Taklamakan - Book I (Silk Road Series)

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Fierce wind and sandstorms made the crossing a challenge. A new highway was recently completed from Aksu to Hotian, the new Taklamakan desert highway that considerably cuts the traveling time through the desert. Per-Anders Pettersson.

Southern Silk Road

It consists entirely of mountains and sands and valleys. There is nothing at all to eat. Still, his writing also suggests that the route through the desert was well-established at this point in history. In Suchow, Marco Polo took a break from traveling and stayed for a year. Situated in an oasis that included the Crescent Lake, Suchow was one of the major stops on the southern Silk Road, and also a stop on the main road going from India via Lhasa to Mongolia and southern Siberia.

Suchow controlled the entrance to the narrow Hexi Corridor, which was the most important route between North China and the Tarim Basin and Central Asia. Kublai Khan new that they were on their way, and had sent a royal escort to greet them. The Great Khan bade them rise and received them honorably and entertained them with good cheer.

He asked many questions about their condition and how they fared after their departure. The brothers assured him that they had indeed fared well, since they found him well and flourishing. Then they presented the privileges and letters which the Pope had sent, with which he was greatly pleased, and handed over the holy oil, which he received with joy and prized very hightly. When the Great Khan saw Marco, who was then a young stripling, he asked who he was.

Southern Silk Road travel | Xinjiang, China - Lonely Planet

What need to make a long story of it? Great indeed were the mirth and merry-making with which the Great khan and all his Court welcomed the arrival of these emissaries.

THE SILK ROAD I - 1 of 12 - The Glories of Ancient Chang'an

And they were well served and attended to in all their needs. They stayed at Court and had a place of honor above the other barons. Kublai Khan took a liking to the young Marco Polo and appointed him to high posts in his administration. Already well-traveled and capable of speaking several different languages, Polo was sent by the Khan on a number of special missions to various places in China, Burma, and India.

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Many of the places that Marco Polo visited during these missions were remote ones that no European would visit and write about again until the 19th century. When the Kublai Khan was in his late 70s, the Polo family began to worry about what would happen to them when he died. The Polos had amassed great amounts of gold and jewelry, but would they be able to take it out of China without the protection of the Khan?

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At the same time, the Khan really enjoyed their company and was reluctant to let them go. They were assigned one last task: escorting the Mongol princess Kokachin to her betrothed Persian prince Arghun. Various theories have been proposed, including scurvy, cholera, drowin, pirate attacks, and hostile natives. When they finally reached Persian land, they found out that Prince Arghun had died two years ago.

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While in Persia, the Polos also learned that Kublai Khan had died. Even from beyond the grave, the khan was a powerful man, and the Polos were amply supplied with horses, provisions, and escorts that could take them through dangerous passages and show them the right routes.


Eventually, the Polos reached Trebizon, a city on the Black Sea from which they could continue their journey by ship again. Trebizon, today known as Trabzon, was one of the notable stops along the Silk Road and functioned as a gateway to Persia in the southeast and the Caucasus to the northeast. The city was an important destination for Venetian and Genose merchants who sold linen and woolen cloth here. From the early 13th century to , Trebizon was the capital city of the Empire of Trebizond, and Eastern Orthodox Christian monarchy spread over southern Crimea and the.

They arrived to Venice in the winter of , after being away for 24 years, and loaded with many treasures from the Far East. One of the amazing things that they brought back to Europe was asbestos, which they presented to the Pope. Marco Polo would later write about asbestos in his book, explaining that asbestos cloth was cleaned by throwing it into a fire.

The end of the security provided by "Pax Mongolica" under the Mongol Empire was a factor in the route's decreased usage. The Mongol expansion throughout the Asian continent c. Another period when the Silk Road flourished was under t he Tang dynasty — , known as a "Golden Age" of cosmopolitan culture in China which reflected the height of cultural exchanges.

Traders usually traversed only a section of the routes, transferring their goods to other caravans at various points along the way. Silk was only one of the commodities traded. Goods from China included gold, silver, iron, weapons, porcelain, lacquerware, tea, paper, gunpowder, and medicines; from India, slaves, animals, furs, fabrics, woods, jade and other precious stones; and from Persia, incense, foodstuffs, dyes, and silver goods. Other commodities that originated in Asia and were traded included spices, ivory, flowers, horses, jewelry, minerals, and individuals with special skills.

From the West, traders brought wool and linen, vessels of bronze and glass, amber, coral, glass beads, coins and bullion, wine, and ambergris. The Silk Road also led to the exchange of knowledge, culture, religion, and technology between the East and West.

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Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Zoroastrianism were among the faiths that spread along the route. Algebra, astronomy, Arabic numerals, medical techniques, architectural styles, and a host of primarily Chinese techniques and inventions e. First called the "Silk Road" in the 19th century, it is actually a web of caravan tracks connecting Chang'an now the present day city of Xi'an in China , with Rome, Italy, beginning in the Han Dynasty during the 2nd century BC.

The Silk Road contained several major routes leading westward from Chang'an, with perhaps hundreds of smaller roads and paths. As it extended westwards from the ancient commercial centers of China, the Silk Road divided into the northern and southern routes bypassing the Taklamakan Desert and Lop Nur, though central routes were also followed. The Great Wall of China was built in part to protect its route from bandits.

Historical records reveal that the trade routes developed in the 2nd century BC, the result of the efforts of Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty, who commissioned Chinese military commander Zhang Qian to seek a military alliance with his neighbors to the west.

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It was not until 97 CE when a Chinese military ambassador was sent on a mission to Rome by the Chinese General Ban Chao, that the Chinese gathered information about the West although Gan Ying never reached Rome, only travelling to as far as the Parthian coast of the Persian Gulf, he is noted in historical records as the Chinese who went the furthest west during antiquity. One extremely important trade item was silk, manufactured in China and treasured in Rome.

The process by which silk is made, involving silk worm caterpillars fed on mulberry leaves, was kept secret from the west until about the 6th century AD according to some accounts, a Christian monk smuggled caterpillar eggs out of China. Silk was only one of many items passing across the Silk Road's network.

Precious ivory and gold, food items such as pomegranates, safflowers, and carrots went east out of Rome to the west; from the east came jade, furs, ceramics, and manufactured objects of bronze, iron and lacquer. Animals such as horses, sheep, elephants, peacocks, and camels made the trip there are accounts that after the first century AD, when the Han Emperor Wang Mang was given a rhinoceros, Chinese Muslim navigator Zheng He brought back lions, oryxes, nilganias, zebras and ostriches from Africa -- but a great commotion seems to have occurred when a giraffe was delivered as a tribute from a ruler in Bengal in Agricultural and metallurgical technologies, information, and religion were also brought with the travelers.