Statue of Marcus Aurelius Pferde

The first foreigners to reach the Chinese coast were probably Indians and Romans. The first recorded official contact between China and ancient Rome was in AD 166. C., when a Chinese account says that a Roman envoy, possibly sent by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, arrived in China. This is the only meeting between the great civilizations of Rome and China of which records have been preserved. The Romans referred to the people of the Far East as Seren, the silk people. The term may have referred to tribes in Central Asia, not the Chinese. The Romans, by the way, thought that silk came from trees.

Some believe that the Romans reached as far east as the Gobi desert around 2,000 years ago. The people of Zhelaizhai, a village in western China's Gansu province near the Qilain Mountains, insist they are descendants of the Romans, saying the curly hair, straight nose and light eyes that some they have prove it.

The Romans who came to China are said to have been soldiers under Crassus, a Roman leader who formed the First Triumvirate with Julius Caesar and Pompey, who survived battles against the Parthians in Syria and Iran and later settled as laborers of the mercenaries. their way east for the Huns until they were captured by Chinese troops during a Chinese attack on the Hunnic ruler Zhizhi in present-day Uzbekistan.

Evidence for this claim, first presented by Oxford historian Homer Dubbs in the 1950s, includes: 1) Zhizhi Army mentions of "fish scale formations", a formation of overlapping shields made only by soldiers romans; 2) Roman-style palisades found in the city wall where Zhizhi lived; and 3) a city called Liqian in a historical record from AD 5. At that time, Liqian was also the name the Chinese used for Rome. Only two other Chinese cities mentioned had foreign place names, Kucha and Wen-suit, and both were named after foreigners who lived there.

Among the biggest promoters of the Roman connection are tourism officials in Zhelaizhai, who erected a Roman statue next to that of a Han Chinese and a Hui Chinese Muslim and built a new museum with a skeleton said to be of a Roman. found in Zhelaizhai in 2000. year-old grave and diagrams showing Roman physiological traits found among locals. There is even a luxury hotel for tourists who have not yet arrived in large numbers.

Periplus of the Erythraen (=Red) Sea is a trade manual apparently written by a Greek Egyptian. The anonymous author traveled around AD 40-70. The book deals with the trade routes through the Red Sea and includes both East Africa and India. One of the most important sources for the Eastern Roman trade, compiled after the discovery of how to use the monsoon winds to travel to and from India. Contains extensive information on ports and products. |*|


Good websites and resources on the Silk Road:Seidenstraße silk road; Silk Road; WikipediaWikipedia; Silk Road; Old World trade;Marco Polo:Wikipedia MarcopoloWikipedia; Works of Marco; Marco Polo and his;First Europeans in Asia Wikipedia; matthäus


Marco Polo, his father and uncle

Niccolò and Maffeo Polo - traveled 1260-1269, 1271-1295 - were the merchant father and uncle of Marco Polo. They traveled from the Crimea through the other territories of the Golden Horde to Bukhara and finally to Qubilai Khan's court in northern China. Qubilai sent them back to Europe overland on a mission to the Pope; In 1269 they arrived in Venice. When they set out again for China in 1271 via the Levant, Anatolia, and Persia, they were accompanied by the young Marcus. Our knowledge of his travels comes from Marco's book. |*|

Marco Polo. – traveled between 1271 and 1295 – is the most famous traveler on the Silk Road. According to his own statements, he worked for Kubilai Khan. He traveled overland through Persia through the Pamirs and south to the Taklamakan; His return was by sea from China around South Asia to Hormuz, from where he went overland to the Mediterranean Sea. Marco, a Venetian, dictated his story to a professional romance writer while in prison on his return from the Genoese. It is important to remember that he did not keep a diary. Olschki calls it "not a ... travel and adventure book, but a treatise on empirical geography." Obviously, some of the descriptions are formulaic, others are not based on direct observation, and still others reflect the common body of travel mythology. Many of his observations are accurate and verifiable; others unique but probably accurate. Since his main connections appear to have been with China's Mongol rulers and with the Muslim business community, he is often silent on the "obvious" features of Chinese society. Polo's book became popular in Renaissance Europe and served as a stimulus for further travel and exploration. |*|


European explorers from the time of Marco Polo


Christian pilgrims in Constantinople

Andrew of Longjumeau - traveled between 1245 and 1247, between 1249 and 1251 - was a Dominican and papal envoy to the Mongols. On his first trip he traveled from the Holy Land to near Tabriz (northern Iran). In the second, accompanied by several others, including his sister William, he went much further (his route is not well documented) into the Inner Asian domains of the Mongols, arriving there during the reign of Oghul Qaimish, widow of Khan Güyüg. We know of his travels from the summaries of Chronica Majora by Matthew Paris. [Source: Silkroad|*|]

Ascelino and Simón de San Quintín -traveled between 1245 and 1248- were Dominican papal envoys to the Mongols. They went from the Levant to the South Caucasus and back (accompanied by Mongol envoys) via Tabriz, Mosul, Allepo, Antioch, and Acre. There is information about the message in the Chronicle of Matthew Paris and in an account by Simón de San Quentin that has not been translated into English. |*|

Hayton I (also Hethum, Haithon) and Kirakos Gandsaketsi – traveled 1254–1255. Hayton, King of Little Armenia, traveled through the Caucasus and Khan Batu's territories to the Great Khan Mongke in Karakorum and then back via Samarkand, Bukhara and Tabriz. The account of their travels was written by Kirakos, who accompanied Hayton. This account should not be confused with a descriptive narrative of the Middle East written by Hayton's eponymous nephew. |*|

Juan de Monte Corvino - traveled between 1279 and 1328 - was a Franciscan missionary. He was active in Armenia and Persia, then in India and China. He left Tabriz for India in 1291 and probably reached Beijing after Qubilai Khan's death in 1294. 1307 and headed the Catholic mission there until his death. Although he did not write a travel journal, some of his letters have survived. |*|

John of Marignolli - traveled between 1339 and 1353 - was a Franciscan who was sent as a papal envoy to the Yuan (Mongol) Emperor of China. Through the Black Sea he reached the lands of the Golden Horde. His route was probably via Urgench (south of the Aral Sea), via Hami (north of the Taklamakan) to Peking and Shang-tu, where he was received in August 1342. After three years, they returned to Hormuz by ship and then by land to the Levant. inclusion of his travel memories in his Chronicle of Bohemian History; the account of him was ignored until the 19th century. |*|

In 1997, a manuscript of a trip from Europe to China surfaced under the name City of Life, supposedly written in 1272 by a Jewish-Italian merchant named Jacob d'Ancona, four years before Marco Polo arrived in China. The manuscripts were largely dismissed as forgery. Some of the words it contained, scholars claimed, corresponded to finding words like Oldsmobile in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Missionaries sent by Rome to meet the Mongols

According to Asia for Educators of Columbia University: “The Mongol era produced the first instances of direct contact between Europe and Mongol-ruled China. Mongol attacks on Hungary and Poland in 1241 so frightened Europeans at the might of the Mongols that the Pope called an ecumenical council in Rome in 1245 to consider a response to the Mongols. Two Franciscan missionaries were eventually sent east. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia]

“The first to leave Europe in 1245 was Johannes von Plano Carpini, and the second was Wilhelm von Rubruck, who traveled through the Mongol territories between 1253 and 1255. Both sought some kind of rapprochement with the Mongols, to discourage further attacks and invasions of Europe and convert them to Christianity.

“The Europeans had received information that the Mongols had a leader named 'Prester John' who had converted to Christianity. They also assumed that many of the Mongols were already Christians. In fact, some Mongolian women, including Genghis Khan's own mother, had converted to a heretical form of Christianity known as Nestorian Christianity. The Nestorian sect had been banished from Europe around the 5th century CE, but had spread first to western Asia and then to eastern Asia. But the idea that the Mongols could convert to Christianity was wishful thinking at best. However, Johannes von Plano Carpini and Wilhelm von Rubruck were well received at the Mongolian courts. Although they failed in their religious or diplomatic missions, they were able to recover the first accurate accounts of the Mongols."

Brother Juan de Pian de Carpine

The first known European to travel from Europe to China via the Silk Road was John of Pian de Carpine (1180?-1252), a Franciscan friar and former companion of Saint Francis of Assisi, sent by Pope Innocent IV to travel in 1245. to Mongolia on a mission to establish diplomatic relations with the Mongols and convert the Great Guyuk Khan to Christianity. Carpine traveled to Asia 28 years before Marco Polo. His mission at the time was comparable to sending a man to the moon and bringing him back alive. [Source: "The Explorers" by Daniel Boorstin]

Roman and Greek Bactrian coins
found in china
John Pian del Carpine (by Plano Carpini) and Benedict the Pole - traveled between 1245 and 1247 - were Franciscan friars sent as envoys by Pope Innocent IV to the Mongol Khan. They traveled through the domain of Khan Batu (ruler of the "Golden Horde") to near Karakorum. Where he does speak of what he actually saw, Brother John's account ("History of the Mongols"/Historia Mongalorum) is "the first direct authentic description of Asia" and one of the most astute and detailed accounts we have of the Mongols in the world. thirteenth century. . Given his European Christian perspective, he is surprisingly impartial. It became well known in Europe through extracts from an encyclopedia compiled by Vincent de Beauvais, Speculum Historiale. |*|

Friar John attended Guyuk's enthronement and was granted an audience with the Great Khan. He delivered a message from the Pope, in which the Pope expressed his wish for Christians and Mongolians to be friends, but insisted that Mongolians should embrace Christianity and repent for killing Christians in Hungary and Poland. The Great Khan was not moved. His response, in a note that Brother Johannes took to Europe, was: "Come, great Pope... and adore us."

Brother John and his Polish companion, Brother Benedikt, went first to the ruins of Kyiv and then to the Mongolian summer camp at Sira Ordu, covering the last 3,000 miles to Karakorum in 106 days. The most difficult part of their journey was in the Altai Mountains, where Fray John wrote: “I was deathly ill, but I let myself be carried in a cart through deep snow in the great cold, so as not to have to intrude on the affairs of Christianity." They also had difficulties in the Gobi desert. The Mongols, he wrote, "told us that if we took the horses we had to Mongolia, they would all die, because the snow was deep, and they did not know how to dig up the grass under the snow like Mongolian horses, and there was nothing else to find for food (on the way) either, because the Tatars had neither straw nor hay nor fodder, so we decided, on his advice, to leave our horses there.

When the two brothers arrived in Karakorum, there were two thousand Mongol chieftains at Guyuk Khan's enthronement. Fray Juan wrote: "They asked us if we wanted to give gifts, but we had already spent almost everything we had, so we had nothing to give them." Left for dead, Fray Juan returns to Europe two and a half years after starting his journey. Other brothers followed in his footsteps in the following years, but they too had little success in converting the Great Khan to Christianity.

Wilhelm de Rubruck

William (Guillaume/Willem) von Rubruck (Ruysbroeck) - traveled between 1253 and 1255 - was a Franciscan missionary from Flanders who traveled across the Black Sea and the lands of the Golden Horde to the court of the Great Khan Möngke in Karakorum. His report (Itinerarium) is "a treasure trove of miscellaneous information on Asian life in his time." It contains "the most complete and authentic information on the Mongol Empire in its pre-Chinese phase." He is interesting for descriptions of meetings with Nestorian Christians, of the same Karakorum and the extinct palace, and much more. Although his experiences interested his contemporary Roger Bacon, Rubruck's account did not become widely known until it was translated and published in the late 16th century. |*|


Brother Oderic and other explorers of the Silk Road

One of the greatest European explorers in China after Marco Polo was Brother Odoric de Pordenone, a Franciscan friar from Italy who wore a fur shirt and went barefoot on travels. After arriving in China by sea in 1321, Oderic was the first Westerner to give a detailed account of the onset of cormoration, the binding of women's feet, and the Chinese custom of growing nails.

Oloroso – traveled approx. 1316-1330: he traveled to Persia via Constantinople and the Black Sea in the early 1320s, and then across the Indian Ocean to India. From there he sailed through Southeast Asia to the east coast of China and spent several years in Beijing. His claim to have returned via Tibet is doubtful, although he seems to have traveled overland and returned to Venice via the Black Sea and Constantinople. His extensive travelogue, which he dictated in 1330, became a "bestseller", partly due to Odoric's arbitrary mixing of fantastic tales with more authentic information. He occasionally points out aspects of Chinese culture that were ignored by Marco Polo, "with whose account he was certainly familiar" (from Rachewiltz). The author of the highly popular late medieval travel fable attributed to John Mandeville revisited important parts of his material and gave it a fictional new shine. |*|

After Monk Odoric reached Canton from India, he ventured east, where he wrote that he "came to a city called Fuzo, which contains... large and beautiful roosters, and all its hens are as white as snow and they have wool instead of feathers, like sheep." Hangzhou, he said, has "many ten- or twelve-story houses" and "eleven thousand bridges... I have wondered how such an infinite number of people could inhabit and live together."

Francesco Balducci Pegolotti and the Medieval Silk Road Guide

At one point, so many Europeans traveled to Asia that there were Silk Road guides in European languages. In 1340, the Florentine banker and merchant Francesco Balducci Pegolotti advised travelers in Central Asia: “First of all, you should grow a beard and not shave it. And in Tana, you need to equip yourself with a dragoman. And you shouldn't try to save money by buying a bad one instead of a good one. Because the extra salary of a good one will not cost you as much as you will save if you have it.” Pegolotti also wrote: “And if the merchant wants to take a woman from Tana, he can do it; if he doesn't want to take one there is no obligation, only if he takes one he will be much more comfortable than if he doesn't take one."

Pegolotti, who traveled in 1340, was active in the eastern Mediterranean during the second quarter of the 14th century, where he obtained first- and second-hand information on Asian trade. Although he himself never traveled further east, his account is of particular interest for its description of the relative safety of trade routes through the territories of the Mongol Empire and the wide variety of goods available in trading centers such as Constantinople in the 1980s. 1340. A copy of his trade manual from 1471 survives. |*|

Regarding the exchange of money, the Florentine banker wrote: “All the silver that the merchants take with them to Cathay, the lord of Cathay will take from them and put it in his treasury. And to the merchants who bring silver like this, they give their paper money in exchange... With this money, you can easily buy silk and other goods that you want to buy. And all the people of the country should receive it.

In 1342 there was an archbishop in Peking and the Christian clergy "earned their living at the emperor's table in the most honorable manner."

Explorers and travelers of the Near East of the era of Marco Polo


byzantine silk rug

Tamim ibn Bahr: traveled in the year 821 AD. C. According to Minorsky, “the only Muslim traveler who left records of his visit to the Uyghur capital on the Orkhon River, i. h at Khara-balghasun in present-day Mongolia.” The author was probably from Khorasan and was sent to the east in connection with the political uprisings in Transoxiana. Only an abridged version of his narrative survives, known in particular from Yaqut's gazetteer. |*|

Ahmad Ibn Fadlan - traveled between 921 and 922 AD - was sent as ambassador of the Abbasid caliph to the ruler of the Bulgars in the middle Volga. The route led from Baghdad through the territories of the Samanid state and its capital, Bukhara, through Khwarezm and the northern Caspian Sea. Although the report we have is not the original report, it is of great value as Ibn Fadlan "possessed extraordinary powers of observation." (Duck). The account is often best known for its rather striking but valuable description of a Viking (Rus') burial on the Volga; This served as the inspiration for a bestseller by writer Michael Crichton, Eaters of the Dead. |*|

Rabban Bar Sauma and Markos - traveled 1275-1279: 1287-1288. they were Nestorian Önggüd (Turkish) monks who traveled to the Middle East from Tai-tu, Kubilai Khan's northern capital, via the southern branch of the Silk Road (via Khotan and Kashgar). Although they were on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (which they never made it), they seem to have been officially sponsored by the Khan. Once in the Ilkhanid Mongol empires, they became involved in Nestorian church politics, and Markos was eventually elected head of the church as patriarch Mar Yaballaha III. Bar Sauma was sent west in 1287 as an emissary of the Ilchanid ruler Arghun with the aim of forging an alliance against the Mamluks. Bar Sauma's writings survive in an abridged translation into Syriac, of which there are several translations into modern languages. As Rossabi notes, "her narrative of him remains the only one from his time to offer an East Asian perspective on European customs and rites," though it is somewhat disappointing in detail about life in the places where who traveled Like his contemporary Marco Polo, the Travelers are not mentioned in any Chinese sources. |*|

Ibn Battuta - traveled between 1325 and 1354 - was from Tangier (Morocco). Shams al-Din Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad Ibn Battuta (1304-1368 / 9 or 1377) is famous for spending the years between 1325 and 1354, when he returned home, touring North Africa and much of Eurasia to finish his China tour. His original goal was to participate in the pilgrimage to Mecca (the Hajj); His interest in Muslim holy men and places dominates parts of his text. Although he may have made notes, the account as we have it is "a work of literature, part autobiographical and part descriptive compendium" (Dunn). It was dictated to Ibn Djuzayy between 1354 and 1357. Some sections clearly contain no eyewitness material; The chronology is often confused. There are criticisms of the value of his material on Iran and questions about how much he has seen in China. Among the most valuable sections are his descriptions of Anatolia, the territories and customs of the Golden Horde, and South India. |*|


Babur - traveled between 1490 and 1530 and was the great-great-great-grandson of Timur (Tamerlane). Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (1483-1530) wrote an impressive treatise on his early life and his struggles in Central Asia and Afghanistan before finally settling in North India and founding the Mughal Empire. His Baburnama offers the observations of a highly educated Central Asian Muslim on the world in which he moved. There is much about the political and military struggles of his time, but also extensive descriptive sections on physical and human geography, flora and fauna, nomads in their pastures, and urban environments, enriched by the Persian and Turkish architecture, music, and literature that he promoted. the Timurids. The most recent translator of his states that Babur's memoirs "rank with the Confessions of Saint Augustine and Rousseau and the memoirs of Gibbon and Newton", the first and until relatively recently the only true autobiographies in Islamic literature. " |*|

Europeans and trade in China after Marco Polo

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to land in China. In 1513, some 20 years after the Portuguese arrived in India and Columbus sailed to the New World, the Portuguese explorer Jorge Alvares arrived in China. The Portuguese established a trade monopoly in China in 1557, operating through the tightly controlled colony of Macau. They also traded at the biannual Canton fairs. Since the Chinese were prohibited from trading with Japan, the Portuguese acted as middlemen, trading in pepper from Malacca, silk from China, and silver from Japan.

British, Dutch, and Spanish traders arrived in China after the Portuguese, but most of their attempts to establish trade associations with the Qing dynasty were rebuffed. In 1760, Canton was opened to foreign traders under the Canton system controlled by a guild known as the Cohong.

The first Europeans who came to China were fascinated by the toothpicks, the footprints, the sheer number of people, the nocturnal accumulation of dirt, and the songs of caged nightingales "cast in music." The discovery of large deposits of silver in the New World in the 16th century triggered waves of high inflation in China's Ming dynasty.

In 1636 King Charles I authorized a small fleet of four ships under the command of Captain John Weddell to sail to China and establish trade relations. In Canton, the expedition got into a firefight with a Chinese fort, and more battles ensued after that. The British partly blamed their inability to communicate for the failure. Later, tea became an important commodity traded between China and England. The first tea arrived in London from China in 1652.

Ma Huan - traveled 1413-1415, 1421-1422, 1431-1433 - was a Muslim interpreter who accompanied the famous Ming admiral Ch'eng Ho (Zheng He) on his fourth, sixth, and seventh expedition to the Indian Ocean. His Ying-yai sheng-lan (Complete Survey of the Coasts of the Ocean) (published in 1451) contains valuable information on the geography, products, and trade of Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. On the first two voyages he reached Hormuz; in the third he apparently reached Mecca. |*|

Ghiyathuddin Naqqash - Traveled between 1419 and 1422: - He was an artist who depicted Prince Mirza Baysunghur, son of the Timurid ruler Shahrukh, on an embassy sent by him to Beijing in 1419. Describes travels along the route north of the basin from the Tarim (through Turfan, Jiayuguan, Suzhou to Beijing). and back to Herat via Kashgar), various cultural aspects along the way, including Buddhism and reception at the Ming court. |*|


late explorer

Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo and Alfonso Paez -traveled between 1403 and 1406- were ambassadors of the Spanish king Enrique III. from Castilla y León in Timur (Tamerlane). A third envoy, Gómez de Salazar, died on the way. He traveled across the Mediterranean to Constantinople, the Black Sea to Trabzon and then overland via Tabriz to Balkh, Kesh (Shahr-i Sabs) and Samarkand. On the return trip they passed through Bukhara. Clavijo's account, written shortly after his return in 1406, is a very important source for traveling the western part of the Silk Road. Tamerlane's description of Samarkand is one of the most complete extant, containing essential details of economic life, trade with India and China, and Timurid buildings. [Source: Silkroad|*|]

But Tafur, traveled between 1435 and 1439, was a native and celebrity of Córdoba, born around 1410. Tafur traveled from Spain to the eastern Mediterranean and back. Although he was not a merchant, he was very interested in business affairs and was well connected to business networks. He was in Egypt, in the Black Sea region, and in the sad remains of dying Constantinople; As he contemplated going to India, the closest thing to a conversation he had was with the famous traveler Nicolo di Conti, whom he had met on his return trip from South Asia. |*|

Giosofat Barbaro, who traveled between 1436 and 1452, between 1473 and 1479, was a merchant who spent a decade and a half in the Venetian colony of Tana at the mouth of the Don, then traveled to Persia as an ambassador in the 1470s. In his "Journey to Tana" he describes the regions bordering the Black Sea and distant Moscow, which he never visited; His "Journey to Persia" closely follows the official account of his mission. At least the latter contains information from other travelers and was probably influenced by the fact that the author saw Contrarini's Persian voyages. |*|

Afanasii Nikitin - traveled between 1466 and 1472 - was a merchant from the Russian city of Tver on the upper Volga who traveled through Persia to India, where he spent more than 18 months. He died just before I got home. Most of his travelogue describes India; The report is of some interest because of his advice to other Christian merchants to leave their faith at home and embrace Islam if they wish to succeed on the Silk Road. There is a 1958 Russian film based on his journey; A Soviet oceanographic expedition named a newly discovered seamount off the southern coast of India after Nikitin. |*|

Ambrogio Contarini - traveled between 1474 and 1477 - was a Venetian ambassador to Persia who traveled through central Europe, the Ukraine, the Crimea and the Caucasus. In Persia he stayed in Tabriz and Isfahan and returned home via Moscow and Poland. Although he was traveling fast, he was a good observer. Apart from what he tells about conditions in the Caucasus and in Persia under Uzun Hasan, his story is due to his material about Moscow in the important reign of Grand Duke Ivan III. of considerable interest. |*|

Anthony Jenkinson - traveled 1557-1560, 1561-1564, 1566-1567, 1571-1572 - represented the English Muscovy Company and was accompanied by Richard and Robert Johnson. They traveled through the White Sea and Moscow, down the Volga and across the Caspian Sea to Bukhara, and then returned the same way in 1557-60. In 1561-1564 he traveled to Persia by the same route to the Caspian Sea to try to negotiate trade agreements. he wintered in Kazvin discussing the spice trade with Indian traders. Jenkinson's subsequent travels took him no further than Moscow. By 1546, long before his service in Russia, Jenkinson had traveled extensively in the Mediterranean and the Levant. |*|

John Newbery - traveled 1579, 1580-1582, 1583-1584 - was a London merchant, Newbery made three voyages. The first reached only as far as Levante. The second took him from the Levant through Mesopotamia to the Persian Gulf and Hormuz, and then back through central Persia, the southern edge of the Caucasus, Anatolia, and Eastern Europe. In the third, he was accompanied by Ralph Fitch to the Mughal court in India (see separate entry), John Eldred (stopping just short of the Persian Gulf), William Leeds, and James Story. Newbery died on the way home. He was the first Englishman to visit several of these regions. Unfortunately, he never wrote much about his voyages: notes on the first and especially the second were apparently incorporated into a seventeenth-century narrative by Purchas; The third voyage is known from some letters, the report of Fitch and Linschoten. |*|

Ralph Fitch - traveled between 1583 and 1591 - was an English trader (d. 1611) who traveled with John Newbery (s.v.) through the Levant and Mesopotamia to India, through northern India and then to Malacca (in Malaya ) before arriving via Persian. He gulfd to find out in London that he was presumed dead and that his fortune had been divided among his heirs. He later he returned to Aleppo. He apparently did not keep a diary; In writing his report, he relied on the travelogue of the Italian Cesare Federici, partly at Hakluyt's suggestion. The Indian section of the Fitch report is "disappointingly sparse and arbitrary"; Obviously, he must have known much more than what was written. Because he survived to tell the tale, unlike Newbery, he is often given the higher importance of the two. |*|

Benedict Goës - traveled 1602-1607. In 1594, the Portuguese Jesuit Benedict Goës joined a mission to the Mughal Emperor Akbar, where he was chosen by the Jesuit leadership (partly due to his knowledge of Persian) to travel to China on a reconnaissance mission through Kashgar. . He died before reaching Beijing; what survived of his notes and letters and some oral reports from him was later summarized (1615) in his travelogue by the famous Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci. Despite some inconsistencies and dating problems, the account is a unique European record of travel along Inner Asian overland trade routes in the early 17th century. The route itself is impressive - it heads northwest into Afghanistan before heading north through the Hindu Kush to the upper reaches of the Amu Darya, then east to Sarikol and on to Yarkand and Kashgar before bypassing the Taklamakan to the north. The report outlines the human and natural dangers to travel and other aspects of intra-Asian trade, and provides valuable insight into the political divisions of the time. |*|

Richard Steele and John Crowther, who traveled between 1615 and 1616, were agents of the British East India Company, they traveled from Agra, the Mughal capital of northern India, overland through Kandahar to the Safavid capital of Isfahan. His report highlights the continued importance of overland trade routes, in part to evade Portuguese control of Indian Ocean ports. There is interesting information about the role of Afghan nomads along the route and an emphasis on the relative safety of the journey during the Mughal and Safavid period of strength and stability. Steele then returned to England by traveling overland to the Mediterranean and taking a ship via Marseilles. Crowther returned to India. |*|

Jean Baptiste Tavernier (1605-?98) - traveled between 1629 and 1675 - was a French merchant/jeweller who probably knew the overland trade routes through Persia better than any other European in the 17th century. In six journeys he crossed parts of the Silk Road in Ottoman Empire, Safavid Persia and Mughal India and witnessed the construction of Versailles, Isfahan and the Taj Mahal, traded for diamonds and pearls, was decorated in "oriental" silk robes " of honor by the Shah of Iran and a barony from Louis XIV (for the sale of what later became the Hope Diamond). His interactions with the trading communities (particularly the Armenians in Persia) gave him an insider's perspective. His account reflects a professional writer's editing, but is accurate and detailed. [Source: "The Silk Road: Connecting People and Cultures" by Richard Kurin, The Smithsonian]

Adam Olearius - traveled 1633-1635, 1635-1639, 1643 - was Secretary of the Holstein Embassy and (1643) Holstein Ambassador. The first and third missions were to Moscow; The second went to Persia via Moscow, where he spent a year and the behavior of one of its members contributed greatly to the discredit of the company. Well educated at the University of Leipzig, Olearius compiled one of the most widely read and detailed accounts of Moscow and Persia, seen through the lens of his Protestant upbringing and his scholarly European perspective. It was first published in 1647; the revised German edition of 1656 became the standard edition and drew on a variety of other sources. It has been translated into several languages ​​and frequently republished. |*|

John Chardin - traveled 1664-1667, 1671-1677 - was a French Huguenot jeweler, Chardin spent much of his time in the Caucasus and Persia and traveled to India. He is one of the most important European accounts of Safavid Persia, the value of which is enhanced by his good knowledge of Persian. Persecution by Protestants in France forced him to flee to England, where he was recognized as an expert on the Middle East. |*|

Hovhannes Joughayetsi - traveled between 1682 and 1693 - was an Armenian merchant who traveled and traded between New Julfa (the Armenian suburb of Isfahan), North India and Tibet. He spent five years in Lhasa. His trading book is a unique source of information on products, prices, trading conditions and the Armenian trade network on the 17th century routes involving the Safavid and Mughal empires.

Aurel Stein and discoverer of the Silk Road in the 20th century

Explorer David Neel
Western China was caught up in the Great Game. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, western China, and Afghanistan were more important than other Central Asian states in the Great Game because they formed the buffer zone between the Russian Empire and the British Indian Empire. See Uzbekistan.

In the 1920s, Sven Hedin's Sino-Swedish excavations in Xinjiang and Manchuria unearthed 10,000 scrolls, Han documents on silk, Turpan murals, ceramics, and bronzes.

The foremost Western explorer of remote parts of China was Sir Aurel Stein (1863-1943), an explorer, linguist, and archaeologist who made four expeditions to Central Asia in the early 20th century. Stein was Jewish and was born in Hungary. He pioneered the exploration of the Silk Road and looted Buddhist art from desert caves in West China. Accompanied by his dog Dash his, he carried a trove of ancient Buddhist, Chinese, Tibetan and Central Asian art and texts in various languages ​​from the ancient city of Dunhuang and presented them to the British Museum.

In the late 1920s, Stein trekked the 18,000-foot Karakorum Pass three times and charted the Silk Road through Chinese Turkistan and followed the routes by which Buddhism spread from India to China. Stein discovered the Thousand Buddha Caves near Dunhuang in northwestern China, taking away 24 crates of artifacts including silk paintings, embroideries, sculptures, and 1,000 ancient manuscripts in Tangut, Sanskrit, and Turkish, including the oldest book. of the world, the Diamond Sutra.

Inspired by his "patron saint," Xuanzang, the seventh-century Chinese Buddhist monk, Stein followed the Silk Road described by Xuanzang on his journeys from Chang'an (Xian) to India. During his expeditions, Stein documented and photographed the ancient sites he visited and found many Silk Road treasures. Among those he took were ancient tablets, relics, and frescoes. His most important discovery was 40,000 scrolls, including the world's oldest printed text, the Diamond Sutra, found at Dunhuang in Gansu, western China.

When news of Stein's discoveries broke, an era of discovery and looting began. During the first quarter of the 20th century, archaeologists from Britain, Russia, Germany, Japan, and other nations competed to share the treasures of the Silk Road. These archaeological feats even became involved in the so-called "Great Game," in which Britain and Russia competed for political influence in Central Asia and western China. Christian missionaries also headed for Xinjiang. Among the best known were Francesca French and Mildred Cable, who wrote the book The Gobi Desert.

Image sources: Wikipedia; Brooklyn College; University of Washington; Silk Road Foundation; Wikimedia Commons

Text sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and several books and other publications.

Last update June 2022

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