Silk And Spice Trade Essay, Research Paper
The establishment and impact of the Silk and Spice trade
The establishment of silk garments in Asia first came about when the silkworm, Bombyx mori (moth) residing in the family Bombycidae, was first discovered for its thread by a great dynasty of China?the Han Dynasty (206 BC ? AD 220). The silk has a continuous-filament fiber consisting of fibroin protein secreted from two salivary glands in the head of each larvae, and a gum called sericin, which cements the two filaments together. Silk weaving began around 2,700 B.C. when the great prince, Hoang-ti, directed his wife, Si-ling-chi, to examine the silkworm and test the practicability of using the thread (4). From there Si-ling-chi developed the technique of raising silkworms, reeling of the silk, and the ability to produce a lavish of fancy garments; and using color patterns in the latter. Is-lingo-chi was recognized for her work and honored with the name Seine-Than, or “The Goddess of Silk Worms” (4).
Soon after the cultivation of silk, this precious product became distributed all throughout China, even reaching its unmilitarized borders. In doing so, many caravans had been attacked by small Central Asian Tribes in hopes of obtaining their precious cargo they traded. Therefore, between 135 and 90 BC, the Han dynasty expanded its military alliance deeper into Central Asia and expanded the construction of the Great Wall to secure the road from the Xiongnu. A Chinese trader by the name of Chan Ch?ien was the first to communicate with the Central Asian Tribe and setup peace treaty for all caravans; thus the branching of the Silk Road began. However, before setting foot on the journey through the Silk Road, many unprecedented territorial hardships laid in front of the merchants and their caravans.
Much of the land separating Eastern China from Western China and Europe was a treacherous desert. The Taklimakan desert, or otherwise unknown as, the ?Land of Death? was an extreme climatic region for the merchants. Much like the Mediterranean region, the Taklimakan desert received limit amounts of rainfall, temperatures between summer and winter fluctuated between ?22oC and +55oC, and its lethal sandstorms were produced from robust winds and the nature of the surface. Unlike the Sahara desert that was rich in oasis, the Taklimakan desert had an oasis famish, only to be found in scarce locations. Surrounding this respected desert layed some of the highest mountain ranges in the world not to mention some of the largest rivers in the world. Separating the Indian peninsula from Central Asia were the Himalayas, Karakorum and Kunlun ranges rising up to 5000ft in elevation, with narrow paths and steep falls. To the northest of the Taklimakan desert lies the Gobi desert that just as deadly Taklimakan desert, except that it contains more oases; to the north and west lie the Tianshan and Pamir mountain ranges that are characterized as lower altitude and wider roads, but must continue to approach these ranges with caution. Therefore, the life of the merchant was a stressing and life-threatening job that required much attention and delegation to succeed through the Silk Road.
?The name “Silk Road” is really a misnomer,? in the reality that it was an extensive network of roads connecting Xian and Lahore to Cairo and Rome. It started in the capital of Changan that headed north to the Gansu corridor, and then arrived at Dunhuang on the outskirts of the Taklimakan desert. From Dunhuang, an intricate set of roads branched off from the main northern and southern routes; from these arteries, capillary roads split east and western to arbitrary destinations, mostly following the scent of money and prosperity.
This distinctive path to success was not originally called the Silk Road until a nineteenth century German scholar, von Richthofen, gave it the term because silk was the main priority of merchants for trade. Silk was not the only commodity that was traded, but so was art, religion (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism), ideas, gold, silver, ivory, exotic plants and animals, metals, stones, and glass to name a few. In the opposite direction furs, ceramics, jade, bronze objects, lacquer and iron were carried into China even though the Chinese regarded all foreigners as nomads.
Religion is thought to be the primary impact of all time on the Silk Road. Buddhism rose as a strict doctrine in the sixth century BC, and was adopted as India’s official religion in the third century BC. When Buddhism, Manicheanism, and Nestorianism arrived in China through the Silk Road, it further influenced the Chinese culture. Ironically, its has also been known that neither Japan nor Korea had developed their own cultures, but Korea had adopted and modified their culture from China and Japan had done similar with Korea.
When Buddhism became the primary religion of China scholarly professors had been sent out to India to learn about the new religion, thus returning from their voyage with sacred Buddhist texts and paintings as well as Indian preists to explain the teachings of the Buddha to the Emperor. ?Monks, missionaries and pilgrims began travelling from India to Central Asia and then on to China, bringing Buddhist writings and paintings, while converts followed the Silk Road west.? Fa Xi’an (337-422), was the first Chinese monk to travel to India in 399, via the southern route, and actually returning to China via the sea route in 414 with knowledge of the religion Buddhism, however. Xuan Zang (600-664), a Buddhist monk is a well known Chinese travellers on the Silk Road with great translations of the Buddhist texts. As the popular religion of Buddhism spread rapidly across the Silk Road like plague, oasis towns had built cave complexes and monasteries to supported a safe passage of caravan to powerful local families and merchants. Pilgrims from China continued to travel west searching for original manuscripts and holy sites, over the Karakoram range to Gandhara and India.
Even though religions of Manicheanism and Nestorianism were introduced, accepted and assimilated via the Silk Road, neither reached the popularity endowment that Buddhism received. The religion Manicheanism was started by Manes of Persia in the third century BC and is based on the opposing principles of light and dark (spirit and flesh). However, followers of Manicheanism had been persecuted to death by the Christians in the 5th AD, and flourished from Central Asia during the Sui (581-618) and Tang dynasties
The fall of the silk road came with in the control on the Mongolian Empire that was split into two separate khans and due to small rebellions in the early fourteenth century, the Yang dynasty was replaced by the Ming dynasty in 1368. never again did the silk road reach the same peek like it had under the Tang dynasty, but it struggled to hold an economic trading system, but it was more than they could fathom?with the capture of Constantinople, the fall of the silk road was finalized in 1453.
The value of spice can date back to 408AD when a ransom was given to Alaric the Visigothic of 3,000 lbs of pepper, along with gold, silver, and of course, silk. Since the beginning of time, man has adapted to their environments or improvised in order to flourish and reproduce. Spices have been important throughout history as a means of prestige as well as for flavoring and preserving foods. Spices are defined as “derived from a variety of plant parts” including the flower, root, bud, secretion, seed, fruit, or bark of certain plants. Spices grow in primarily tropical or semitropical climates, as opposed to herbs, which are usually found in temperate climates. The most popular of the spices include pepper, cloves, mace and nutmeg, cinnamon, thyme, anise seed, bay, coriander, and marjoram. There were many uses for spices throughout the history of the spice trade. There was a time when spices were used in place of money. Pepper, in particular, was used for this purpose. It was convenient because it was much smaller and lighter than metal coins. As early as 600 B.C a trade system was set up where the Arabians took control of the spice market, which was even then very lucrative. Then, around 40 AD the Romans became the principle traders of spices until the fall of the Roman Empire. Many in the Mediterranean believe that there was a special route set up between Africa and Asia for the acquisition of cinnamon and other spices from overseas, and then there was a chain set up between the Han dynasty in China and the Romans over land for the precious cargo (5). At this time trading was done in small quantities, and such things as spices and the textiles and metals that were also traded were primarily luxuries. Then, at the fall of the Roman Empire, spice trading slowed down considerably until the
Spices became very important in preserving foods that could not be gotten fresh, as well as seasoning them to cover up the taste of food which was often diseased or slightly rotten (1). Spices were not only put on meats, but also used on fish and in jam, soups, and drinks. They also were said to have many medicinal properties. The spice trade has played an important role in history that has inadvertently led to the discovery of new cultures and ideas as explorers set out to find new ways to get to the precious commodity (2). Spices have helped to make the life of the average person more enjoyable by flavoring tasteless foods and by preserving foods that would otherwise be unavailable during certain times in the year. Also used as symbols of wealth or prestige, spices have been influenced history for over four thousand years (3)
In retrospect to the silk and Spice roads taken by many opportunistic endeavourers, this was a historic road that marked the first major connections between Asia and Europe in the chance to discover and expand the knowledge of different nations and to break the barriers of ignorance trying to absorb new cultures, ideas, and religions. These two trade routes, acted more like an Internet search engine that stored value information from the virtues of life, to best home cooked recipes. The trade roads marked the melting pot of cross-cultural influences brought upon the merchants and buyers that led indirectly to the age of discovery marked by courage?s explorers who set out to find their precious commodities . Economics and trade are the? Ending on a personal note, I have had the privilege to participate on traveling ice hockey teams through the extent of my high school career, and needless to say, traveling the United States and parts of Canada have greatly influence my life and the cognition of notion. Not one state or nation held similar opinions on issues, believed in the same God, nor superceded a flawless government.
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