Wu-ing the Silk Road

!!!!!!!Hey there!!!!!! ٩꒰๑• ̫•๑꒱۶♡ In this post, we will be talking very specifically about the Silk Road. Like, what is the Silk Road? How did the Silk Road come about? What did China, Emperor Wu, a Chinese official Zhang Qian, have to do with all of this? How was the Silk Road involved in influencing and shaping the world that we live in?

All of the answers pertaining to the questions stated above can be found in this post. If you do not wish to partake in this read, feel free to click away from this page. But if you do want to, then, welcome on board! ٩꒰• ε •꒱۶⁼³

What is the Silk Road? The Silk Road was sort of like an overland route for merchants to carry goods for trade! It wasn’t as simple as a mere road or like the roads that we travel on these days. It was a network of trade routes over both land and sea by which goods, raw materials (such as silk, of course), and “ideas” were exchanged. This all happened between c. 100 BCE & 1300 BCE during the Han Dynasty.

The Silk Road can be separated into two “routes”: 1. Connecting the Eastern Mediterranean to Central Asia 2. & Central Asia To China.

How did the Silk Road come about? Here’s some context to us start off with! Along the Northern borders of China, there were Northern nomadic tribes known as the Xiongnu. They were militarily powerful - from having amazing archers, to possessing a mass of horseback, easily giving them the upper hand during battles; with no surprise, they effortlessly terrorized the cities of Northern China.

For the Xiongnu people to be kept at bay, the Hans would bribe them with silk and marriage alliances in order to secure blood connections, with hopes to stop war from reoccuring again.

But, things changed when Emperor Wu came into power (156 to 187 BCE):

Since Emperor Wu was unhappy with how things were, he broke off alliances with the Xiongnu. This was all mostly due to feeling fed-up over always having to give into the Xiongnu’s threats, mostly pertaining war and violence. Emperor Wu at that time, also believed that China was militarily powerful enough themselves to take over them.

“First Mission To The West” After breaking off alliances with the Xiongnu, Emperor Wu sends Zhang Qian,

a Chinese official to seek assistance from the Yuezhi (a type of people in Bactria - a Greco-Indo kingdom) to be allies with to defeat the Xiongnu. But sadly, the Yuezhi declines this request, and Zhang Qian returns to China with this piece of disappointing news after his 10 year journey...

In your head right now you’re probably like, “The heck?! 10 years? That’s a long ass time!!!!1!1!!” Hold your horsebacks, folks. Reasoning as to why his journey took a decade long was due to the several episodes of Zhang Qian being captured, and him having to flee from his captors, the Xiongnu.

Like, man! He surely must’ve had a tough journey. Give the guy a break.

But on the whole, despite failing to recruit the Yuezhi as an alliance, Zhang Qian returned with a bountiful amount of good news & valuable information. He shared all these with the very intrigued Emperor Wu about: the military strength of other civilizations, the alternative travelling routes he encountered, the possible trading partnerships that they could embed,  and many, many tales about the other civilisations that he chanced upon.

Fast forwarding to 199 BCE, Zhang Qian then sets off for his second journey to the West to ally with Wunsun against the Huns (but fails to recruit them), and he at the same time sends out deputy envoys to other states - leaving their traces in Central Asia, Southwest Asia, the Roman Empire around the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Having said all of this, Zhang Qian is considerably one of the most outstanding envoys of history, he is the person whom opened up the Southern and Central Routes of China & the Silk road. Using all of the information he gathered, the Hans were able to foster good relationships with states of the Western Regions.

How did the Silk Road influence life all ‘round the world? The Silk Road reshaped the lives of many, especially of the people in India & Eurasia (according to John Green’s crash course video)! #WOW The trading business was one that was attractive to be a part of - for instance, from being a silk producer or a merchant. Why it was so popular to be in the trading business is because, it was one of the more “unhindered” ways for people of any class to get rich ($$$!!!!).

Connections formed between unknown merchants played major a part in shaping the world; various ideas were exchanged hand-in-hand whilst interacting and conducting business with each other. One example of an “idea” considered to be exchanged was Buddhism (mostly and to be more specific, mahayana Buddhism). Despite diminishing in India, Buddhism flourished in other parts of the world and is still, till this very day, known as one of the greatest "religions" of the world. Buddhism spread to china from Northern India and the kingdoms of Inner Asia, via the silk road.

Mahayana Buddhism is still till this day very widely believed in in countries such as Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, & Mongolia. The word Mahaya directly translates to “great vehicle”. Why the spread of Mahayana Buddhism was so successful, you may ask? Thank the monks & nuns - they made a great effort in providing texts in local languages and teaching the locals about it.

All in all, the Silk Road did not start trade, but it undeniably did expand its scope, and it sure did play a major part in influencing major civilisations via the exchange of various ideas. :)

Alrights, that's all for now. Till the next post, y'all~

By : Caitlin Loo Elizabeth Gan Lauren Chong

P.s. - This is just for fun! Read up on this site about 10 Misconceptions about Buddhism if you'd like to. Hehe ^_^ xo