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Posts Tagged ‘Marco Polo’

outline: Silk road carried trade,exchange of ideas, culture,religion- ups and downs

Trade along the route was adversely affected by the strife which built up between the Christian and Moslem worlds. The Crusades brought the Christian world a little nearer to Central Asia, but the unified Moslem armies under Saladin drove them back again. In the Fourth Crusade, the forces of Latin Christianity scored a triumph over their Greek rivals, with the capture of Constantinople (Istanbul). However, it was not the Christians who finally split the Moslem world, but the Mongols from the east.
Whilst Europe and Western Asia were torn by religious differences, the Mongols had only the vaguest of religious beliefs. Several of the tribes of Turkestan which had launched offensives westwards towards Persia and Arabia, came to adopt Islam, and Islam had spread far across Central Asia, but had not reached as far as the tribes which wandered the vast grasslands of Mongolia. These nomadic peoples had perfected the arts of archery and horsemanship. With an eye to expanding their sphere of influence, they met in 1206 and elected a leader for their unified forces; he took the title Great Khan. Under the leadership of Genghis Khan, they rapidly proceeded to conquer a huge region of Asia. The former Han city of Jiaohe, to the west of Turfan, was decimated by the Mongols as they passed through on their way westwards. The Empire they carved out enveloped the whole of Central Asia from China to Persia, and stretched as far west as the Mediterranean. This Mongol empire was maintained after Genghis’ death, with the western section of the empire divided into three main lordships, falling to various of his descendents as lesser Khans, and with the eastern part remaining under the rule of the Great Khan, a title which was inherited from by Kublai Khan. Kubilai completed the conquest of China, subduing the Song in the South of the country, and established the Yuan dynasty.
The partial unification of so many states under the Mongol Empire allowed a significant interaction between cultures of different regions. The route of the Silk Road became important as a path for communication between different parts of the Empire, and trading was continued. Although less `civilised’ than people in the west, the Mongols were more open to ideas. Kubilai Khan, in particular, is reported to have been quite sympathetic to most religions, and a large number of people of different nationalities and creeds took part in the trade across Asia, and settled in China. The most popular religion in China at the time was Daoism, which at first the Mongols favoured. However, from the middle of the thirteenth century onwards, buddhist influence increased, and the early lamaist Buddhism from Tibet was particularly favoured. The two religions existed side by side for a long period during the Yuan dynasty. This religious liberalism was extended to all.
Any history on the Silk Road would be incomplete without mention of Marco Polo. As a member of a merchant family from Venice he took the route. Starting in 1271, at the age of only seventeen, he trekked across Persia, and then along the southern branch of the Silk Road, via Khotan, finally ending at the court of Kubilai Khan at Khanbalik, the site of present-day Beijing, and the summer palace, better known as Xanadu.
postscript:
Mongol invasion was a turning point in the history of the region. Islam will fall back from what they had gained: all the turbulence,-force released by falling edifices of old beliefs, cultures muddied by trades, wars was for their taking. There was the Black Death that hit as far as Europe. Two thirds of Europe will succumb to it. History would never be the same. Islam will make a giant leap backwards and would never be the same.
(ack:http://www.ess.uci.edu/~oliver/silk.html;www.silk-road.com)
(To be Cont’d)

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