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Review Of Silk Road Or Steppe Roads History Essay

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Based on David Christian's "Silk Road or Steppe Roads" and Robert Taafe's "The geographic setting" how did ecological factors in the Silk Road regions encourage trade?

Ecology researches the relationship between organisms and their environments. Therefore ecological factors in the Silk Road regions include the study of geographic setting, climate conditions, natural zones of Inner Asia, plant and animal ecosystems which could be treasure ecological resources encouraging the trade along the silk routes.

Though parts of the Silk Road regions are covered by arid area including the mountains, tundra and deserts; the predominant climate condition is long winters throughout Inner Asia. However, due to the continental climate, low evaporation among tundra, higher intensity of solar radiation and evaporation make such areas abound with unique fruits such as sweet honey-dew melon, green grape, pomegranate and mountain products etc. All of these fruits become the commodities introduced to China, and mountain trade was popular at that time. Meanwhile possessing the political or military control of an oasis of desert zones has in many cases meant control of trade on a particular silk route.

Besides tundra and desert zones, forest, steppe, grasslands zones also cover among the Silk Roads regions which provide suitable environment and multi-resources for the trades. The forest zone along the Silk Roads is the relatively moist area which can be divided into four major physiographic regions; meanwhile this area is full of forest and animal sources, for example, fir, spruce, pine, fur, timber and many species of large and small, fur-bearing animals. Furthermore, the inner Asian steppe zones covered with rich grasslands stretch across Kazakhstan, northern part of Xinjiang and Mongolia. Study found that many great nomadic empires, for instance, Xiongnu, Mongols and Turks depended on the herding (camels, horses, sheep) for survival. This is because steppe zones could provide abundant and easily utilized fodder for their pastoral nomadic. This could indirectly demonstrate that why trader used camels, horses as their mechanisms along the Silk Roads.

In conclusion, we could easily find that there were a large amount of woodland and steppe land goods traded along the Silk Roads. Meanwhile, many flourished cities were emerged at the edges of the steppes or trans-ecological trade routes.

b) Write one essay of about 300 words in answer to one of the following questions:

2

Based on Xinru Liu's chapter 3 "The Kushan Empire and Buddhism" in her book The Silk Road in World History what are the characteristics of what she terms "Kushan Buddhism"? In your opinion, does it make sense to use this term?

3

Based on David Christian's "State formation" and Nicola Di Cosmo's "Those who draw the bow" in Ancient China and its Enemies for what reasons and by which means did nomads attempt the formation of empires?

There are some reasons inducing nomads to attempt the formation of empires. Firstly, ecological poverty makes nomadic communities more fragile than agricultural communities in terms of their economy, demography and political conditions. Secondly, lack of cultural check of pastoralist population growth and over-population on limited pastures exacerbates the instabilities of hunter-gatherer societies. Thirdly, compared with nomads' neighbouring nations especially China, which has vast territory and abundant resources. Pastoralist communities found that raiding, constant jostling and warfare with such neighbours could get the expansion of their area of steppe land even to the agriculture regions and seize more resources in short time. Meanwhile, a series of new techniques introduced by the secondary products revolution, for example, techniques to ride or use the large livestock to draw ploughs and wagons, make use of the fur and feather, milk and blood from living livestock, provided conditions for the formation of empire. Moreover, nomads are skilled at riding, hunting, and shooting which could become an immense military power in the following forming empire processes.

Nomads attempt the formation of the empires through the means by different levels. The simplest level is the Parental Group consisting of a family unit and it shares a dwelling. Then several related parental groups travelling together organise the Camping Group which build the Reproductive Group again within50-500 individuals. The first three levels might become the foundation of Tribes, whose leadership based on kinship ties or face-to-face relations and they are often for military defence purpose. At this time, a small army is formed. By using the military skilled army to seize resources, the army become stronger and tribes collaborate into Supra-tribal Associations. With the number of the great mass increase, temporary supra-tribal leadership is replaced by stable political structures and bureaucracy, more resources and prestige goods are acquired from agricultural regions. Finally, Nomadic Empires are established.

4

Based on Xinru Liu's chapter 5 "Transforming the Eurasian Silk Market" and material of your own choice what was the role of religious institutions and beliefs in promoting trade along the Silk Road?

5

Based on Xinru Liu's chapter 1 "China looks West" and on material on trade, how would you evaluate the Chinese impact on the Silk Road regions and on the trade conducted in these regions? Was it decisive?

6

Based on Xinru Liu's chapters 1 and 6 "The Mongols and the Twilight of the Silk Road" what were the threats and the opportunities which the Silk Road regions presented for China?

Part B (worth 10 %)

Give precise answers of about one sentence to each of the following questions:

How would you characterize the relationship between oasis dwellers and nomads?

They were often related by the war and economic activities: nomads pillage oasis dwellers or make them become vassal states for food and wealth; meantime, due to the movement and ethnic fusion nomads could also provide oasis dwellers the necessary raw materials for artisan industry and other goods.

What is meant by "trans-ecological exchanges"?

Trans-ecological exchanges mean the exchanges among the multi-ecological and geographic setting which include the switch between the different natural zones of Inner Asia encompassing climatic factors, soils, vegetation as well as aspects of water and animal resources.

What is the characteristic vegetation of steppe zones?

Depending on the season and latitude, the moister wooded steppe zones are covered with shrubs, deciduous trees and mixed forests or grasslands among the continuous belts; while the drier or semi-desert steppe zones are covered of the grass, shrubs or both.

Where is Gandhara situated geographically and what is its relevance for Silk Road (and Chinese) history?

Gandhara was located mainly in the vale of Peshawar, the Potohar plateau and on the Kabul River; the Silk Roads made the mouth of the Ganges River and the west coast of Gandhara become prosperous trade markets, besides Gandhara had become the transfer station for trading the Chinese silk, lacquer war, Southeast Asia spices, Roman glass, linen goods and other trade commodities along the Silk Roads.

Why were caravans popular with merchants travelling along the Silk Road in Silk Road times?

Because caravans could carry food, water, goods, cloth, tools and such kinds of necessary items, as well as providing protection against bad weather.

Who was Xuanzang (also transcribed as Hsüan-tsang)?

Xuanzang was a renowned Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveller, and translator who journeyed to India to study Buddhism, visited important religious sites and gathered Buddhist texts and artifacts in the early Tang period.

What is Manichaeism?

Manichaeism is one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia by prophet Mani who believes an elaborate cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness; Manichaeism was brought by Sogdians to China and the traces of it are found in Fujian Province.

In Silk Road times, what factors could contribute to the decay of an oasis city?

There are some factors may contribute to the decay of an agriculture based oasis city: firstly, continuous war destroyed a lot of oasis and grasslands; secondly, the eco-environment was destroyed not only by war, but also the pressure from the prosperity of commercial and transportation activities; thirdly, the heavy tax form the Persian empire and lastly the exploration of new maritime traffic route take the place of silk road gradually; fourthly, the disintegration of the Mongol Khanates together with the discovery of sea routes from Europe to Asia in the 15th century disrupted the overland Silk Roads in parts of Central Asia oasis cities.

Who are the Uighurs?

The Uyghur are a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia, which initially refers to a small coalition of Tiele tribes, then later denoted citizenship in the Uyghur Khaganate and finally expanded to an ethnicity including Turkic and Tocharian.

In Silk Road times, what made silk such an ideal commodity?

Because at that time, the people in India, southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, Middle East, Africa, Europe and Rome went overboard about silk products, mostly cloth.


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