Throughout history, trade routes played a central role in the transfer of goods and exchange of ideas between different parts of the world. The historic Silk Roads, which were a network of trade routes across land and sea that connected the lands from China across Asia to the Meditteranean, connected civilisations and peoples from different cultures, religions and languages with each other allowing the exchange of ideas, technical know-how and friendship, creating a legacy of connectedness and cultural appreciation.
Along the Silk Roads, many cities flourished across China, Central Asia, Arabia, India, Persia and modern day Turkey. Trade brought wealth and richness that enabled excellence in industrial process including printing, glass and paper making; medicine, philosophy, astronomy and agriculture. Cities became vibrant centres attracting intellectual polymaths and leaving a huge and fascinating mark on the consciousness of history.
Xi’an is a major Chinese city. Formally known as Chang’an, it is an ancient imperial capital that saw the first Chinese missions leave to south-east Asia, central Asia and the Mediterranean marking the beginings of the Silk Road under the Han Dynasty in 141-87 BC. From the 4th century onwards, Chang’an was the capital city of the Chinese Empire, and entered its greatest period of development under the Tang Dynasty (618-904) and became one of the most civilised cities in the world.
“At the height of its glory in the mid-eighth century, Chang’an was the most populous, cosmopolitan, and civilised city in the world” (Richard B. Mather, forward to Xiong).
Chang’an was a trading hub that was a melting pot of people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Two important landmarks stood as witness to this glory:
An amazing city at the heart of Central Asia.. an important city on the Silk Roads strategically located between China and the Mediterranean. For centuries it’d been a city of trade, renowned for its craft production and scholarly studies. Historical records show that from as early as the Han times (206 BC-220 AD), Samarkand’s merchants reached various places as far as China in order to trade precious metals, spices and cloth. Then later, during the time of Tamerlane, Samarkand thrived as a great city when he made it his capital at the end of the 14th century.
Some of the significant features of the city came about at the times of two of its most prominent leaders; Tamerlane and Ulugbeg:
Strategically situated between the eastern mediterranean cost and the Euphrates Valley at the crossroads of several trade routes since the 2nd millennium B.C., Aleppo stands out as one of the key centers along the legendary Silk Roads. Aleppo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and has been an enlightened centre of trade and industry over the centuries. Aleppo’s ancient city is home to some amazing monuments that bear witness to the social, cultural and economic exchanges that flourished in the city during the Golden Age of the Silk Roads from the 12th till the early 15th century. Those include:
Once a fourishing industrial and commercial city, Mosul, in today’s Northern Iraq and the north’s major center for trade, industry and communications, was once a thriving city on the Silk Roads.
10th-century Muslim geographer al-Muqaddasi, described Mosul as “the metropolis of this region. It is a splendid city, beautifully built; the climate is pleasant, the water healthy. Highly renowned, and of great antiquity, it is possessed of excellent markets and inns, and is inhabited by many personages of account, and learned men; nor does it lack a high authority in the Traditions, or a celebrated doctor of the law. From here come provisions for Baghdad, and thither go the caravans of al-Rihab. It has, besides, parks, specialities, excellent fruits, very fine baths, magnificent houses, and good meats: all in all the town is thriving.”
Under the Abbasid Muslim dynasty, Mosul became a major economic hub on the Silk Road. From that point forward, Mosul continued to develop incredibly advanced techniques in the arts and fine goods production. It has given its name to the fine textile “Muslin”. Beyond the Muslin weaving, Mosul also became famous for its fine metalwork and painting styles. Those were only a few of the key industries that this great industrial centre was home to. Others included:
Merv, was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today’s Mary in Turkmenistan. In the early Islamic period, Merv was the capital of the province of Khorasan, and in the 12th century it was the largest city in the world.
Under the Abbasids, Merv continued to be the capital of the East. The great prosperity of Merv belongs to the period dating from the 8th to the 13th century. By the 11th century, Merv was a great commercial centre of the Oriental type with a bazaar, shops for artisans, money changers, goldsmiths, weavers, coppersmiths, and potters. It was an administrative and religious centre, containing mosques, madrasas, palaces, and other buildings.
Author: Cem Nizamoglu