World History_What Changed and Continued in Silk Road Trade?

작성일 : 2015-05-02 00:33 수정일 : 2016-12-27 01:22 작성자 : 임현진 (

There were several changes and continuities in the patterns of interactions across the Silk Road from 200 B.C.E to 1450 C.E. There was a change in major trader’s religion (Islam) and in the items traded (paper, gunpowder, compass, printing), while the fact that Europeans were providers, Middle East was middlemen and Asians were providers remained the same.

For change, the rise of Islam in the Middle East affected the interaction. This religion arose because in the 7th century, Byzantine Empire and Sasanian Persia were conflicting and afterwards the merchants moved to Mecca to avoid the conflict. Thanks to their move, Mecca became the hub of the trade, leading to the discrepancy between haves and have-nots and the rise of Islam. Islam was made to console the have-nots and Muslims live according to their bible Quran and principles of 5 Pillars (confession of faith, fast, donation, pilgrimage to Mecca, prayer). This was the religion of the main trader in Middle East, therefore some of those trading with them converted to Muslim to share their religion. For example, nobility in Eastern Africa trading in ports like Mogadishu, Mombasa, Kilwa converted to Islam in around 10th century.

Another change is that the main items traded in the Silk Road changed. Originally, from Africa, ivory, gold, slaves were exchanged, and from India, spice and tea were traded, and from China porcelain, silk, tea were traded. However, after the Talas War between Tang dynasty and Abbasid dynasty, paper and papermaking technique invented by Cai Lun in the Eastern Han dynasty, began to be traded with Arabs. Moreover, gunpowder, compass, and printing were invented in Chinese dynasty and then later sent to Europe through the silkroad trade.

A factor of continuity is the roles of people from different regions. Europeans continued to be the demander and consumer, while the Asians provided the goods as producers and the Middle Easterners were middlemen between the two. Arabs used dhow with lateen to trade across the sea or caravans used camels to go by land. The trade in this region was activated more after the Crusades from 11th century to 13th century when Christians from Europe and Muslims of Seljuk Turk went through 8 wars. After the war, Europeans more actively bought merchandise from Arabs and this led to the flourish of cities like Venice and European Renaissance in the 14th century.

In the historical context, 1st century B.C.E. was the peak time of Rome when it actively traded with Han through Parthia and Kushan. However in the 476 Rome was invaded and collapsed by the Vandals. Afterwards, Byzantine Empire takes over the power although Byzantine and Western Rome go through many conflicts such as Iconoclastic controversy and humiliation of Canossa. However, they both get to the Crusades war against Seljuk Turk which reigned from 11st to 13th century.


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