one scene in the pyramid of Pharaoh Sahure of the Fifth Dynasty, Egyptians are returning with huge cedar trees. Sahure's name is found stamped on a thin piece of gold on a Lebanon chair, and 5th dynasty cartouches were found in Lebanon stone vessels. Other scenes in his temple depict Syrian bears. The Palermo stone also mentions expeditions to Sinai as well as to the diorite quarries northwest of Abu Simbel.

The oldest known expedition to the Land of Punt was organized by Sahure, which apparently yielded a quantity of myrrh, along with malachite and electrum. Around 1950 BCE, in the reign of Mentuhotep III, an officer named Hennu made one or more voyages to Punt. In the 15th century BCE, Nehsi conducted a very famous expedition for Queen Hatshepsut to obtain myrrh; a report of that voyage survives on a relief in Hatshepsut's funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri. Several of her successors, including Thutmoses III, also organized expeditions to Punt.

Ancient canal construction

The legendary Sesostris (likely either Pharaoh Senusret II or Senusret III of the Twelfth dynasty of Egypt[48][49]) is said to have started work on an ancient "Suez" Canal joining the River Nile with the Red Sea. This ancient account is corroborated by Aristotle, Pliny the Elder, and Strabo.[50]

One of their kings tried to make a canal to it (for it would have been of no little advantage to them for the whole region to have become navigable; Sesostris is said to have been the first of the ancient kings to try), but he found that the sea was higher than the land. So he first, and Darius afterwards, stopped making the canal, lest the sea should mix with the river water and spoil it.[51]

165. Next comes the Tyro tribe and, on the Red Sea, the harbour of the Daneoi, from which Sesostris, king of Egypt, intended to carry a ship-canal to where the Nile flows into what is known as the Delta; this is a distance of over 60 miles. Later the Persian king Darius had the same idea, and yet again Ptolemy II, who made a trench 100 feet wide, 30 feet deep and about 35 miles long, as far as the Bitter Lakes.[52]

Remnants of an ancient west-east canal, running through the ancient Egyptian cities of Bubastis, Pi-Ramesses, and Pithom were discovered by Napoleon Bonaparte and his cadre of engineers and cartographers in 1799.[53][54][55][56][57] Other evidence seems to indicate the existence of an ancient canal around the 13th century BC, during the time of Ramesses II.[58][59][60][61][62] Later construction efforts continued during the reigns of Necho II, Darius I of Persia and Ptolemy II Philadelphus.

"Psammetichus left a son called Necos, who succeeded him upon the throne. This prince was the first to attempt the construction of the canal to the Red Sea — a work completed afterwards by Darius the Persian — the length of which is four days’ journey, and the width is such as to admit of two triremes being rowed along it abreast. The water is derived from the Nile, which the canal leaves a little above the city of Bubastis, near Patumus, the Arabian town, being continued thence until it joins the Red Sea." [63]

"This [the canal from the Nile to the Red Sea] was begun by Necho II [610 BCE - 595 BCE], and completed by Darius I, who set up stelae c. 490 [BCE], ... and later restored by Ptolemy II Philadelphus, Trajan and Hadrian, and Amr ibn el-'Asi, the Muslim conqueror of Egypt. Its length from Tell el-Maskhuta to Suez was about 85 km.[64]

Shipping over the Nile River and from Old Cairo and through Suez continued further through the efforts of either 'Amr ibn al-'As,[58] Omar the Great,[54] or Trajan.[54][58] The Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur is said to have ordered this ancient canal closed so as to prevent supplies from reaching Arabian detractors.[54][58]

Chinese jade and steatite plaques, in the Scythian-style animal art of the steppes. 4th–3rd century BCE. British Museum.
A Scythian horseman from the general area of the Ili river, Pazyryk, c.300 BCE.

Chinese and Central Asian contacts

The Silk Road.

From the 2nd millennium BCE nephrite jade was being traded from mines in the region of Yarkand and Khotan to China. Significantly, these mines were not very far from the lapis lazuli and spinel ("Balas Ruby") mines in Badakhshan and, although separated by the formidable Pamir Mountains, routes across them were, apparently, in use from very early times.

The Tarim mummies, mummies of non-Mongoloid, apparently Caucasoid, individuals, have been found in the Tarim Basin, in the area of Loulan located along the Silk Road 200 km East of Yingpan, dating to as early as 1600 BCE and suggesting very ancient contacts between East and West. It has been suggested that these mummified remains may have been of people related to the Tocharians whose Indo-European language remained in use in the Tarim Basin (in modern day Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China) until the 8th century.

Following contacts of metropolitan China with nomadic western border territories in the 8th century BCE, gold was introduced from Central Asia, and Hotan Kashteshi Hotan jade carvers began to make imitation designs of the steppes, adopting the Scythian-style animal art of the steppes (descriptions of animals locked in combat). This style is particularly reflected in the rectangular belt plaques made of gold and bronze with alternate versions in jade and steatite.

The expansion of Scythian cultures stretching from the Hungarian plain and the Carpathians to the Chinese Kansu Corridor and linking Iran, and the Middle East with Northern India and the Punjab, undoubtedly played an important role in the development of the Silk Road. Scythians accompanied the Assyrian Esarhaddon on his invasion of Egypt, and their distinctive triangular arrowheads have been found as far south as Aswan. These nomadic peoples were dependent upon neighbouring settled populations for a number of important technologies, and in addition to raiding vulnerable settlements for these commodities, also encouraged long distance merchants as a source of income through the enforced payment of tariffs. Soghdian Scythian merchants played a vital role in later periods in the development of the Silk Road.

Persian Royal Road

Achaemenid Persian Empire at its greatest extent.

By the time of Herodotus (c. 475 BCE), the Persian Royal Road ran some 2,857 km from the city of Susa on the Karun (250 km east of the Tigris) to the port of Smyrna (modern İzmir in Turkey) on the Aegean Sea.[65] It was maintained and protected by the Achaemenid Empire (c.500–330 BCE), and had postal stations and relays at regular intervals. By having fresh horses and riders ready at each relay, royal couriers could carry messages the entire distance in nine days, though normal travellers took about three months. This Royal Road linked into many other routes. Some of these, such as the routes to India and Central Asia, were also protected by the Achaemenids, encouraging regular contact between India, Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. There are accounts in the biblical Book of Esther of dispatches being sent from Susa to provinces as far out as India and the Kingdom of Kush during the reign of Xerxes the Great (485–465 BCE).

History

Hellenistic era

The first major step in opening the Silk Road between the East and the West came with the expansion of Alexander the Great's empire into Central Asia. In August 329 BCE, at the mouth of the Fergana Valley in Tajikistan he founded the city of Alexandria Eschate or "Alexandria The Furthest".[66] This later became a major staging point on the northern Silk Route.

In 323 BCE, Alexander the Great’s successors, the Ptolemaic dynasty, took control of Egypt. They actively promoted trade with Mesopotamia, India, and East Africa through their Red Sea ports and over land. This was assisted by a number of intermediaries, especially the Nabataeans and other Arabs.

The Greeks remained in Central Asia for the next three centuries, first through the administration of the Seleucid Empire, and then with the establishment of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom in Bactria. They continued to expand eastward, especially during the reign of Euthydemus (230–200 BCE) who extended his control beyond Alexandria Eschate to Sogdiana. There are indications that he may have led expeditions as far as Kashgar in Chinese Turkestan, leading to the first known contacts between China and the West around 200 BCE. The Greek historian Strabo writes "they extended their empire even as far as the Seres (China) and the Phryni." [67]

Chinese exploration of Central Asia

The next step came around 130 BCE, with the embassies of the Han Dynasty to Central Asia, following the reports of the ambassador Zhang Qian[68] (who was originally sent to obtain an alliance with the Yuezhi against the Xiongnu). The Chinese Emperor Wu Di became interested in developing commercial relationship with the sophisticated urban civilizations of Ferghana, Bactria and Parthian Empire: "The Son of Heaven on hearing all this reasoned thus: Ferghana (Dayuan) and the possessions of Bactria (Ta-Hsia) and Parthian Empire (Anxi) are large countries, full of rare things, with a population living in fixed abodes and given to occupations somewhat identical with those of the Chinese people, but with weak armies, and placing great value on the rich produce of China" (Hou Hanshu, Later Han History).

A pottery horse head and neck (broken from the body) of the Late Han Dynasty (1st–2nd century CE)

The Chinese were also strongly attracted by the tall and powerful horses in the possession of the Dayuan (named "Heavenly horses"), which were of capital importance in fighting the nomadic Xiongnu. The Chinese subsequently sent numerous embassies, around ten every year, to these countries and as far as Seleucid Syria. "Thus more embassies were dispatched to Anxi [Parthia], Yancai [who later joined the Alans ], Lijian [Syria under the Seleucids], Tiaozhi [Chaldea], and Tianzhu [northwestern India]… As a rule, rather more than ten such missions went forward in the course of a year, and at the least five or six." (Hou Hanshu, Later Han History). The Chinese campaigned in Central Asia on several occasions, and direct encounters between Han troops and Roman legionaries (probably captured or recruited as mercenaries by the Xiongnu) are recorded, particularly in the 36 BCE battle of Sogdiana (Joseph Needham, Sidney Shapiro). It has been suggested that the Chinese crossbow was transmitted to the Roman world on such occasions, although the Greek gastraphetes provides an alternative origin. R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy suggest that in 36 BCE, a "Han expedition into central Asia, west of Jaxartes River, apparently encountered and defeated a contingent of Roman legionaries. The Romans may have been part of Antony's army invading Parthia. Sogdiana (modern Bukhara), east of the Oxus River, on the Polytimetus River, was apparently the most easterly penetration ever made by Roman forces in Asia. The margin of Chinese victory appears to have been their crossbows, whose bolts and darts seem easily to have penetrated Roman shields and armor."[69] The Roman historian Florus also describes the visit of numerous envoys, included Seres (Chinese), to the first Roman Emperor Augustus, who reigned between 27 BCE and 14:

A Chinese Western Han Dynasty (202 BCE – 9 CE) bronze rhinoceros with gold and silver inlay
"Even the rest of the nations of the world which were not subject to the imperial sway were sensible of its grandeur, and looked with reverence to the Roman people, the great conqueror of nations. Thus even Scythians and Sarmatians sent envoys to seek the friendship of Rome. Nay, the Seres came likewise, and the Indians who dwelt beneath the vertical sun, bringing presents of precious stones and pearls and elephants, but thinking all of less moment than the vastness of the journey which they had undertaken, and which they said had occupied four years. In truth it needed but to look at their complexion to see that they were people of another world than ours." ("Cathay and the way thither", Henry Yule).

The "Silk Road" came into being from the 1st century BCE, following these efforts by Uyghurs in East Turkestan to consolidate a road to the Western world and India, both through direct settlements in the area of the Tarim Basin and diplomatic relations with the countries of the Dayuan, Parthians and Bactrians further west.

A maritime "Silk Route" opened up between Chinese-controlled Giao Chỉ (centred in modern Vietnam [see map above], near Hanoi) probably by the 1st century. It extended, via ports on the coasts of India and Sri Lanka, all the way to Roman-controlled ports in Egypt and the Nabataean territories on the northeastern coast of the Red Sea.

The Roman Empire

Soon after the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BCE, regular communications and trade between India, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, China, the Middle East, Africa and Europe blossomed on an unprecedented scale. The party of Maës Titianus became the travellers who penetrated farthest east along the Silk Road from the Mediterranean world, probably with the aim of regularizing contacts and reducing the role of middlemen, during one of the lulls in Rome's intermittent wars with Parthia, which repeatedly obstructed movement along the Silk Road. Land and maritime routes were closely linked, and novel products, technologies and ideas began to spread across the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. Intercontinental trade and communication became regular, organized, and protected by the 'Great Powers.' Intense trade with the Roman Empire soon followed, confirmed by the Roman craze for Chinese silk (supplied through the Parthians), even though the Romans thought silk was obtained from trees. This belief was affirmed by Seneca the Younger in his Phaedra and by Virgil in his Georgics. Notably, Pliny the Elder knew better. Speaking of the bombyx or silk moth, he wrote in his Natural Histories "They weave webs, like spiders, that become a luxurious clothing material for women, called silk."[70]

The Senate issued, in vain, several edicts to prohibit the wearing of silk, on economic and moral grounds: the importation of Chinese silk caused a huge outflow of gold, and silk clothes were considered to be decadent and immoral:

"I can see clothes of silk, if materials that do not hide the body, nor even one's decency, can be called clothes… Wretched flocks of maids labour so that the adulteress may be visible through her thin dress, so that her husband has no more acquaintance than any outsider or foreigner with his wife's body" (Seneca the Younger (c.3 BCE–65, Declamations Vol. I).

The Hou Hanshu records that the first Roman envoy arrived in China by this maritime route in 166, initiating a series of Roman embassies to China.

Medieval age

A Westerner on a camel, Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534)
A sancai statue of foreigner with a wineskin, Tang Dynasty (618–907).

The main traders during Antiquity were the Indian and Bactrian traders, then from the 5th to the 8th century CE the Sogdian traders, then afterward the Persian traders.

The unification of Central Asia and Northern India within Kushan empire in the first to third centuries reinforced the role of the powerful merchants from Bactria and Taxila.[71] They fostered multi-cultural interaction as indicated by their 2nd century treasure hoards filled with products from the Greco-Roman world, China and India, such as in the archeological site of Begram.

The heyday of the Silk Road corresponds, on its west end, to the Byzantine Empire, Sassanid Empire Period to Il Khanate Period in the Nile-Oxus section and Three Kingdoms to Yuan Dynasty in the Sinitic zone in its east end. Trade between East and West also developed on the sea, between Alexandria in Egypt and Guangzhou in China, fostering across the Indian Ocean. The Silk Road represents an early phenomenon of political and cultural integration due to inter-regional trade. In its heyday, the Silk Road sustained an international culture that strung together groups as diverse as the Magyars, Armenians, and Chinese.

Under its strong integrating dynamics on the one hand and the impacts of change it transmitted on the other, tribal societies previously living in isolation along the Silk Road or pastoralists who were of barbarian cultural development were drawn to the riches and opportunities of the civilizations connected by the Silk Road, taking on the trades of marauders or mercenaries. Many barbarian tribes became skilled warriors able to conquer rich cities and fertile lands, and forge strong military empires.

The Sogdians dominated the East-West trade after the 4th century CE up to the 8th century CE, with Suyab and Talas ranking among their main centers in the north. They were the main caravan merchants of Central Asia. Their commercial interests were protected by the resurgent military power of the Göktürks, whose empire has been described as "the joint enterprise of the Ashina clan and the Soghdians".[72][71] Their trades with some interruptions continued in the 9th century within the framework of the Uighur Empire, which until 840 extended across northern Central Asia and obtained from China enormous deliveries of silk in exchange for horses. At this time caravans of Sogdians traveling to Upper Mongolia are mentioned in Chinese sources. They played an equally important religious and cultural role. Part of the data about eastern Asia provided by Muslim geographers of the 10th century actually goes back to Sogdian data of the period 750-840 and thus shows the survival of links between east and west. However, after the end of the Uighur Empire, Sogdian trade went through a crisis. What mainly issued from Muslim Central Asia was the trade of the Samanids, which resumed the northwestern road leading to the Khazars and the Urals and the northeastern one toward the nearby Turkic tribes.[71]

Central Asian and East-Asian Buddhist monks, Bezeklik, Eastern Tarim Basin, 9th-10th century.

The Silk Road gave rise to the clusters of military states of nomadic origins in North China, invited the Nestorian, Manichaean, Buddhist, and later Islamic religions into Central Asia and China, created the influential Khazar Federation and at the end of its glory, brought about the largest continental empire ever: the Mongol Empire, with its political centers strung along the Silk Road (Beijing in North China, Karakorum in central Mongolia, Sarmakhand in Transoxiana, Tabriz in Northern Iran, Sarai and Astrakhan in lower Volga, Solkhat in Crimea, Kazan in Central Russia, Erzurum in eastern Anatolia), realizing the political unification of zones previously loosely and intermittently connected by material and cultural goods.

The Roman Empire, and its demand for sophisticated Asian products, crumbled in the West around the 5th century. In Central Asia, Islam expanded from the 7th century onward, bringing a stop to Chinese westward expansion at the Battle of Talas in 751. Further expansion of the Islamic Turks in Central Asia from the 10th century finished disrupting trade in that part of the world, and Buddhism almost disappeared. For much of the Middle Ages, the Islamic Caliphate in Persia often had a monopoly over much of the trade conducted across the Old World (see Muslim age of discovery for more details).

Mongol age

The Mongol Empire at its height. The gray area is the later Timurid empire.

The Mongol expansion throughout the Asian continent from around 1207 to 1360 helped bring political stability and re-establish the Silk Road (via Karakorum). The Chinese Mongol diplomat Rabban Bar Sauma visited the courts of Europe in 1287-1288 and provided a detailed written report back to the Mongols. Around the same time, the Venetian explorer Marco Polo became one of the first Europeans to travel the Silk Road to China, and his tales, documented in The Travels of Marco Polo, opened Western eyes to some of the customs of the Far East. He was not the first to bring back stories, but he was one of the widest-read. He had been preceded by numerous Christian missionaries to the East, such as William of Rubruck, Benedykt Polak, Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, and Andrew of Longjumeau. Later envoys included Odoric of Pordenone, Giovanni de' Marignolli, John of Montecorvino, Niccolò Da Conti, or Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan Muslim traveller, who passed through the present-day Middle East and across the Silk Road from Tabriz, between 1325-1354.[73][74]

The 13th century also saw attempts at a Franco-Mongol alliance, with exchange of ambassadors and (failed) attempts at military collaboration in the Holy Land during the later Crusades, though eventually the Mongols in the Ilkhanate, after they had destroyed the Abbasid and Ayyubid dynasties, eventually themselves converted to Islam, and signed the 1323 Treaty of Aleppo with the surviving Muslim power, the Egyptian Mamluks.

Disintegration

The fragmentation of the Mongol Empire loosened the political, cultural and economic unity of the Silk Road. Turkmeni marching lords seized land around the western part of the Silk Road, belonging to the decaying Byzantine Empire. After the Mongol Empire, the great political powers along the Silk Road became economically and culturally separated. Accompanying the crystallization of regional states was the decline of nomad power, partly due to the devastation of the Black Death and partly due to the encroachment of sedentary civilizations equipped with gunpowder.

Gunpowder and early modernity in Europe led to the integration of territorial states and increasing mercantilism. Meanwhile on the Silk Road, gunpowder and early modernity had the opposite impact: the level of integration of the Mongol Empire could not be maintained, and trade declined (though partly due to an increase in European maritime exchanges).

The Silk Road stopped serving as a shipping route for silk around 1400.[citation needed]

The great explorers: Europe reaching for Asia

The disappearance of the Silk Road following the end of the Mongols was one of the main factors that stimulated the Europeans to reach the prosperous Chinese empire through another route, especially by sea. Tremendous profits were to be obtained for anyone who could achieve a direct trade connection with Asia.

Italian pottery of the mid-15th century was heavily influenced by Chinese ceramics. A Sancai ("Three colors") plate (left), and a Ming-type blue-white vase (right), made in Northern Italy, mid-15th century. Musée du Louvre.

When he went West in 1492, Christopher Columbus reportedly wished to create yet another Silk Route to China. It was initially a great disappointment to have found a continent "in-between" before recognizing the potential of a "New World."

In 1594, Willem Barents left Amsterdam with two ships to search for the Northeast passage north of Siberia, on to eastern Asia. He reached the west coast of Novaya Zemlya and followed it northward, being finally forced to turn back when confronted with its northern extremity. By the end of the 17th century, the Russians re-established a land trade route between Europe and China under the name of the Great Siberian Road.

The desire to trade directly with China and India was also the main driving force behind the expansion of the Portuguese beyond Africa after 1480, followed by the Netherlands and Great Britain from the 17th century. While the Portuguese (and, subsequently, other Europeans) were entering China from its southern coast, by the sea route, the question arose as to whether it happens to be the same country as Cathay which Marco had reached by the overland route. By ca. 1600, the Jesuits stationed in China, led by Matteo Ricci, were pretty sure that it was, but others were not convinced yet. To check the situation on the ground, the Jesuit Lay Brother Bento de Góis travelled in 1603-1605 from India via Afghanistan and one of the routes of the traditional Silk Road (via Badakhshan, the Pamirs, Yarkand, Kucha, and Turpan to the Ming China's border as Suzhou, Gansu.[75]

Leibniz, echoing the prevailing perception in Europe until the Industrial Revolution, wrote in the 17th century that: Everything exquisite and admirable comes from the East Indies... Learned people have remarked that in the whole world there is no commerce comparable to that of China.

In the 18th century, Adam Smith declared that China had been one of the most prosperous nations in the world, but that it had remained stagnant for a long time and its wages always were low and the lower classes were particularly poor:[76]

China has long been one of the richest, that is, one of the most fertile, best cultivated, most industrious, and most populous countries in the world. It seems, however, to have been long stationary. Marco Polo, who visited it more than five hundred years ago, describes its cultivation, industry, and populousness, almost in the same terms as travellers in the present time describe them. It had perhaps, even long before his time, acquired that full complement of riches which the nature of its laws and institutions permits it to acquire. (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776).

Cultural exchanges on the Silk Road

Standing Buddha, Gandhara, 1st century.

Notably, the Buddhist faith and the Greco-Buddhist culture started to travel eastward along the Silk Road, penetrating in China from around the 1st century BC.

The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism to China started in the 1st century CE with a semi-legendary account of an embassy sent to the West by the Chinese Emperor Ming (58 – 75 CE). Extensive contacts however started in the 2nd century CE, probably as a consequence of the expansion of the Kushan empire into the Chinese territory of the Tarim Basin, with the missionary efforts of a great number of Central Asian Buddhist monks to Chinese lands. The first missionaries and translators of Buddhists scriptures into Chinese were either Parthian, Kushan, Sogdian or Kuchean.

From the 4th century onward, Chinese pilgrims also started to travel on the Silk Road to India, the origin of Buddhism, by themselves in order to get improved access to the original scriptures, with Fa-hsien's pilgrimage to India (395–414), and later Xuan Zang (629–644). The legendary accounts of the holy priest Xuan Zang were described in a famous novel called Journey to the West, which envisaged trials of the journey with demons but with the help of various disciples.

The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism essentially ended around the 7th century with the rise of Islam in Central Asia.

Artistic transmission

Many artistic influences transited along the Silk Road, especially through the Central Asia, where Hellenistic, Iranian, Indian and Chinese influence were able to intermix. In particular Greco-Buddhist art represent one of the most vivid examples of this interaction.

Buddhist deities

The image of the Buddha, originating during the 1st century in a small country in the north of India [now Nepal], was transmitted progressively through Central Asia and China until it reached Korea in the 4th century and Japan in the 6th century. However, it is clear that many Western iconographical details were also transmitted, such as the Hercules-inspired Nio guardian deities in front of Japanese Buddhist temples,[citation needed] and representations of the Buddha reminiscent of Greek art such as the Buddha in Kamakura.[citation needed]

Another Buddhist deity, Shukongoshin, is also an interesting case of transmission of the image of the famous Greek god Herakles to the far East along the Silk Road. Herakles was used in Greco-Buddhist art to represent Vajrapani, the protector of the Buddha,[citation needed] and his representation was then used in China, Korea, and Japan to depict the protector gods of Buddhist temples.

Iconographical evolution of the Wind God. Left: Greek Wind God from Hadda, 2nd century. Middle: Wind God from Kizil, Tarim Basin, 7th century. Right: Japanese Wind God Fujin, 17th century.

Wind god

The name of the west wind in Greek is Zephyr. Various other artistic influences from the Silk Road can be found in Asia, one of the most striking being that of the Greek wind god Boreas, transiting through Central Asia and China to become the Japanese Shinto wind god Fujin.[77]

Technological transfer

Chinese junk and Atlantic and Mediterranean ships. Depicted in Fra Mauro map, image above.

The period of the High Middle Ages in Europe and East Asia saw major technological advances, including the diffusion through the Silk Road of the precursor to movable type printing, gunpowder, the astrolabe, and the compass.

Korean maps such as the Kangnido and Islamic mapmaking seem to have influenced the emergence of the first European practical world maps, such as those of De Virga or Fra Mauro. Ramusio, a contemporary, states that Fra Mauro's map is "an improved copy of the one brought from Cathay by Marco Polo".

Large Chinese junks were also observed by these travelers and may have provided impetus to develop larger ships in Europe.

"The ships, called junks, that navigate these seas carry four masts or more, some of which can be raised or lowered, and have 40 to 60 cabins for the merchants and only one tiller." (Text from the Fra Mauro map, 09-P25)
"A ship carries a complement of a thousand men, six hundred of whom are sailors and four hundred men-at-arms, including archers, men with shields and crossbows, who throw naphtha… These vessels are built in the towns of Zaytun (a.k.a Zaitun, today's Quanzhou; 刺桐) and Sin-Kalan. The vessel has four decks and contains rooms, cabins, and saloons for merchants; a cabin has chambers and a lavatory, and can be locked by its occupants." (Ibn Battuta).

The New Silk Road railway route

The last available link on the Silk Road was completed in 1990, when the railway systems of China and Kazakhstan connected in Alataw Pass (Alashan Kou). Currently (2008), the line is used by direct passenger service from Urumqi in China's Xinjiang to Almaty and Astana in Kazakhstan.[9].

Commemoration

Both Bishkek and Almaty now have a major east-west street named after the Silk Road (Kyrgyz: Жибек жолу, Jibek Jolu in Bishkek, and Kazakh: Жібек жолы, Jibek Joly in Almaty).

Silk Route Museum

Artifacts from the history of the Silk Route are displayed in the Silk Route Museum in Jiuquan, China.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b "Approaches Old and New to the Silk Roads" Vadime Eliseeff in: The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. Paris (1998) UNESCO, Reprint: Berghahn Books (2009), pp. 1-2. ISBN 92-3-103652-1; ISBN 1-57181-221-0; ISBN 1-57181-222-9 (pbk)
  2. ^ a b Waugh, Daniel. (2007). "Richthofen "Silk Roads": Toward the Archeology of a Concept." The Silk Road. Volume 5, Number 1, Summer 2007, p. 4.
  3. ^ Hill (2009), pp. ix-xiv.
  4. ^ "ANCIENT SILK ROAD TRAVELERS [sic"]. www.silk-road.com. http://www.silk-road.com/artl/srtravelmain.shtml. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  5. ^ a b Wood, Francis (2002). The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. pp. 9, 13–23. ISBN 978-0-520-24340-8. 
  6. ^ Elisseeff, Vadime (2001). The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. UNESCO Publishing / Berghahn Books. pp. 332 pages. ISBN 978-92-3-103652-1. 
  7. ^ Boulnois, Luce (2005). Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants. Hong Kong: Odyssey Books. pp. 66. ISBN 962-217-721-2. 
  8. ^ Hogan, C. Michael. "The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map: Silk Road, North China [Northern Silk Road, North Silk Road Ancient Trackway"]. www.megalithic.co.uk. http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=18006. Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  9. ^ Hill, John E. 2003. "Annotated Translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu." 2nd Draft Edition. Introduction [1]
  10. ^ Ulric Killion, A Modern Chinese Journey to the West: Economic Globalization And Dualism, (Nova Science Publishers: 2006), p.66
  11. ^ Casson, Lionel. 1989. The Periplus Maris Erythraei. Text with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-04060-5.
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ "The Egypto-Graeco-Romans and Panchea/Azania: sailing in the Erythraean Sea." Felix A. Chami. In: Society for Arabian Studies Monographs 2 Trade and Travel in the Red Sea Region. Proceedings of Red Sea Project I held in the British Museum October 2002, pp. 93-104. Edited by Paul Lunde and Alexandra Porter. ISBN 1841716227.
  14. ^ Kislev ME, Hartmann A, Bar-Yosef O (2006) Early domesticated fig in the Jordan Valley. Nature 312:1372–1374.
  15. ^ Chicki, L; Nichols, RA; Barbujani, G; Beaumont, MA. 2002. Y genetic data support the Neolithic demic diffusion model. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 99(17): 11008-11013.
  16. ^ Estimating the Impact of Prehistoric Admixture on the Genome of Europeans, Dupanloup et al., 2004
  17. ^ Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J: Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area, 2004
  18. ^ Paleolithic and Neolithic lineages in the European mitochondrial gene pool, Cavalli-Sforza 1997.
  19. ^ Clines of nuclear DNA markers suggest a largely Neolithic ancestry of the European gene, Chikhi 1997.
  20. ^ M. Zvelebil, in Hunters in Transition: Mesolithic Societies and the Transition to Farming, M. Zvelebil (editor), Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK (1986) pp. 5-15, 167–188.
  21. ^ P. Bellwood, First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies, Blackwell: Malden, MA (2005).
  22. ^ M. Dokládal, J. Brožek, Curr. Anthropol. 2 (1961) pp. 455–477.
  23. ^ O. Bar-Yosef, Evol. Anthropol. 6 (1998) pp. 159–177.
  24. ^ M. Zvelebil, Antiquity 63 (1989) pp. 379–383.
  25. ^ C. Loring Brace, Noriko Seguchi, Conrad B. Quintyn, Sherry C. Fox, A. Russell Nelson, Sotiris K. Manolis, and Pan Qifeng, "The questionable contribution of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age to European craniofacial form," in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (Jan. 3, 2006). Vol. 103, No. 1, pp. 242-247. [3] doi: 10.1073/pnas.0509801102
  26. ^ F. X. Ricaut, M. Waelkens, "Cranial Discrete Traits in a Byzantine Population and Eastern Mediterranean Population Movements," in Human Biology, Wayne State University Press (Aug. 2008). Vol. 80, Issue 5, pp. 535-564. [4] doi: 10.3378/1534-6617-80.5.535
  27. ^ Fred Wendorf and Romuald Schild, 2000. Late Neolithic megalithic structures at Nabta Playa (Sahara), southwestern Egypt.
  28. ^ Maadi Culture
  29. ^ Parsons, Marie. "Egypt: Hierakonpolis, A Feature Tour Egypt Story". www.touregypt.net. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/hierakonpolis.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  30. ^ Barbara G. Aston, James A. Harrell, Ian Shaw (2000). Paul T. Nicholson and Ian Shaw editors. "Stone," in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, Cambridge, 5-77, pp. 46-47. Also note: Barbara G. Aston (1994). "Ancient Egyptian Stone Vessels," Studien zur Archäologie und Geschichte Altägyptens 5, Heidelberg, pp. 23-26. (See on-line posts: [5] and [6].)
  31. ^ Shaw, Ian (2002). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 61. ISBN 0-500-05074-0. 
  32. ^ Branislav Andelkovic, 1995. The Relations between Early Bronze Age I Canaanites and Upper Egyptians, Belgrade, p. 58, map 2. Branislav Andelkovic, 2002. Southern Canaan as an Egyptian Protodynastic Colony. Cahiers Caribéens d`Egyptologie 3-4: 75-92.
  33. ^ Branislav Andelkovic, 1995, pp. 68-69, map 1; Branislav Andelkovic 2002.
  34. ^ Places where cylinder seals similar to that from Naqada tomb 1863 have been found.
  35. ^ Dominique Collon, 1987. First Impressions, Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East, London, pp. 13-14.
  36. ^ S. R. Rao (1985). Lothal. Archaeological Survey of India. pp. 27–29. 
  37. ^ a b c Please refer to Wadi Hammamat#Trade route.
  38. ^ Please refer to Wadi Hammamat#Carvings.
  39. ^ Please refer to Wadi Hammamat#Quarries and Wadi Hammamat#Common era.
  40. ^ Jobbins, Jenny. "The 40 days' nightmare," in Al-Ahram, 13–19 November 2003, Issue No. 664. Published in Cairo, Egypt.
  41. ^ Please refer to Kharga Oasis.
  42. ^ Smith, Dr. Stuart Tyson. Nubia: History, University of California Santa Barbara, Department of Anthropology, <http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/faculty/stsmith/research/nubia_history.html>. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
  43. ^ Burr, J. Millard and Robert O. Collins, Darfur: The Long Road to Disaster, Markus Wiener Publishers: Princeton, 2006, ISBN 1-55876-405-4, pp. 6-7.
  44. ^ a b c d Ward, Cheryl. "World's Oldest Planked Boats", in Archaeology (Volume 54, Number 3, May/June 2001). Archaeological Institute of America.
  45. ^ a b c d Schuster, Angela M.H. "This Old Boat", Dec. 11, 2000. Archaeological Institute of America.
  46. ^ Naomi Porat and Edwin van den Brink (editor), "An Egyptian Colony in Southern Palestine During the Late Predynastic to Early Dynastic," in The Nile Delta in Transition: 4th to 3rd Millennium BC (1992), pp. 433-440.
  47. ^ a b Naomi Porat, "Local Industry of Egyptian Pottery in Southern Palestine During the Early Bronze I Period," in Bulletin of the Egyptological, Seminar 8 (1986/1987), pp. 109-129. See also University College London web post, 2000.
  48. ^ Please refer to Sesostris#Modern research.
  49. ^ J. H. Breasted attributes the ancient canal's early construction to Senusret III, up through the first cataract. Please refer to J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, Chicago 1906, §§642-648
  50. ^ Please refer to Suez Canal#2nd millennium BC.
  51. ^ Aristotle, Meteorology (1.15) [7]
  52. ^ The Elder Pliny and John Healey Natural History (6.33.165) Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (5 Feb 2004) ISBN 978-0140444131 p.70 [8]
  53. ^ Descriptions de l'Égypte, Volume 11 (État Moderne), containing Mémoire sur la communication de la mer des Indes à la Méditerranée par la mer Rouge et l'Isthme de Sueys, par M. J.M. Le Père, ingénieur en chef, inspecteur divisionnaire au corps impérial des ponts et chaussées, membre de l'Institut d'Égypte, p. 21 - 186
  54. ^ a b c d Rappoport, S. (Doctor of Philosophy, Basel). History of Egypt (undated, early 20th century), Volume 12, Part B, Chapter V: "The Waterways of Egypt," pages 248-257. London: The Grolier Society.
  55. ^ Their reports were published in Description de l'Égypte
  56. ^ Montet, Pierre. Everyday Life In The Days Of Ramesses The Great (1981), page 184. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  57. ^ Silver, Morris. Ancient Economies II (Apr. 6, 1998), "5c. Evidence for Earlier Canals." ANCIENT ECONOMIES II, retrieved Aug. 8, 2008. Economics Department, City College of New York.
  58. ^ a b c d Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition, s.v. "Suez Canal". Accessed 08 August 2008.
  59. ^ Hess, Richard S. Rev. of Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, by James K. Hoffmeier. The Denver Journal 1 (1 January 1998). Accessed 14 May 2008.
  60. ^ Encyclopaedia of the Orient, "Suez Canal". Accessed 14 May 2008.
  61. ^ Hassan, Fekri A. Kafr Hassan Dawood On-line, 17 August 2003. Accessed 14 May 2008.
  62. ^ (Spanish) Martínez Babon, Javier. "Consideraciones sobre la Marinay la Guerra durante el Egipto Faraónico". Accessed 14 May 2008.
  63. ^ Herodotus (1996 edition), p. 185.
  64. ^ Baines and Málek (1984), p. 48.
  65. ^ Please refer to Royal Road.
  66. ^ Prevas, John. (2004). Envy of the Gods: Alexander the Great's Ill-Fated Journey across Asia, p. 121. De Capo Press, Cambridge, Mass. ISBN 0-306-81268-1.
  67. ^ http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Strab.+11.11.1 Strabo XI.XI.I.
  68. ^ Silk Road, North China, C.M. Hogan, the Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham
  69. ^ R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 BCE to the Present, Fourth Edition (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993), 133, apparently relying on Homer H. Dubs, "A Roman City in Ancient China", in Greece and Rome, Second Series, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Oct., 1957), pp. 139-148
  70. ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural Histories 11.xxvi.76
  71. ^ a b c Sogdian Trade, Encyclopedia Iranica, (retrieved 15 June 2007) <http://www.iranica.com/newsite>
  72. ^ Wink, André. Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World. Brill Academic Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0391041738.
  73. ^ The Pax Mongolica, by Daniel C. Waugh, University of Washington, Seattle
  74. ^ Battuta's Travels: Part Three - Persia and Iraq
  75. ^ Henry Yule (1866), p. 530.
  76. ^ "The accounts of all travellers, inconsistent in many other respects, agree in the low wages of labour, and in the difficulty which a labourer finds in bringing up a family in China. If by digging the ground a whole day he can get what will purchase a small quantity of rice in the evening, he is contented. The condition of artificers is, if possible, still worse. Instead of waiting indolently in their work-houses, for the calls of their customers, as in Europe, they are continually running about the streets with the tools of their respective trades, offering their service, and as it were begging employment. The poverty of the lower ranks of people in China far surpasses that of the most beggarly nations in Europe. In the neighbourhood of Canton many hundred, it is commonly said, many thousand families have no habitation on the land, but live constantly in little fishing boats upon the rivers and canals. The subsistence which they find there is so scanty that they are eager to fish up the nastiest garbage thrown overboard from any European ship. Any carrion, the carcass of a dead dog or cat, for example, though half putrid and stinking, is as welcome to them as the most wholesome food to the people of other countries. Marriage is encouraged in China, not by the profitableness of children, but by the liberty of destroying them. In all great towns several are every night exposed in the street, or drowned like puppies in the water. The performance of this horrid office is even said to be the avowed business by which some people earn their subsistence." (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776).
  77. ^ Katsumi Tanabe, "Alexander the Great, East-West cultural contacts from Greece to Japan," p.21: "The Japanese wind god images do not belong to a separate tradition apart from that of their Western counter-parts but share the same origins. (...) One of the characteristics of these Far Eastern wind god images is the wind bag held by this god with both hands, the origin of which can be traced back to the shawl or mantle worn by Boreas/ Oado."

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  • Wimmel, Kenneth, 1996. The Alluring Target: In Search of the Secrets of Central Asia. Trackless Sands Press, Palo Alto, CA. ISBN 1-879434-48-2
  • Yan, Chen, 1986. "Earliest Silk Route: The Southwest Route." Chen Yan. China Reconstructs, Vol. XXXV, No. 10. Oct. 1986, pp. 59–62.
  • Yule (translator and editor), Sir Henry (1866). Cathay and the way thither: being a collection of medieval notices of China. Issue 37 of Works issued by the Hakluyt Society. Printed for the Hakluyt society. http://books.google.com/books?id=KzEMAAAAIAAJ. 

Further reading

  • Bulliet, Richard W. 1975. The Camel and the Wheel. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-09130-2.
  • Choisnel, Emmanuel : Les Parthes et la route de la soie ; Paris [u.a.], L' Harmattan [u.a.], 2005, ISBN 2-7475-7037-1
  • Christian, David (2000). "Silk Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History". Journal of World History (University of Hawaii Press) 2.1 (Spring): 1. 
  • de la Vaissière, E., Sogdian Traders. A History, Leiden, Brill, 2005, Hardback ISBN 90-04-14252-5 [13], French version ISBN 2-85757-064-3 on [14]
  • de la Vaissière, E., Trombert, E., Les Sogdiens en Chine, Paris, EFEO, 2005 ISBN 2-85539-653-0 [15]
  • Elisseeff, Vadime. Editor. 1998. The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. UNESCO Publishing. Paris. Reprint: 2000. ISBN 92-3-103652-1 softback; ISBN 1-57181-221-0; ISBN 1-57181-222-9 softback.
  • Foltz, Richard C. 1999. Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-21408-1.
  • Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
  • Hill, John E. 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilüe 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265. Draft annotated English translation. [16]
  • Hopkirk, Peter: The Great Game: the Struggle for Empire in Central Asia; Kodansha International, New York, 1990, 1992.
  • Il Milione by Marco Polo
  • Kuzmina, E. E. The Prehistory of the Silk Road. (2008) Edited by Victor H. Mair. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. ISBN 978-0-8122-4041-2.
  • Liu, Xinru, and Shaffer, Lynda Norene. 2007. Connections Across Eurasia: Transportation, Communication, and Cultural Exchange on the Silk Roads. McGraw Hill, New York. ISBN 978-0-07-284351-4.
  • Miller, Roy Andrew (1959): Accounts of Western Nations in the History of the Northern Chou Dynasty. University of California Press.
  • Hallikainen, Saana : Connections from Europe to Asia and how the trading was affected by the cultural exchange (2002)
  • Thubron, C., The Silk Road to China (Hamlyn, 1989)
  • Lawrenson, Brian, Following Marco 'Polo's Silk Road. Second Edition. Marco Polo Press 2010. ISBN 978-1-43924-942-0 paperback 344 pages. [17].

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

This article is an itinerary.

The Silk Road crosses Asia from China to Europe. It is not really a single road, rather a collection of related trade routes. One poem calls it "The Golden Road to Samarkand" [1].

Understand

Caravans have been traveling the Silk Road for over 2000 years, and Chinese silk was reaching Rome before the time of Christ.

Ideas also traveled this road. Both Islam and Buddhism reached China by this route and some Silk Road areas have important relics of those religions. Various ideas from the East also reached the Islamic countries and sometimes Europe.

Marco Polo followed this route, reaching China overland via Khotan and beginning his homeward journey with a ship on the Maritime Silk Road from Quanzhou to Iran.

Many travelers today follow all or part of this ancient path by train, bus and private car. Some Wikitravel itineraries partly follow the Silk Road.

Prepare

This is not an easy route or one for the novice traveler. Consult a travel medicine specialist about vaccinations and about medicine to take along. See also Tips for travel in developing countries.

If you are doing the full route, bring phrasebooks for at least Chinese, Russian and Persian.

Note that parts of this route may be difficult or impassable in winter, and various borders may sometimes be closed for political reasons. Check country listings for details.

Get in

You could start a Silk Road journey from anywhere in Europe or China, but the obvious jumping-off spots are the two ends of the historic road, Xian and Istanbul.

To explore just the central part of the road in Central Asia, it would be easiest to fly into a city in that area with good air connections — Tashkent, Almaty or even Urumqi.

Route

Xi'an to Dunhuang

The main caravan route from China to the West

Around the desert

The caravan route splits to go around the Taklimakan Desert

Northern Silk Route

Middle Silk Route

Southern (Jade) Silk Route

The routes rejoin at Kashgar in the extreme west of China.

After Kashgar

After Kashgar, the main route goes:

Other routes

There were also

  • alternate routes — for example:
    • crossing into Central Asia further North into Kazakhstan
    • passing North of the Caspian Sea instead of through Iran
    • reaching the Mediterranean in what is now Lebanon or Israel rather than via Istanbul
  • branches off the road for example:
  • a Maritime Silk Road — from Chinese ports like Nanjing and Quanzhou to India and the Arab countries
  • a "Tea and horse caravan" route [2] much further South, from Chengdu through Yunnan and parts of Tibet to Northern India

Sleep

The traditional inns of the area are called caravanserai. They are built around a walled courtyard and have stables for the horses and camels. Some still exist; anyone traveling this road should try to stay in them at least once.

Stay safe

The whole area is Muslim which implies at least:

  • a tremendous tradition of Muslim hospitality and wonderful treatment of visitors
  • some conservatism, especially in matters such as womens' clothing
  • risk of foreigners who do not understand Islam giving offense
  • complicated politics, mixed with religious issues
  • considerable hostility toward both Western and Russian influences

Some of the people are still nomadic herdsmen, and even in the cities tribal loyalties may run strong, which implies at least:

  • tremendous hospitality again
  • suspicion of outsiders, even from neighboring tribes. Foreigners are sometimes exempt
  • many of them are heavily armed

That said, with a bit of common sense and goodwill and a lot of flexibility on the part of the traveler, the risks are moderate.

See individual country and city listings for more.

This is a usable itinerary. It explains how to get there and touches on all the major points along the way. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

Proper noun

Singular
Silk Road

Plural
-

Silk Road

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Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia

  1. An extensive interconnected network of trade routes across Asia, North and Northeast Africa, and Europe, historically used by silk traders.

Simple English

[[File:|right|thumb|220px|The Silk Road is a network of routes.]]

File:Transasia trade routes 1stC CE
The Silk Road in the 1st century.

Silk Road was a group of trade routes (paths that traders followed) that went across Asia to the Mediterranean Sea. This let China trade with other places.

It was named the silk road because there was a lot of silk traded along it. Silk was then only made in China. Because the traders came from many places, different ideas were brought to China, and China's ideas were taken to other places. The Silk Road earned China a lot of money. Some of the things the Chinese traded were silk, porcelain, rice, and spices.

Trade on the Silk Road was a big part in the growth of the ancient cultures of China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, and Rome, and helped to make the beginning of today's world. Silk road is English for the German word "Seidenstraße". The first person who called it that was a German geographer (a person who studies the earth's surface) in the year 1877.

Contents

Path

The Silk Road first travels west from North China. The part of the Silk Road on land splits into north and south roads to move around the Tibetan Plateau.

After the two parts come back together, it goes in an almost straight line west through mountains in north Iran and the north tip of the Syrian Desert to the Levant (Syria, Israel, Palestine). From there Mediterranean trading ships took routes to Italy, and land routes went north through Anatolia or south to North Africa.

By sea

The part of the Silk Road on water stretches from South China, to the Philippines, Brunei, Siam, Malacca, Ceylon, India, Pakistan, and Iran.

In Europe it stretches from Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and Italy. In the Mediterranean Sea, it goes to Portugal and Sweden.

Asian trades

[[File:|thumb|150px|right|Standing Buddha, 1st century.]][[File:|thumb|right|150px|A Greco-Roman gladiator on a glass pot.]] The Buddhist religion and the Greco-Buddhist culture started to move east on the Silk Road, going to China from around the 100s BC.Trading also helped make many arts and crafts, brought different religions, and food to China. Chinese people helped build the Silk Road, They bought and sold with other people, and built up their culture. The Kushan empire, in the northwest part of India, was in the middle of these trades.

The Silk Road brought other cultures into Central Asia and China. It also helped the rise of the Mongol Empire, the largest land empire ever.

The Roman Empire, which bought a lot of Chinese goods, began to fall from power in the West around the 5th century. In Central Asia, Islam expanded starting in the 7th century. This brought a stop to Chinese west growth at a battle in 751 AD. More growth of the Islamic Turks in Central Asia from the 10th century stopped trade in that part of the world.

Other websites

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