The Silk Road through Art FKA the Islamic World through Art

Docent Guide 12.2.15 updated 

Story of Ibn Batutta to read Unclip the laminated cards, stand the cards on your lap. Hold the 1st card up so the children can see the image, and read from the back side. Be sure and connect the children to the story....Farmers, merchants, pilgrims, animal handlers, silk makers are all in the story. Would you like to travel the Silk Road? Why or why not? Clip the cards back together and put them into the bag for the next rotation.

Booklet - no booklet for this tour

Islamic World through Art tour training Part 1Part 2 Ignore the section about Shangri La

February 11, 2015 Curator Tom Mellins Doris Duke's Shangri La video 

Silk Road established:

In the history of the Silk Road, many renowned people left their footprints on this most historically important trade route, including eminent diplomats, generals and great monks, such as Zhang Qian, Ban Chao, Ban Yong and Fu Jiezi, Gan Ying, Xuanzang and Marco Polo.

Zhang Qian was the pioneer of the Silk Road who opened up this ancient trade road during the reign of the Han Emperor Wudi. From 139 BC to 119 BC, he went to the Western Regions twice and brought back an immense amount of information about the Central Asia and West Asia. The Silk Road marked the beginning of a new era with an extensive exchange of culture, economy and religion between China and the West.

Gan Ying: in 97 AD, in order to establish trade relations with Rome directly, Gan Ying was dispatched by Ban Chao to Da Qin (the old name of the Roman Empire), which was the farthest westbound travel and exploration. He set out on his journey from Qiuci (now Kuche or Kuqa). It was full of difficulties and dangers all the way. He crossed mountains, traversed desolate deserts and the Gobi, went over plateaus and finally reached Persian Gulf by way of Tiaozhi (the present Iraq) and the Anxi Empire (Parthia). At that time, Anxi was a key transit station on the Silk Road. The merchants of Anxi monopolized the trade between China and Rome; they made a big profit by selling Chinese silk to Romans at very high prices. Therefore, the Anxi merchants exaggerated the hardships of crossing the sea and persuaded Gan Ying to give up his travel. As a result, Gan Ying followed their advice and returned to China. Although Gan Ying failed to finish his mission, he brought more detailed and reliable information about the Central Asia.

Modern Travelers on Silk Road
Modern Travelers on Silk Road
Besides, Feng Liao, Ban Chao, Ban Yong and Fu Jiezi all contributed greatly to ensure peace on the Silk Road. The famous generals – Wei Qing and Huo Qubing defeated the Huns, which let down the barriers along the trade route. In the Tang Dynasty (618–907), Xuanzang set out on his journey to India to study Indian sutras along the Silk Road and wrote a book – Pilgrim to the West in Tang Dynasty. Then in the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), Marco Polo came to China and stayed for 17 years. After he returned Venice, Marco Polo dictated The Travels of Marco Polo that was recorded by Rustichello da Pisa in 1298.

In the history of China, Han Dynasty (206BC–220AD) and Tang Dynasty made intermarriages with Hun, Wusun and Tibet further consolidated the stable environment along the Silk Road and expanded it. Many princesses left their familiar hometown and reached to the remote states on a diplomatic mission. Wang Zhaojun (one of the four most beautiful women in Chinese history) and Princess Wen Cheng (married with the King of Tibet) made important contributions to the smooth flow of the Silk Road.

The main travelers of the Silk Road were merchants who organized various caravans to cross the Gobi Deserts. Overcoming all kinds of hardships, they transported goods for sale between China and the West to gain great profit. Some religious disciples missionized their faith through this road. From nobles to beggars and prisoners, all kinds of people once had gone to their destinations by this world-famous Silk Road.

"Winged" horses of Davan or the origins of the Silk Road

The start of the Silk Road is dated 2nd century BC when Chinese ambassador Zhang Qian visited the countries of Central Asia with diplomatic mission. Until the 2nd century BC the way from Europe to Asia stopped at the borders of China because the great ranges of Asia, the Tien Shan, the Kun-Lun, the Karakorum, the Hindu Kush, and the Himalayas, protected the ancient Chinese civilization from the rest of the world. It was by accident that the richest western direction was opened. One of nomadic tribes, who were allies with China, was driven out by another tribe, openly hostile to China. The former ally left to the West. The Chinese emperor sent the embassy led by Zhang Qian . Having crossed the Taklamakan desert, the mountains of Tien –Shan; having spent ten years in captivity, Zhang Qian found the former allies in the oases of Central Asia. Zhang Qian was amazed by what he saw: just single Fergana valley hosted more than 70 big and small towns and settlements with the developed crafts and agriculture. The townspeople traded with India, the Near and Middle East, and the countries of the ancient world. When Zhang Qian  came back to China, he told the emperor about the countries lying to the West from China, about how rich they were. He told about the thoroughbred Davani “winged” horses which were far better than small Chinese ones. The emperor burnt with the desire to have such horses in his possession since it would give him huge advantage in the fight against nomads. Soon the embassies were sent to Central Asia. Among other gifts they brought Chinese silk there.