Life Along the Silk Road

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Life Along The Silk Road

During the outward-looking rule of China's Tang dynasty (seventh-ninth century C. E. ), sophisticated people in northeastern Iran developed such a taste for expensive, imported Chinese pottery that they began to imitate it in great quantity for sale to people who could not afford the real thing. And in northern China there was a vogue for beautiful pottery figurines of camels laden with caravan goods or ridden by obviously non-Chinese merchants, musicians, or entertainers. Non-Chinese camel figurines found in Mesopotamia carry loads that duplicate the distinctive appearance of the loads on the Chinese figurines. So it is clear that by the time of the rise of Islam in the seventh century, contact across the Silk Road not only was extensive, but had affected the material and aesthetic cultures on both ends (William/ Spielvogel 145). Clearly, one of the most important and most utilized animals during the Silk Road era was the camel. Through the characters of Susan Whitfield’s book, Life Along the Silk Road, one can only get glimpses of what occurred in between to smooth the progress of the transformation of a road of infrequent contact into a major artery of international trade capable of surviving, until fatally challenged by European-dominated maritime trade in the seventeenth century (Oliver). Firsthand, accounts of central Asia caravan trading in the twentieth century testify to the complexity of organization required to assemble and move hundreds or thousands of animals, scores of drivers, tons of merchandise specially packed to conform to the weight and balance characteristics of pack camels, and the supplies needed to keep beast and human alive during months of travel in the bitter cold of a central Asian winter. Throughout her novel, one can see the many forms of usage of the animals. In the “Horseman’s Tale” horses were used in trade for military advantages “…as they [horses] stood tall in formation as to implicate to the Chinese...
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