Mongolian period in the history of the Silk Road
The Mongols neither discouraged nor impeded relations with foreigners. Asian goods reached Europe along the caravan trails of the Silk Roads, and the. Mongol trade boomed during the height of their empire and led to massive economic growth along the Silk Road in the Middle Ages. In the Mongol period the Great Silk Road was dominated by state heirs of was the southern sector o that northern route continuing to play the role of the link in.
These connections marked the beginning of the Silk Road trade network that extended to the Roman Empire. 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. 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 Bukharaeast 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 armour. 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. Han general Ban Chao led an army of 70, mounted infantry and light cavalry troops in the 1st century CE to secure the trade routes, reaching far west to the Tarim basin.
Ban Chao expanded his conquests across the Pamirs to the shores of the Caspian Sea and the borders of Parthia. The Silk Roads were a "complex network of trade routes" that gave people the chance to exchange goods and culture.
It extended, via ports on the coasts of India and Sri Lankaall the way to Roman -controlled ports in Roman Egypt and the Nabataean territories on the northeastern coast of the Red Sea.
The earliest Roman glassware bowl found in China was unearthed from a Western Han tomb in Guangzhoudated to the early 1st century BCE, indicating that Roman commercial items were being imported through the South China Sea.
Harper asserts that a 2nd or 3rd-century Roman gilt silver plate found in JingyuanGansuChina with a central image of the Greco-Roman god Dionysus resting on a feline creature, most likely came via Greater Iran i.
The Roman Empire inherited eastern trade routes that were part of the Silk Road from the earlier Hellenistic powers and the Arabs.
With control of these trade routes, citizens of the Roman Empire received new luxuries and greater prosperity for the Empire as a whole.
MONGOLS AND THE SILK ROAD
Intercontinental trade and communication became regular, organised, and protected by the 'Great Powers. 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. 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.
At Qinsay, the silver sum ingots had to be exchanged for the legal tender of China: Silk could be purchased in China at one sum for 20 Genoese pounds; with the 25, gold fl orins of venture capital suggested by Pegolotti, exchanged for linen and then sum at 5: These close and frequent contacts with the Mongols revealed a new world to the Europeans.
Previously, the hazards of travel among nomads, and the barriers to passage through the Muslim states had left the West almost entirely ignorant of the countries and peoples beyond Russia and the Middle East.
India and Ethiopia, confl ated, were located past the Muslims; the land China whence Rome had, indirectly, imported silk, had been forgotten; and these farther eastern regions, factually unknown, were populated in the Western imagination by notional monsters or imaginary Christian kingdoms in accordance with wishful thinking or even stories passed on by Muslims and by the Mongols themselves. John of Plano Carpini, the first European visitor to report on Mongolia, was told, for instance, of dog-headed people, and of people with but one leg and arm, who moved by hopping or turning cartwheels; the dog-headed people were already "known" to Muslim aEuropean writers.
We should remember our own Bigfoot and Loch Ness monster as we smile at medieval credulity. Besides the freaks, there was also the "Christian priest-king, Prester John," wishfully developed in the twelfth century from reports out of actual Ethiopia of their priest-kings entitled dzan, together with rumors of the troubles of the Muslims with non-Muslims on their eastern frontiers-actually the confl ict between the Muslim Seljuks in Central Asia and the Buddhist Qarakitai-and the fact, albeit unknown in the West, of a considerable presence of Nestorian Christians in Inner and East Asia.
Prester John allegedly headed a great Inner Asian Christian power that was going to attack the Muslims from the East in support of the Crusaders in Palestine. Western visitors to the Mongols at first tried to identify Prester John among the recent, pre-unification tribal leadership of Mongolia; the Kerait chiefs had, for instance, been under Nestorian infl uence.
They sought also to reach Mongol leaders alleged to be Christians, to little avail, since these were essentially polytheistic a position difficult for monotheistic Christians and Muslims to graspwith perhaps individual preferences for particular Nestorian priests. And I [Qubilai] do honour and reverence to all four, so that I may be sure of doing it to him who is greatest in heaven and truest; and to him I pray for aid.
These imaginings were displaced by a new, and true, knowledge of a huge empire, with vast populations of real people, possessing immense wealth, some of which latter could be shared by Westerners on very good terms. Just as the Empire's territories, peoples and riches were becoming well-known in the especially Italian commercial circles of Europe, the Empire was beginning to implode.
But for another three-quarters of a century, the four or, occasionally, five now-independent Mongol realms that had been sub-units of the unitary empire, managed to maintain a degree of economic cooperation despite sporadic, and sometimes prolonged, hostilities. The Polos had had to use back-ways to China to avoid trouble, but Pegolotti's silk buyers could go straight through from Tana to Kanchow, Qinsay and Qanbaligh.
The Middle Eastern branch of the Road closed, and with that, European access to its desert route. The other branch, via the Golden Horde Tana to Urgench and on Eastremained open until when the Yuan dynasty Mongols abandoned China in the face of the Ming rebellion, opening a long period of Ming-Mongol antagonism and confl ict that prevented direct access to China across the steppe.
Direct European contact with China thereafter became impossible, and indirect trade between Europe and China declined to pre-Mongol levels. The Chinese, no longer conscripts in the Mongol program of world-conquest, and fully content with their own vast resources, lost interest in, as well as contact with Europe. But European awareness of China did not similarly decline. Memories of the commerce carried on by Pegolotti's merchant associates, and especially Marco Polo's fascinating stories, maintained knowledge of the Far East, and the desire of renewed access to it.
Even this reduced breadth of the ocean, however, was too much for any European ship to cover without reprovisioning. Christopher Columbus overcame this problem. Columbus had read, and become enthralled by, Marco Polo's stories, to the point of determining that, by whatever means necessary, he would plan a feasable voyage to East Asia and carry it out.The Silk Road: Connecting the ancient world through trade - Shannon Harris Castelo
His means involved selective adoption of miscalculations by various geographers that minimized the distance still more: This brought East Asia within range: Columbus was a lucky man. Following a tireless effort to find financing for his project, he succeeded in obtaining, over the objections of a scholarly advisory committee, funds for his intercontinental expedition from the Spanish royals.
And fortunately for him, there was in fact another continent within range. Thus the Mongols, and their best salesman, Marco Polo, turned out to be responsible, not only for revealing a Far Eastern world new to Europe, but for instigating the discovery-by mistake!
References The following works are used as references. Harvard UP,two vols. Penguin, many reprints [n. Harvard,three vols. Citations of Rubruck refer to the translation in Dawson; P. Hakluyt Society, has a better translation and full annotation. Allsen, Mongol Imperialism Berkeley: University of California Press, John Carswell, Blue and White: Chinese Porcelain around the World London: Porcelain around the World London: Porcelain around the World British Museum Press, David Morgan, The Mongols Oxford: Watt and Anne E.
Wardwell, When Silk was Gold: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Numerous caravans traveled along extensive land routes and ships traveled the seas.
The Silk Road: Connecting People and Cultures | Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Many of the commercial products that they carried have long since disappeared, but ceramic shards have been recovered to serve as testimony to art and trade in the Mongol era. Shards from the Pescadores generously lent by the P'eng-hu Bureau of Culture testify to the commercial routes that once passed by Taiwan in the Yuan dynasty under the Mongols. National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.
Such precious and exotic objects as silks, ceramics, and lacquer wares were the most commonly sought Chinese objects in commerce. Wang Ta-yuan of the late Yuan dynasty, for example, accompanied two merchant trips and visited a total of 98 locations. At the time, Chinese ships were even able to travel directly to the east coast of Africa.
Though silks that these ships transported have long since perished, ceramic shards recovered from sea routes serve as testimony to the flourishing trade under the Mongols in Yuan China. A piece of paper money used under Kublai Khan was about the size of a sheet of typing paper and had a furry felt-like feel.
It was made from the inner bar of mulberry trees and according to Marco Polo was "sealed with the seal of the Great Lord.
It wasn't long before the Chinese government was producing paper currency at a rate of four million sheets a year. By the 12th century paper money was used to finance a defense against the Mongols. Notes produced in that promised a pay holders with gold and silver were printed on perfumed paper made of silk. It were made from the inner bark of mulberry trees and according to Marco Polo was "sealed with the seal of the Great Lord. With this currency he orders all payments to be made throughout every province and kingdom and region of his empire.
And no one dares refuse it on pain of losing his life I assure you, that all the peoples and populations who are subject to his rule are perfectly willing to accept these papers in payment, since wherever they go they pay in the same currency, whether for goods or for pearls or precious stones or gold or silver.
With these pieces of paper they can buy anything and pay for anything When these papers have been so long in circulation that they are growing torn and frayed, they are brought to the mint and changed from new and fresh ones at a discount of 3 per cent.
The Mongols were quite receptive to this. This attitude, which facilitated contacts with West Asia and Europe, contributed to the beginning of what we could call a "global history," or at least a Eurasian history. The Mongols, however, had a more favorable attitude toward merchants and commerce — their nomadic way of life, which is much reliant on trade with sedentary peoples, had caused them to recognize the importance of trade from the very earliest times.
Thus, the Mongols worked to improve the social status of merchants and traders throughout their domains. During their travels they could rest and secure supplies through a postal-station system that the Mongols had established. The postal-station system was, of course, originally devised to facilitate the transmission of official mail from one part of the empire to another. Set up approximately every 20 miles along the major trade routes and stocked with supplies of food, horses, and lodging, the stations were an incredible boon to all travelers, whether they were traveling for business or otherwise.
The Mongols recognized that the caravan trade across Eurasia was extraordinarily expensive for any single merchant. Often there would be as many as 70 to men on each mission, and all had to be fed and paid and provided with supplies including camels, horses, and so on over a lengthy period of time.
Waugh of the University of Washington wrote: Italian merchants were involved in the China trade, and the development of a flourishing silk industry in Italy in part was thanks to the availability of inexpensive Chinese raw silk. Under the Mongols, silk production in the Caspian provinces of northern Iran also expanded. Imports from that region to the Mediterranean world increasingly were preferred to those from China which often were damaged in the long transit by camel caravan.
Waugh, University of Washington, depts. The fame of this "Tartar" cloth spread both east and west. Chingis Khan's invasion of Central Asia in seems to have been occasioned by a dispute involving trade.
The Silk Road
One important product the Muslim merchants brought to the Mongol court was the cloth produced presumably in Central Asia and Persia. As sources such as Marco Polo relate, colonies of weavers from the Middle East were established in northern China.
There presumably their techniques of embroidery combined with Chinese traditions of silk manufacture to produce the most sought-after textiles.
A similar pattern of conscription has been documented for the reign of Tamerlane,the Mongols' successor in Central Asia in the late fourteenth century, who populated his capital Samarkand with merchants and craftsmen, including weavers from Damascus. And at Tana you should furnish yourself with a dragoman. And you must not try to save money by taking a bad one instead of a good one. For the additional wages of a good one will not cost you as much as you will save by having him.