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Should We Call It the Silk Road?

Autor:   •  December 12, 2016  •  Essay  •  1,431 Words (6 Pages)  •  561 Views

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James Kim


                                Should We Call it the Silk Road?

Over its years(114 BCE – 1450s CE), the Silk Road had generated sales of roughly 1.2 billion current U.S. dollars. The road is a “historically important international trade route” situated between China and the Mediterranean(“Why is it Called the ‘Silk Road’). Established during the Han dynasty in China, the trade route “linked the regions of the ancient world in commerce(Mark 1).” As the Silk Road was not a single path from east to west, the term ‘Silk Routes’ has become increasingly favored by historians, though ‘Silk Road’ is the more common and recognized name. Silk was one of the major commodities of the Silk Road, but it became the most important in China. Silk only made a small contribution to the trade route’s overall importance. The route facilitated large numbers of merchants who spread desired goods as well as missionaries, scholars, and ordinary people who altogether, created an age of mass cultural diffusion. In addition, the Silk Road’s routes grew further from China, which housed most of the silk trade. The name ‘’Silk Road” would be a suitable name for the trade route that first began during Han China, though  the route has definitely outgrown its current name due to its full course in history. Ultimately, silk was a main commodity of the Silk Road; however, the road acquired its important recognition in history as a result of extensive trade and cultural diffusion.

From the proponents view, the name ‘Silk Road’ reflects the total importance of the trade route. It was named by German geographer and traveler, Ferdinand von Richthofen, in 1877 CE, who saw how China’s signature commodity, silk, fueled wealth and spread throughout the trade route(Bishop 1). “The secret of silk, carefully guarded for centuries, brought wealth and prestige to the Chinese emperors(American Museum of Natural History 1 Q1B).” Silk was born in China along with the Silk Road. It became China’s most successful export which influenced the expansion and creation of the Silk Road . Upon discovery, silk immediately became luxury item being the perfect material for fine clothing. “Young and old Chinese all wear silk cloths in both winter and summer, but the best quality silk is reserved for Kings(Suleiman 1 Q2A).” Silk became an important symbol of China. It promoted the expansion and creation of the Silk Road.  Although, China did not wish to share the development of silk since it was key to dominating the trade route. “Given the Silk Roads symbolic meaning of sharing and exchange, it is somewhat paradoxical that the desire to control its namesake commodity,silk, was so strong(Kurin 4 Q2B).’’ Eventually, the secret of silk production began to leak into the west along the trade routes, later to be globalized and advanced by modern generations as illustrated by Richard Kurin’s words” And silk turns up everywhere, aboard medieval viking ships sailing out of Constantinople to handkerchiefs from India around the necks of cowboys of the American west(Kurin 5 Q2B).” Silk became an “extensive international commodity” as a result of the Silk Road which all began in Han China, therefore, the proponent believes that it is safe to say ‘Silk Road’ is a legitimate name for the trade route(“Goods of the Silk Road”).

        The Silk Road was not a trade route that existed solely for the purpose of trading silk. Large quantities of different commodities from all over were desirable and flooded markets. As declared by the American Museum of Natural History, “Merchants brought expensive skins, feathers, and gems from afar to marketplaces were eager buyers awaited. Fashionable hats, elegant coats, dazzling jewelry, and other luxury goods were widely traded across Asia along the Silk Road(2 Q1B).”  Caravans heading towards China carried gold and other precious metals, ivory, precious stones, and glass, which was not manufactured in China until the fifth century. In the opposite direction furs, ceramics, jade, bronze objects, lacquer and iron were carried. Many of these goods were bartered for others along the way, and objects often changed hands several times. In addition, food also took up a large portion of trade. Travelers introduced their own ingredients and recipes from different lands as well as absorbing some at the same time. Spices became extremely popular since food was very dull and bland during this period in time. Countless alluring commodities were bought and sold in all parts of the Silk Road, unlike Silk which mainly stuck to the east in Asia. Despite the high profile given to the Silk Road by modern accounts, “silk was never a major commodity” compared to the rest of trade the route facilitated(Ball 1 Q4A).


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