The Silk Road, along which passed not only merchandises but also ideas, manufacturing techniques and religions, was the symbol of the bond between East and West. As we examine the art reside among the ancient trade road from ChinatoByzantium, we will discover the complexity of the exchanges and variety of cultures and landmarks.
Besides the exchange of the silk, there were many other types of merchandise, such as spices, cloth, paper, porcelain, chinaware, grape and wine, glass, incense, music instrument and many other products along the trade routes. It was also the route by which Buddhism and Nestorians found new converts.
In following the 5,000 miles of the Silk Road from the far East of China to the far West of Byzantium, we will discover, over the fascinating art objects that left behind the fall of the Silk Road several Centuries ago, and examine and enjoy the complexity of exchanges and the infinitive variety of culture, religion and the early civilizations of the kingdoms at this period of time.
The Silk Road was named by the German geographer, Barn Ferdinand von Richthofen who made seven expeditions toChinafrom 1868 to 1872, as the greatest East to West trade route betweenChina, Central Asia andByzantium. This ancient route between East and West was established during 206 BC to AD 220 in Han Dynasty ofChinafor the political contact with the many Kingdoms ofCentral Asia. Since then, the Silk Road has also become the trading routes betweenChinaand West. In fact the term "Silk Road" has vividly described the complex reality happened along the long way between these two continents politically and economically.
The Silk Road consists of a network of land routes. Many caravans had successfully made their ways toEurasiaover the centuries, adapting various functions according to different political situation, economic conditions, geographic environments, taste and demand of many different races for particular products, religious belief, their artistic aspects as well as development of technology and skills.
The flourish of Silk route not only had brought the precious price "silk" from China to West also established many other trades between goods. Eastbound caravans brought gold, precious metals and stones, ivory, coral, spices, tea, paper, textiles, and chinaware, while westbound caravans transported furs, ceramics, incense, cinnamon bark and rhubarb as well as bronze weapons. Of course, on the top of the exchanges of merchandises, the different religious belief of Buddhism, Nestorians and Islam had gotten the chance to explore their way to other areas.
Across the multiplicity of trades along the routes, silk was the most prominent products of all because it was used by Chinese as the basic currency to the neighbor countries of the North and West, a means of exchange. The silk also paid off by Chinese government to ensure the pace at the far west borders with nomadic neighbors and to guard against the invaders to destroy their agricultural development. Time by time, the exchanges of supplies had expanded fromFar East,Chinathrough middlemen in Central Asia to the far West,Roman Empire. As the result, the demands of the silk grew rapidly in the West.
In fact, the great demands of merchandise exchanges between East and West had made the great network of Silk Road, linking Europe, India, and the Far East, not only was the important paths for traders but also the significant tracks of missionaries, monks, mendicants, and military men. The "exchanges" across theEurasiawere not limited by the merchandises. Along with the bartering of supplies, we often could find the various myths and legends accommodate with the supplies. These myths and legend spanned across the eighth through the tenth centuries with the greatest trade route also lively depicted divers religious belief, different live styles through out various classes in many countries, as well as the social structures and political relationships between countries at different times during this period.
This well development of the network of theSilk Roadis the precious wonder of mankind in our history. It enabled people in the past to interact with each other that results in the exchanges of culture, religion, technology, skills of art and so on. Because this great interactivities happened along theSilk Road, now today's' archaeologists and art historians will be able to excavate the properties in the influences of the multicultural under the ground to work together in order to reveal the true stories in the past. Let us take a close look of the art along theSilk Roadin the past to deconstruct the history of the route through the careful examinations of the wonderful features embraced in the art.
Central Asia on the Silk Road: In Central Asia, Islam expanded from the 7th century onward, bringing a stop to Chinese westward expansion at the Battleof talas in 751. Further expansion of the Islamic Turks inCentral Asiafrom 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 (centered in Middle East) often had a monopoly over much of the trade conducted across the Old World between east and west, because of Arab Caliphate’s religious influence to central Asia and Greater Iran ,firstly Islamic Persian empire was established in central Asia and greater Iran named Samanid empire, Agriculture and trading were the economic basis of Samanid State. The Samanids were heavily involved in Silk Road trading - even withEurope, as thousands of Samanid coins that have been found in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries testify.
Another lasting contribution of the Samanids to the history of Islamic art is the pottery known as Samanid Epigraphic Ware: plates, bowls, and pitchers fired in a white slip and decorated only with calligraphy, often elegantly and rhythmically written. The Arabic phrases used in this calligraphy are generally more or less generic well wishes, or Islamic admonitions to good table manners.
Islamic architecture and Islamic-Persian culture was spread deep into the heart ofCentral Asiaby the Samanids. Following the first complete translation of the Qur'an into Persian, during the 9th century, populations under the Samanid Empire began accepting Islam in significant numbers.
And the mass conversion of the Turks to Islam eventually led to a growing influence of the Karakhanids, who would later rule the region.
The celebrated Uyghur emperor of Karakhanid dynasty Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan converted to Islam early in the 10th century and he is fourth king of Karakhanid dynasty which was established originally as Nestorian and Buddhist State in 840 but he was first king who converted to Islam by the influence of Samanid Persian prince Abu Nasr Samani, then officially the Islam became religion of the first ever Islamic state in Turkic world Karakhanid Islamic Uyghur dynasty, Turkic domination was began and Karakhanids overthrew the Samanid empire and kick them out of central Asia in 999,receiced the former lands of Samanids , Islamic Turkilization and culture began to spread out to all over central Asia and to whole Turkic tribes from Kashgar which was first Turkic Islamic city as the capital of Karakhanids , Karakhanids were controlled the central Silk Road ,the trade bridge between East and West . Being the capital of Karakhanid state, Kashgar was the important city in central Silk Road, transportation hub, both the north and south Silk Road from East were met up in Kashgar then goes west, The Uyghur people employed an alphabet based upon the Syriac and borrowed from the Nestorian, but after converting to Islam when Karakhanid dynasty widely used also an Arabic script, and still using that an Arabic script until now days ,
Karakhanids was invaded by Mongols led by Genghis Khan in 1212, andSilk Roadconfused because of numerous wars between Mongols and other local kingdoms,
Silk Road during the Mongol Empire: Mongol Empire was a large empire that existed during the 13th and 14th centuries. Beginning in the Central Asian steppes, it eventually stretched from Eastern Europe to the Sea of Japan, covering large parts of Siberia in the north and extending southward into Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Middle East. It is commonly referred to as the largest contiguous empire in the history of the world. At its greatest extent it spanned 9,700 km (6,000 mi), covered an area of 24,000,000 km2 (9,300,000 sq mi), 16% of the Earth's total land area, and held sway over a population of 100 million.
The Mongol Empire emerged from the unification of Mongol and Turkictribes in the region of modern-day Mongolia under the leadership of Genghis Khan, who was proclaimed ruler of all Mongols in 1206.
By the end of his life, the Mongol Empire occupied a substantial portion of Central Asia andChina. He died in 1227 after defeating the Western Xia.
He was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere inMongoliaat an unknown location. His descendants went on to stretch the Mongol Empire across most of Eurasia by conquering or creating vassal states out of all of modern-day China, Korea, the Caucasus, Central Asian countries, and substantial portions of modern Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East. Many of these invasions resulted in the large-scale slaughter of local populations, which have given Genghis Khan and his empire a fearsome reputation in local histories. Mongol campaigns may have resulted in the deaths of 40 million people.
Beyond his military accomplishments, Genghis Khan also advanced the Mongol Empire in other ways. He decreed the adoption of the Uyghur script as the Mongol Empire's writing system. He also promoted religious tolerance in the Mongol Empire, and created a unified empire from the nomadic tribes of northeastAsia. Present-day Mongolians regard him as the founding father ofMongolia.
The Mongols had a strong history of supporting merchants and trade. Genghis Khan had encouraged foreign merchants early in his career, even before uniting the Mongols. Merchants provided him with information about neighboring cultures, served as diplomats and official traders for the Mongols, and were essential for many needed goods, since the Mongols produced little of their own. Mongols sometimes provided capital for merchants, and sent them far afield, in an ortoq (merchant partner) arrangement. As the Empire grew, any merchants or ambassadors with proper documentation and authorization, received protection and sanctuary as they traveled through Mongol realms, Well-traveled and relatively well-maintained roads linked lands from the Mediterranean basin to China, and greatly increasing overland trade, and resulting in some dramatic stories of those who traveled what became known as the Silk Road. One of the best known travelers from West to East was Marco Polo, and a comparable journey from East to West was that of the Chinese Mongol monk Rabban Bar Sauma, who traveled from his home of Khanbaliq (Beijing) as far asEurope. European missionaries such as William of Rubruck also traveled to the Mongol court, on missions of conversion, or as papal envoys, carrying correspondence between the Pope and the Mongols as attempts were made to form a Franco-Mongol alliance. It was rare though for anyone to travel the entire length of theSilk Road. Instead, traders moved products much like a bucket brigade, with luxury goods being traded from one middleman to another, fromChinato the West, and resulting in extravagant prices for the trade goods.
After Genghis, the merchant partner business continued to flourish under his successors Ogedei and Guyuk. Merchants brought clothing, food, and other provisions to the imperial palaces, and in return the Great Khans gave the merchants tax exemptions, and allowed them to use the official relay stations of the Mongol Empire. Merchants also served as tax farmers inChina,RussiaandIran. If the merchants were attacked by bandits, losses were made up from the imperial treasury.
Policies changed under the Great Khan Mongke. Because of money laundering and overtaxing, he attempted to limit abuses and sent imperial investigators to supervise the ortoq businesses. He decreed all merchants must pay commercial and property taxes and he paid off all drafts drawn by high ranking Mongol elites from the merchants. This policy continued in the Mongol Yuan Dynasty inChina
The fall of the Mongol Empire led to the collapse of the political, cultural, and economic unity along theSilk Road. Turkic tribes seized the western end of the Silk Road trade routes from the decaying Byzantine Empire, and sowed the seeds of a Turkic culture that would later crystallize into the Ottoman Empire under the Sunni faith. In the East, the native Chinese overthrew the Yuan Dynasty in 1368, launching their own Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644) and pursuing a policy of economic isolationism.
Closure of the Silk Road and Caravan trade stood still in Central Asia: the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644) shutChinaoff in around AD1500 from the outside world, ending the centuries-old exchange of trade, culture and religion in East and West. Silk Traders stopped going toChinain East, but still caravan trade exchange existed inCentral Asiauntil the end of 19th century,
Some references from: http://gallery.sjsu.edu/silkroad/miscellany.htm
And from Wikipedia,
Edited by Waheed