Special Sub-Topic: The Silk Road: 7000 Miles of History
|Which of these things important to the existence of the Silk Road happened last?|
Kashgar (Kashi), halfway point on the Silk Road, was founded. The dates are as follows: Silk production, c. 3000 BCE; Camel domesticated, 3rd century BCE; Great Wall, begun in earnest in the 3rd century BCE, during the reign of emperor Qin Shihuangdi (and construction continued for almost 2000 years).
Kashgar, which still holds an enormous market day every Sunday, is about 2000 years old. It is located in the far western Xinjiang province of China, and consists of a Muslim majority and an ethnic Uighur minority. A fascinating place indeed.
|What did General Zhang Qian do in 138 BCE that was important to the development of the Silk Road?
Was sent by the Emperor as a scout to the West. For the purpose of this quiz, I grant Zhang Qian the title "Father of the Silk Road". Zhang traveled for years, gathering intelligence and attempting alliances for the Emperor. He got as far as the Pamir Mountains (in present-day Tajikistan), and upon his return, told marvelous tales about the peoples and most especially the magnificent Central Asian horses he had seen on his journey. Others followed in his footsteps and the Silk Road routes started to thrive.
|Which of these facts about the geography of the Silk Road is true?|
Travel on the Silk Road was only possible because of the presence of oases along the route. The eastern terminus was Chang'an (modern Xi'an). The Silk Road consisted of several routes south of the Trans-Eurasian steppe belt, through the deserts of Central Asia from the oasis of one trading center to the next. Roman roads were built primarily for war and conquest, not trade.
|For most of its existence, the Silk Road was the only way to reach China or for Chinese goods to reach the West.|
false. Maritime routes to China were well known even in antiquity. Like the Silk Road itself, they were usually composed not of one person making the entire journey, but of a great many "middlemen" who each traveled a portion of the route, trading (and raising prices) as they went along. In the 15th century, the Portuguese under Prince Henry the Navigator "discovered" the sea route, which became known in later centuries as "The Porcelain Route".
|These three religions entered China via the Silk Road, took hold, and flourished.|
Buddhism, Islam, and Nestorian Christianity. "Religion was the most important commodity to be carried along the route. The religions of Central Asia owe much of their existence to the trade routes that carried them to Tibet, the Taklimakan region, and eventually China's ancient capital Chang'an. Buddhism came into China from India as early as the first century AD, and changed the face of Silk Road towns with monasteries and pagodas. Buddhism's influence was also seen in the art of the era, as more artists began using the image of the Buddha in their work. Later, Islam made it into the heart of China much the same way as Buddhism did before."
(from the excellent article "The Geography of the Silk Road" by Ray Gonzales.)
Christianity was carried by European missionaries and took root in Tang China in 638 AD. Hinduism and Judaism also found adherents in China. Confucianism, one of China's main religions, developed within China and was not imported, nor was Zoroastrianism, which developed in Persia and spread to India primarily. Shinto is a major religion in Japan.
|Although silk and religion were two of the most important things traded along the Silk Road, there were of course others, such as tea, dyes, precious metals, and horses. Which of the following was the oasis city of Khiva most famous for?|
Slaves. Khiva, in modern-day Uzbekistan, is an ancient city...in fact, legend would have us believe that it was founded by Shem, son of Noah. It is the best-preserved stop on the Silk Road, and was Central Asia's largest slave-trading center for hundreds of years.
|In the Western world, the most famous Silk Road traveler is of course Marco Polo. Although he was born in what is now modern Croatia, he is most closely associated with a city that was, in his time, a center of importing, banking, and general all-around beauty. Where was Marco from?
Venice. Marco Polo's book about his journey, called in English "The Travels of Marco Polo", was widely disbelieved during his lifetime. As he was dying, Marco was again asked to admit that he had lied. He refused, insisting, "I have told only half of what I saw!"
The airport in Venice is named for him.
|The days of the Silk Road's glory waned gradually as the centuries passed. One man in particular had a hand in the damage: Timur Leng, known to the West as Tamerlane. He was the last of the great nomadic Central Asian warrior leaders, and in an effort to strengthen the Silk Road and make it his exclusively, he rampaged along the route and destroyed much. Which of these Silk Road cities was Timur's capital?|
Samarkand. Timur is buried in fabled Samarkand, from which he organized his campaigns for 35 years. The story of his violent life is fascinating. Samarkand is in present-day Uzbekistan, where Timur's elaborate mausoleum (he is buried under a six-foot slab of jade) has become a pilgrimage site of sorts for modern-day Uzbeks and tourists alike.
|Unfortunately, one of the last things to be imported to Europe via the Silk Road was the bubonic plague. How is it thought to have entered?|
In a load of marmot pelts. "It is perhaps worth noting, however, that long-distance trade can have unexpectedly bad side effects as well as direct beneficial effects. For example, the Black Death plague that devastated Europe in the 14th century is believed to have come via the Silk Road from Central Asia, where plague is endemic among local rodents. One theory holds that a load of marmot pelts (destined to be used on fur-trimmed garments), contaminated with plague-bearing flea eggs, was brought from somewhere in Central Asia to a Middle Eastern port. There the eggs hatched into fleas that infested some local rats; some of the rats eventually went on shipboard and were carried to port cities in Italy. There the plague spread, via fleas, to other rats, and then to people; and a disaster was in the making." (from www.askasia.org)
Unlikely as it sounds, I found the marmot pelt legend in several places during my research for this quiz. Since it seems to be a Silk Road tradition, I am including it here.
|The Silk Road still exists today.|
true. "The Silk Road today is a series of paved roads and train tracks that connect east to west along the paths of the old routes. Trade now takes less time and doesn't include silk as a major trade item; consumer trade and heavy industry dominate the market. And in the desert, progress has been made in controlling the shifting sands, and recently discovered oil reserves have once again encouraged development in the region."
(From "The Geography of the Silk Road" by Ray Gonzales )
I hope you have enjoyed this trip back in time via camel caravan along the Silk Road, and may all your enterprises prosper.
Did you find these entries particularly interesting, or do you have comments / corrections to make? Let the author know!
Send the author a thank you or
Submit a correction