In its development process, China has already succeeded in creating the Silk Road Economic Belt, a string of railways that will connect all of China’s main cities and trade routes across Asia. This great achievement has been hailed in many terms, with the mouth watering titles such as: the creation of the Asian economic powerhouse, or the Silk Road. Or, the New Silk Road. Or, the Central-Eastern trade route.
Some westerners find this a bit far fetched, or even absurd, but it makes sense when you look at the history behind it. For centuries, ancient peoples have dreamt of a great, unified, and powerful China, one that would rival the great empires of the ancient world. China was, after all, the seat of greater learning and written culture in the ancient world. There were scholars in the early Chinese civilization, who wrote extensively about matters ranging from politics to business and trade to religion. The early Chinese literature contains very rich stories, poems, proverbs, legends, and tales of epic deeds.
So how did all of these disparate cultures and traditions get to come together? How did trade and culture mix and interact with religion? How did these cultures influence each other, and what are the keys to understanding this fascinating junction of ancient and modern China? Well, one emerging theory is that China was not, as is commonly believed, created out of nothing. Rather, it was the result of a gradual process of interaction among different ancient civilizations brought about by contacts via the Silk Road Silk Road economic belt.
This idea goes against current scholarship which depicts China as a “Emptyland” over thousands of years ago. Instead, ancient China was a mosaic of different ethnicities and cultures. Some were initially hostile, but over time trade and cultural contacts brought them together. Others were initially friendly, but as their civilizations grew they started to compete for trade and space along the Silk Road. Eventually, trade routes led all of China to become integrated into the modern Silk Road Economic Belt.
As trade and culture spread along the Silk Road and into the early Modern Period, new influences started to make themselves present along the route. For example, traders coming from the east brought silk products and exotic spices that made the trade boom. Also, the Egyptians, along with the Greeks and Romans, traded along the route. These traders included the Greek and Roman merchants who reached places now known as Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, and Turkey. In addition, traders from Central Asia and the Middle East brought along their own goods and influenced the Silk Road in ways that we have only begun to understand. With all of these players in the game, it’s easy to see how trade and culture intertwined along the Silk Road and formed the foundation for much of the modern world we know today.
When ancient Silk Road traders reached parts of Europe and Asia, they brought with them a wide variety of goods including silk. Some of these goods included items that were highly valued and included brocades, rugs, jacquards, and even silk scarves. The Europeans in turn, welcomed these products and gave them exotic names like “tapestries” and “hand-knotted items”. These items were then taken back to the Asian side, where they were used in clothing and decorations. By doing so, the ancient and modern cultures started to blend and develop together. Silk and pottery became widely used in decorating homes in the Islamic world, while India used silk and jewelry in everything from embellishing furniture to wall tapestries.
The ancient civilizations that the Silk Road passed through were not too welcoming to foreign trade and did nothing to hinder it, even helping some of the cultures on the Silk Road to build their empires. However, when Islam spread into the regions between Asia and Africa, things changed. In addition to the trade routes, Islam imposed harsh rules on non-Muslims and foreigners that they considered non-Muslims, such as traders. However, when Islam spread further into the western regions of Europe, many of the old customs and practices were forgotten along the way, but especially the ones involving the silk trade.
With the coming of the European Renaissance, there was a revival of the silk trade between Europe and Asia, especially between Venice and China. At this time, there was also a movement toward a global society, one where there were ties of marriage, money transactions, and political power and influence based on the countries involved. Eventually, this would lead to the formation of the European Union, whose economy is largely based on the international trade that it has developed. Therefore, if you want to experience a taste of the history of the Silk Road Economic Belt, do your research, enjoy traveling to different places, and taking part in its trade and culture.