Silk Road Trade & Travel Encyclopedia
Interesting Facts & Trivia
(Click to see questions only)
1 - QUESTION: What is the study and practice of making maps called?
Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. The earliest known map is a matter of some debate, both because the definition of "map" is not agreed upon, and because some artifacts that appear to be maps, might actually not be.
2 - QUESTION: Can you name the 4 major contributions to civilization made by China?
Answer: The compass, papermaking, printing, and gunpowder (which were all introduced to the West via the Silk Road).
A compass is a navigational instrument for determining direction relative to the earth's magnetic poles. The compass was invented in ancient China around 247 BCE, and was used for navigation along the Silk Road by the 11th century. In addition to the compass, medieval navigation tools included the astrolabe, quadrant, cross-staff, and sextant (items used to determine the altitude of the sun or other celestial bodies). It was not until the early 17th century that the telescope was first used for astronomical purposes.
3 - QUESTION: In what century was the name the "Silk Road" coined?
Answer: 19th century.
In 1877 the term "Seidenstraße" (literally "Silk Road") was coined by the German geographer, cartographer and explorer Ferdinand von Richthofen. The Silk Road consists of regions that have been a crossroads of historic trade routes, which have been settled over thousands of years by many groups. It was 20 centuries after the first Chinese missions to the West (of Zhang Qian, c. 138 BCE) that the term "Silk Road" began to be used. The term now refers to the centuries-old trade network that has linked the Asian and Mediterranean worlds since antiquity (and often includes not only overland, but also maritime routes). Hence, the term "Silk Road" was coined in the West after the lucrative Chinese silk trade which was one of the valued products that gave rise to the connection of trade routes that grew into an extensive Eurasian trans-continental network.
4 - QUESTION: In which Silk Road country was St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) born, and in which Silk Road country is the Virgin Mary believed to have died?
Known today as Santa Claus, St. Nicholas was born in Patara and served as a
4th century Bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.
Saint Nicholas is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Sinterklaas. Lycia was a province of Byzantine Anatolia. St. Nicholas was famous
for his generous gifts to the poor.
The Virgin Mary is believed to have died in the vicinity of Ephesus, in modern-day Selçuk, Turkey. Pope Paul VI visited the shrine on July 26, 1967, and 'unofficially' confirmed its authenticity (known as the "House of the Virgin Mary"). Pope John Paul II also visited the shrine, on November 30, 1979. Pope Benedict XVI visited this shrine on November 29, 2006. It is widely believed that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken to the area by Saint John (before dying on the cross, Jesus entrusted to St. John his mother, 19:26-27). The Tomb of St. John is also located in this area.
5 - QUESTION: What European leader was responsible for enabling improved designs and better guidance for ships?
Answer: Henry "the Navigator"
Henry "the Navigator" was a prince of the Kingdom of Portugal and an important figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire. He was responsible for the early development of European exploration and maritime trade routes with other continents. He sponsored expeditions of discovery in the Atlantic Ocean, and down the western coast of Africa. Prince Henry never actually sailed on any of the voyages of discovery he sponsored. Instead, he established a school for the study of the arts of navigation, mapmaking, and shipbuilding, which enabled improved designs and better guidance for ships. Prince Henry's goal was to find a route to the rich spice trade of the Indies, while exploring the west coast of Africa. The ships that sailed the Mediterranean were slow and too heavy to make these voyages. Under his direction, a new and lighter ship was developed, the caravel, which allowed sea captains to sail further and faster. After the development of the lateen-rigged caravel, it was the Portuguese who led the way of maritime expansion as Europeans sought alternative routes to Asia.
Having developed the lateen-rigged caravel, it was the Portuguese who led the way of maritime expansion as Europeans sought alternative routes to Asia. Due to the Mongol Peace (Pax Mongolica) during the Mongol-Yuan Empire, Europeans had long enjoyed a safe land passage along the Silk Routes to China and India, which were sources of valuable goods. The maritime expansion of Portugal was the result of the threat to Mediterranean commerce that had developed very rapidly after the crusades, especially the trade in spices. Spices traveled by various overland routes from Asia to the Levant, where they were loaded aboard Genoese and Venetian ships and brought to Europe. Portuguese navigators, under the leadership of King John II, sought to reach Asia by sailing around Africa. Major progress in this quest was achieved in 1488, when Bartolomeu Dias reached the Cape of Good Hope, in what is now South Africa.
6 - QUESTION: What is the name of tall structures, found along the Silk Road, used to preserve Buddhist relics?
Answer: A Pagoda.
In China, pagodas were originally built to preserve Buddhist relics, which were considered the most sacred objects in the world. The structure of Chinese pagodas can be divided into three parts: the top, the body (used to enshrined a statue of Buddha) and the base (used for burying Buddhist relics).
7 - QUESTION: What region controlled the incense routes?
The rise of Arabian trade and kingdoms was the result of important routes based on the Arabian monopoly of two prized goods of ancient times: frankincense and myrrh. These two resins only grow in eastern Yemen and southern Oman and in some parts of Somalia. These trade routes are collectively known as the "Incense Route" and were controlled by Arabs and other traders, who brought frankincense and myrrh by camel caravan from South Arabia. The incense trade flourished from South Arabia to the Mediterranean roughly between the 3rd century BCE to the 2nd century CE.
8 - QUESTION: What commodity are the Jews of Cochin (Kochi) India known to have traded?
The Kochin Jews of India were an important part of the Kerala coast's spice trade, with huge warehouses containing mountains of turmeric, chilies, and pepper located directly below their family living quarters. This area was a trading hub on the coast of southern India since ancient times. It is believed that Jewish traders in the last centuries BCE settled in Kochi. Jews have a long history on the subcontinent, having settled in Mumbai, and other cities where distinct Jewish communities have been established. India's most prominent Jewish community—considered one of the oldest in the world east of Iran—remains the one in Kochi (although very few members of the community remain, most having long since emigrated to Israel).
9 - QUESTION: Who was known to be successful middlemen and controlled trade north of the Gobi Desert?
Answer: The Uyghurs.
The Uyghurs (also known as Uighurs) ruled over a powerful empire north of the Gobi Desert. The Uyghurs are a Turkic people who ruled between 744 and 840, and presided over flourishing commercial centers and agriculture.. The capital of their empire was Karabalghasun, located on the upper Orhon River in Mongolia.
10 - QUESTION: What is the name given to the period of strategic rivalry and conflict in the 19th century between the British and Russian Empires for supremacy in Central Asia?
Answer: "The Great Game."
The term "The Great Game" is usually attributed to Arthur Conolly (1807–1842), an intelligence officer of the British East India Company's Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry. It was introduced into mainstream consciousness by British novelist Rudyard Kipling in his novel Kim (1901).
11 - QUESTION: What is the name of the largest landmass on earth?
Eurasia and the Silk Routes can be described as the life lines and arteries of the world. Central Asia, where many of the Silk Routes divide and meet, is the heart of the largest landmass on earth, known as Eurasia. A better understanding of Central Asia's role as the conduit between cultures reveals the evolution of civilizations, as well as the means through which the civilizations of the East and West interacted.
12 - QUESTION: How were most items transported across the Silk Road?
Answer: By Caravans.
Items were transported in large caravans for increased safety. Because most traders could not afford large armed escorts to fight off robbers, merchants often travelled together in caravans along dangerous routes, deserts, and mountains. Most trade was conducted with the help of pack animals, often consisting of camels in the form of caravans. A "caravansary " (caravanserai) served as an inn were merchants and caravans were provided food and rest, as well as baths and storerooms for their goods. Many of these establishments served as international marketplaces, and flourished as centers of service and trade as a result of supplying merchant caravans.
13 - QUESTION: Which ancient civilization was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean during the period 1550 BCE to 300 BCE?
Answer: The Phoenicians.
Phoenicia centered in modern-day Lebanon and the coast of Syria, was an ancient civilization. Phoenician civilization was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean during the period 1550 BCE to 300 BCE. The Phoenicians often traded by means of a galley, a man-powered sailing vessel. According to Roman sources, Phoenician colonists also founded the city of Carthage in present-day Tunisia in 814 BCE (led by Queen Elissa, "Alissar," an exiled princess of the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre). Carthage became an international metropolis.
14 - QUESTION: Which city became a major power in the Mediterranean and controlled of the waters between Sicily and Tunisia?
Carthage, located in on the North African coast became a large and rich city, and thus a major power in the Mediterranean. Its central location in the Mediterranean enabled it to control of the waters between Sicily (Italy) and Tunisia. Carthaginian commerce covered vast sea and land routes throughout the Mediterranean, far into the Atlantic, and by land across the Sahara desert. Carthage's massive merchant fleet, which surpassed even those of the cities of the Levant, visited every major port of the Mediterranean, Britain, the coast of Africa, and the Canary Islands. Merchants at first favored the ports of the east: Egypt, the Levant, Greece, Cyprus, and Asia Minor (Turkey). But after Carthage's control of Sicily brought it into conflict with Greek colonists, it established commercial relations in the western Mediterranean, including trade with the Etruscans. Carthage traded in almost every commodity wanted by the ancient world, including spices from Arabia, Africa and India. Carthage also sent caravans into the interior of Africa and Persia, while its ships traversed the maritime trade routes.
15 - QUESTION: Who was in control of the Silk Routes during a period of security, also described as a "Golden Age" of the Silk Road?
Answer: The Mongols.
The Silk Road, which connected trade centers across Asia and Europe, prospered from the 13th to the 14th century after it came under the sole rule of the Mongol Empire. This period of security and stability that was provided along the Silk Routes was known as "Pax Mongolica." Kublai Khan's rule during the Yuan-Mongol Dynasty in China marks the zenith of "Pax Mongolica," a golden age of commerce and cultural exchange between East and West.
16 - QUESTION: Who was the leader of the largest contiguous empire in history?
Answer: Genghis Khan.
The conquests of Genghis Khan, and his successors, effectively connected the Eastern and Western worlds. They ruled a vast territory of Eurasia from Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe. Genghis Khan unified nomadic tribes of northeast Asia, leading to the expansion of the Mongol Empire, which conquered most of Eurasia in the early thirteenth century, becoming the largest contiguous empire in history. He was born in Mongolia to a noble family and named "Temujin." The Silk Road, which connected trade centers across Asia and Europe, came under the sole rule of the Mongol Empire where security and stability was provided. Under the leadership of Kublai Khan (the grandson of Genghis Khan), China was also unified. After the Mongol leader captured Beijing, he established Dadu as the capital of the Mongol-Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368). The capital of Xanadu, where the summer capital of the Mongols was established, is better known due to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan, completed in 1797.
17 - QUESTION: Who was the famous European Silk Road traveler who worked for the court of Kublai Khan?
Answer: Marco Polo, from the Republic of Venice.
The most famous of the Silk Road travelers, Marco Polo, was a merchant from the Venetian Republic who introduced Europeans to Central Asia and China. Marco Polo was welcomed in Beijing by the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan. After holding official administrative positions and completing diplomatic missions for the Mongol emperor, he returned to Venice seventeen years later. By his own account, Marco worked for Kublai Khan. He traveled overland through Persia across the Pamirs and south of the Taklamakan Desert. His return was by sea from China around South Asia to Hormuz, from where he went overland to the Mediterranean. Although some of the descriptions not based on direct observation, many of his observations are precise and verifiable. His main associations seem to have been with the Mongol rulers of China and with the Muslim merchant community. Marco Polo's journey and book became well-known in Renaissance Europe, serving as a stimulus for further discovery and travel. Today, his impact upon Western knowledge of the East, as well as on the Western imagination, can still be seen.
His 13th century account of his travels had a profound influence on medieval Europe's view of the wider world. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia to the court of the great Mongol leader Kublai Khan. In 1269, they returned to Venice. The three of them embarked on an epic journey to Asia, returning after 24 years to find Venice at war with Genoa. Marco was imprisoned, and dictated his account to a writer who was also imprisoned by the Genoese. He was released in 1299. He died in 1324, and was buried in San Lorenzo. Marco Polo's autobiography, called 'The Travels of Marco Polo' or "Il Milione," provided inspiration for many other explorers including Christopher Columbus. Il Milione was translated, embellished, copied by hand, and adapted, however there is no authoritative version. It documents his father's journey to meet the Kublai Khan, who asked them to become ambassadors, and communicate with the pope. This led to Marco's quest, through Acre, into China and to the Mongol court. Marco wrote of his extensive travels throughout Asia on behalf of the Khan, and their eventual return after what is said to be 15,000 miles (24,140 km) and 24 years of adventures.
18 - QUESTION: Which famous explorer who sought to reach "the Indies" was influenced by Marco Polo's journey?
Answer: Christopher Columbus.
Historians have noted that Christopher Columbus was so inspired by the journeys of the Venetian traveler Marco Polo's description of the Far East, that he desired to visit those lands for himself. It can therefore be said that the Silk Road inspired Columbus's voyages to the "New World" as there is evidence Columbus made handwritten annotations on a Latin edition of Marco Polo's book. In the 1480's, the Columbus brothers had developed a different plan to reach the spice rich Indies -- with a new route to the East by sailing west across the "Ocean Sea" (the Atlantic Ocean). In his quest for Asia, and to find an alternative to the Silk Road caravan routes, Christopher Columbus read widely about astronomy, geography, and history, including the travels of Marco Polo.
19 - QUESTION: What is the area of Spain conquered by the Arabs called?
Andalusia is the region of Spain south of the Iberian peninsula. It is divided into eight provinces: Granada, Seville, Córdoba, Málaga, Cádiz, Jaén, Huelva and Almería. The name Andalusia traces back to the Arabic language Al-Andalus. As well as Muslim or "Moorish" influences, the region's history and culture have been influenced by the earlier Iberians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Roman Empire, Vandals, Visigoths, all of whom preceded the Muslims, who ruled from 711 to 1492. The geostrategic position of Andalusia in the extreme south of Europe, together with Morocco provided a gateway between Europe and Africa. In addition to Andalusia's position between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, Andalusia has figured prominently in the history of Europe and the Mediterranean due to its links to the trade routes between Europe and North Africa, such as the trans-Saharan routes. The centuries Islamic rule in Spain served as an East-West bridge of cultural and scientific exchange, just as the land and sea routes of the Silk Road.
20 - QUESTION: What are two cities in Central Asia that begin with the letter "S," and "B," which Marco Polo visited?
Answer: Samarkand & Balkh.
Samarkand is located in Uzbekistan. In his account called The Travels, Marco Polo records his journey along the Silk Road and describes Samarkand as a "a very large and splendid city..."
Balkh is a city in Afghanistan that was one of the major cities of Khorasan. Marco Polo described Balkh as a "noble and great city."
21 - QUESTION: Which dynasty in China is credited with opening up the Silk Road?
Answer: Han Dynasty.
The Han Dynasty in China is credited with opening the Silk Road largely through the missions and explorations of General Zhang Qian (Chang Ch'ien), who can be considered the “Father of the Silk Road.” But credit must also be given to Emperor Wudi (Wu Di) of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), for it can be said that his outward vision was responsible for the birth of the Silk Road. In 138 BCE, the Emperor sent the imperial emissary Qian out as a scout. He traveled for years, gathering intelligence and trying to forge alliances for the Emperor. Qian went as far as the Pamir Mountains (in present-day Tajikistan), and upon his return provided reports about the peoples, and the magnificent Central Asian horses, he had seen on his journey. Other travelers followed in his footsteps and the Silk Routes began to thrive. Wudi's desire for making peace with the Western regions, and the two missions of General Qian (the first between 138-125 BCE; and the second 119-115 BCE) are known to have led to the establishment of not only diplomatic contacts and economic relations, but also to cultural exchanges between East and West. After the reports given to Wudi by Gen. Qian, concerning products and kingdoms in the West (such as the previously unknown kingdoms of Ferghana, Smarkand, and Bokhara), Wudi sought to develop further contact. Some items from the West that were brought back to China included Ferghana horses and furs. Later, kingdoms in Central Asia also sent their own emissaries to Chang'an in China.
King Mu of Zhou (Mu Wang), the West Chou king, is the earliest reputed Silk Road traveler (the dates of his reign are c. 976-922 BCE). His travels provide insight on China’s relationship with Inner Asia before the famous 138 BCE journey of Zhang Qian. His travel account Mu tianzi zhuan, was written sometime in the 5th - 4th century BCE, and is the first known travel book on the Silk Road.
22 - QUESTION: What is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, and is one of the largest building-construction projects ever undertaken (over 5,000 kilometers long)?
Answer: The "Great Wall of China."
Due to its rich history and panoramic views, the "Great Wall Of China" is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. Construction of the Great Wall of China began in the 3rd century BCE and continued for almost 2000 years.
It is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built to delineate political boundaries and to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups. After construction of the Great Wall began, sections were rebuilt, maintained, and added until the 16th century. The Great Wall actually consists of numerous walls (many of them parallel to each other) built over some two millennia across northern China and southern Mongolia. Although additional sections were constructed, they are referred to collectively as the "Great Wall of China." The most extensive and best-preserved version of the wall dates from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) and runs for some 5,500 miles (8,850 km) east to west from Mount Hu near Dandong, southeastern Liaoning province, to Jiayu Pass west of Jiuquan, northwestern Gansu province. About one-fourth of its length consists solely of natural barriers such as rivers and mountain ridges.
23 - QUESTION: What ornamental stone has been prized and used throughout Chinese history?
Jade has been used in virtually all periods of Chinese history, and has been prized by the Chinese for its durability, its subtle, translucent colors, its alleged protective powers, as well as for its musical qualities as a gem. It was imported from the Western Regions to areas in China, but was also exported to the west from China.
24 - QUESTION: In what city was the cartographer born who created the first surviving map that shows the Americas and the world?
The first surviving map of the West was made by Piri Reis who was a 16th century Ottoman-Turkish admiral and cartographer. One of his famous maps is a pre-modern world map dated 1513, which depicts the Western Hemisphere -- known as "The Map of the Americas" it includes North America, South America, Greenland, Antarctica, as well as the western coast of Africa. Piri Reis has been credited for depicting parts of the western coasts of Europe and North Africa with reasonable accuracy. The map is now preserved in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Born on the Gallipoli Peninsula c.1465, Piri Reis is an important figure of Turkish naval history. In addition to creating maps of the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Dardanelles, in 1521 he also wrote a mariner's guide to the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean ("Book of the Mariner," or "The Naval Handbook").
Although the earliest known map is a matter of some debate, a wall painting, which may depict the ancient Anatolian city of Çatalhöyük (previously known as Catal Huyuk or Çatal Hüyük in modern-day Turkey), has been dated to the late 7th millennium BCE.
25 - QUESTION: Which city is built on two continents, connects Asia and Europe, and is considered the end of the Silk Road?
Istanbul is located in Turkey, a country along the western end of the Silk Road. The city (formerly Constantinople), was not only a major point of trade for the network of overland and maritime Silk Routes, it was also a location where major civilizations of the world overlapped and intermingled for 8,500 years. Istanbul, as a bridge of two continents, has served as a melting pot of cultures and religions from the east, west, north and south (and is the reason why the city is often referred to as "the crossroad of civilizations"). Istanbul is located on the strategic Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara (and Aegean which flows into the Mediterranean). The Strait also separates Asian Turkey (historically known as Asia Minor) from European Turkey (or Thrace, Trakya) -- thus separating the two continents of Asia and Europe. Crossed by two large suspension bridges, the city also plays a unique international role since it connects the two continents by road. Many historic areas of Istanbul have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Istanbul was chosen as joint European Capital of Culture for 2010.
26 - QUESTION: Who was tutored by the famed philosopher Aristotle, and was considered one of the most successful commanders of all time?
Answer: "Alexander the Great"
The expansion of Alexander the Great's empire into Central Asia further leads to opening the Silk Road between the East and the West. Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of Macedon or Macedonia. By the age of thirty he was the creator of one of the largest empires in ancient history, stretching from the Ionian sea to the Himalaya. He is considered one of the most successful commanders of all time. Alexander was tutored by the famed philosopher Aristotle. In 336 BCE he succeeded his father Philip II of Macedon to the throne after he was assassinated. The Macedonian Empire stretched from the Adriatic sea to the Indus River. Following his desire to reach the "ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea," he invaded India in 326 BCE, but was eventually forced to turn back.
It was after Alexander's Balkan campaign in Europe that Alexander crossed into Asia where in 334 BCE the Battle of the Granicus River was fought in Northwestern Asia Minor near the site of Troy in modern-day Turkey. He conquered Asia Minor, Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Iran. After Alexander defeated the last of the Achaemenid Empire's forces in 328 BCE, he began a new campaign against the various Indian kings in 327 BCE. Crossing through the Amudarya, in the summer of 327, he passed through the Hindukush and began his famous Indian campaign. Alexander's goal was to conquer the entire "known world," which in Alexander's day, ended on the eastern end of India.
27 - QUESTION: In addition to a "caravansary," where else could Silk Road travelers rest when crossing desert regions?
Answer: An oasis.
In geography, an oasis (plural: oases) is an isolated area of vegetation in a desert, typically surrounding a spring or similar water source. Oases also provide habitat for animals and humans. The location of oases has been of critical importance for trade and transportation routes in desert areas. Caravans must travel via oases so that supplies of water and food can be replenished. Thus, political or military control of an oasis has in many cases meant control of trade on a particular route. Travel on the Silk Road was only possible because of the presence of oasis and oasis towns along the Silk Routes. The routes between Central Asia and China connected several routes south of the Trans-Eurasian steppe belt, through the deserts of Central Asia, and from the oasis of one trading center to the next.
28 - QUESTION: Who built the famous 15th century observatory in Central Asia?
Answer: Ulugh Beg.
Ulugh Beg (1393 - 1449) was a Timurid ruler as well as an astronomer and mathematician. He built the great observatory in Samarkand between 1424 and 1429, during the rise of the Timurid Empire which conquered Asia from Egypt and Syria to the borders of China. Ulugh Beg, born in Sultaniyeh Iran, was the grandson of the conqueror, Timur (Tamerlane, 1336–1405), and the oldest son of Shah Rukh. He settled in Samarkand, which had been the Timurid capital. The Ulugh Beg observatory played a unique role in the development of Islamic Sciences and the transmission of knowledge across Central Asia. Previously, during the Mongol-Yuan Dynasty, Islamic astronomers collaborated closely with their Chinese colleagues. Islamic astronomy (or Arab astronomy) refers to the astronomical developments made in the Islamic world, particularly during the Islamic Golden Age (8th–15th centuries). These developments mostly took place in the Middle East, Central Asia, Al-Andalus in Spain, North Africa, and later in the Far East and India.
29 - QUESTION: What was a prized possession in Eurasia, and was also used for transport and in warfare for 5,000 years?
Horses were used as tributes and in the exchange of gifts, in addition to being valued for military and imperial uses. Turkic peoples of Central Asia revered their horses. Since thousands of years, the Akhal-Teke horses, have been honored by the peoples of Asia. Archeological excavations in Turkmenistan and in high elevation frozen graves in the Pazyryk kurgans have uncovered remains of horses believed to be related to the Akhal-Teke, buried with their masters at the time of the Scythians.
30 - QUESTION: What item of trade along the Silk Road was found on mummies in Egypt?
The discovery of an Egyptian mummy with silk, in the village of Deir el Medina near Thebes and the Valley of the Kings, serves as evidence that the silk trade can be dated to about 1070 BCE.
31 - QUESTION: What type of routes increased as Silk Routes became less travelled?
Answer: Maritime (Sea routes).
Due to the explorers of the "Age of Discovery," and the development of new types of shipping vessels, transcontinental Eurasian trade along the overland Silk Routes began to decline after the 15th century. Although maritime routes to China were well known even in antiquity, the increased use of maritime routes led to the rise of maritime trade. Like the Silk Road, trade upon these routes was usually conducted not by one person making a lengthy journey, but of a great many “middlemen” who each traveled a portion of the route, bartering or trading as they traveled. In the 15th century, the Portuguese under Prince Henry the Navigator “discovered” the sea route, which became known in later centuries as “The Porcelain Route.”
32 - QUESTION: In what city was an ancient collection of manuscripts found in a walled-up library cave during the early 1900's?
The Silk Road forked near Dunhuang, an oasis amid the Gobi Desert, in the Chinese province of Gansu. Trader's temples to good fortune were constructed at this strategic location near Dunhuang, at the Mogao Caves. According to historical records, Buddhist monks first began work on the caves of Mogao in 366 CE. The sanctuaries in Mogao are famous for their statues, manuscripts, and wall paintings, spanning 1,000 years of Buddhist art, and are also an example of a traditional monastic settlement. The well known westward journey of the Han imperial emissary, Zhang Qian, is also depicted in the Mogao Caves.
33 - QUESTION: What sunk the fleet that attempted to invade Japan from Masan, Korea?
Answer: A severe storm.
Masan was a port located in South Korea, operated by the Mongols during the 13th century Mongol-Yuan Dynasty in China, and was used in the preparations to conquer Japan. The town was known as Happo. Kublai Khan, the ruler of the Mongol-Yuan Dynasty, had formed an alliance with the Koryo Korean state and launched an allied Mongol-Koryo invasion of Japan in 1274 (and 1281). With a combination of tens of thousands of troops, the allied armies departed Masan on board an estimated 900 ships in an attempt to conquer Japan -- the invasion eventually failed. What happened to the massive Mongol armada has been a subject of debate amongst historians. Archaeologist and historian James Delgado has revealed that a severe storm was the main reason behind the sinking of the Mongol fleet and navy.
34 - QUESTION: What oasis city of the Silk Road is known as the "City of Palms"?
The city of Palmyra, located in Syria, is an ancient oasis city of the Silk Road where the "Incense Trail," and overland subsidiaries of the "Spice Route" once met. Silk Road traders detoured to Palmyra on their way to the Mediterranean coast in search of Phoenicia’s royal purple dye. Purple silk was so expensive by the time it reached Rome that even the wealthiest could afford only a decorative colored strip on their clothes. The city’s ancient ruins date to the first and second centuries.
35 - QUESTION: Which three religions were introduced to China?
Answer: Buddhism, Islam, and Nestorian Christianity.
The interaction of religions in Eurasia was facilitated by the trade routes. Buddhism, Islam, and Nestorian Christianity were introduced to both Tibet and the Xinjiang regions of China, and eventually to China's ancient capital Chang'an. Buddhism spread to China from India as early as the first century CE, and had an impact on Silk Road cities where monasteries and pagodas were constructed. Buddhism's influence was also seen in the art of the era, as more artists began using the image of the Buddha in their work. Later, Islam made its way across Central Asia and into China, when mosques and other sites of worship were built. Christianity was carried by European missionaries and took root in Tang China in 638 CE. Hinduism and Judaism also found adherents in China. Confucianism, one of China's main religions, developed within China.
36 - QUESTION: What city was the largest city in the middle ages (1000–1300 CE)?
Throughout the High Middle Ages, Baghdad was considered to be the largest city in the world with an estimated population of 1,200,000 people.
37 - QUESTION: What type of winds did sailing vessels along the spice routes depend on?
Answer: Monsoon winds.
For more than three thousand years, the ancient world was linked by elaborate trading routes that connected the Mediterranean World with the far off lands of Asia. As caravans carried exotic goods on the Silk Road to burgeoning markets in the Roman Empire, a parallel maritime trade linked the markets of Eurasia. A complex network of sailing ships, dependent on seasonal monsoon winds and geographic factors, carried cargoes from India and Southeast Asia to ports throughout the ancient world. This early trade was conducted by intermediaries and Arab, Indian, and Malay seafarers. The demand for these fragrant spices and aromatic resins, spurred a search for routes to the mythical Golden Khersonese, Chryse ("land of gold") and to Agyre ("land of silver"). Geographers, astronomers, and merchant sailors sought to discover new routes using the monsoon winds (as well as the trade winds to cross the Atlantic).
38 - QUESTION: In which country was the first dinosaur nest with eggs found?
The first-ever complete nest of dinosaur eggs was found in Mongolia. The world was amazed to learn that dinosaurs laid eggs.
39 - QUESTION: After Constantinople (Istanbul) was conquered in 1453, which Empire served as a bridge between the Orient and Occident for 600 years?
Answer: Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Empire served as a bridge for East-West interaction for 6 centuries. The Ottoman Empire contained immense amounts of cultural diversity. Ottoman lands now include parts or all of the following: southeast Hungary, Albania, the six republics that were pre-1991 Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, southern and Caucasian Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. The sheer size of the Ottoman Empire, together with the strategic location of Istanbul, placed it on the crossroad between Europe, Africa and Asia, and thus built an empire on many different cultures which were encompassed by the Ottomans. The Ottoman Empire was known for its tolerance of ethnic and religious diversity. It used a unique system to rule non-Islamic territories called the "Millet system." Non-Muslim subjects were not pressured to convert. On the contrary, they were left to practice their religion, and had their personal safety guaranteed as they functioned as an autonomous community. Although non-Islamic areas could govern themselves while still having all of the benefits of being part of the Ottoman Empire, the inhabitants of these "Millets" were required to pay taxes to the Ottoman Empire.
40 - QUESTION: What European nation sent Friar William of Rubruck to Central Asia during the 13th century?
Friar "William of Rubruck" was sent to Karakorum by the King of France. Willem van Ruysbroeck (c. 1210-1270) was a Flemish Franciscan missionary from Flanders who traveled through the Black Sea and the territories of the Golden Horde to the court of the Great Khan Möngke at Karakorum, and wrote the most detailed and valuable early Western account of the Mongols. The account called "Itinerarium," offers varied information about the Asiatic life of his times. It contains comprehensive and authentic information on the Mongol Empire in its pre-Chinese period. It is of interest for descriptions of encounters with Nestorian Christians, the city of Karakorum, and the palace which no longer exists. Rubruck's account did not become widely known until it was translated and published late in the sixteenth century.
William had participated in the crusade of King Louis IX of France to Palestine and there heard about the Mongols from friar Andrew of Longjumeau, a Dominican who had been involved in papal diplomacy aimed at trying to enlist the Mongols in the Christian crusade against the Muslims. Rubruck then decided to undertake his own mission to the Mongols primarily in the hope of promoting their conversion to Christianity. In 1253 he set out through the lands of the western part of the empire of the Golden Horde. After starting out through the southern steppes of what is now Ukraine and Russia, his roundtrip journey lasted about three years. William had the distinction of being the first European to visit the Mongol capital of Karakorum on the Orhon River and return to write about it. He describes generally with great precision Mongol traditional culture, provides a unique description of the Khan's palace, and describes the individuals of various ethnicities and religions whom he encountered. He was particularly interested in the Nestorian Christians.
41 - QUESTION: From what European city did Friar Giovanni Carpine leave to travel to the court of Kubilai Khan?
In the 13th century, Europe's first envoy to the East, Friar Giovanni da Pian del Carpine left Rome for the court of the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. In addition to Marco Polo, other lesser-known European explorers had travelled to China before Marco Polo, such as Carpine. This traveler was one of the first Europeans to enter the court of the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. He is the author of early and invaluable Western accounts of northern and Central Asia.
The group of Franciscan monks sent as envoys of Pope Innocent IV to the Mongol Khan, traveled through the dominions of Khan Batu (ruler of the "Golden Horde") to the vicinity of Karakorum, where they witnessed the proclamation of Güyüg as the new Great Khan. The Friar's account of his journey (titled "History of the Mongols"/Historia Mongalorum) is one of the first direct authentic descriptions of Asia, and one of the most detailed accounts of the Mongols in the thirteenth century. The writings are widely known in Europe through excerpts in an encyclopedia compiled by Vincent of Beauvais, the Speculum Historiale.
"Benedict the Pole" was a Polish Franciscan friar, traveler and explorer who accompanied Giovanni da Pian del Carpine in his journey as delegate of Pope Innocent IV to the Great Khan Güyük of the Mongol Empire in 1245-1247. He was the author of the brief chronicle De Itinere Fratrum Minorum ad Tartaros (On the travel of Franciscan friars to the Tatars), published only in the 1839 in France (and a year later in Poland) and a longer work Historia Tartarorum (The history of the Tatars), discovered and published only in 1965 by the academics of Yale University. This journey preceded that of Marco Polo. The report of Benedict is important because it includes a copy of the letter of the Great Khan to the Pope.
42 - QUESTION: Under which dynasty in China did the Silk Road flourish?
Answer: Tang Dynasty.
The Silk Road flourished under the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE), known as a "Golden Age" of cosmopolitan culture in China. This period reflected the height of cultural exchanges along the Silk Routes.
43 - QUESTION: What is the name of the plague that is believed to have come to Europe via the Silk Road?
Answer: Bubonic plague.
Also known as the Black Death, the Bubonic plague which devastated Europe in the 14th century is believed to have come via the Silk Road. Of the many theories, one theory is that garments were contaminated with plague-bearing flea eggs, and were brought from somewhere in Central Asia. Once the eggs hatched into fleas, they infested local rodents (and perhaps some rats eventually went on ships and were carried to port cities in Italy). There the plague spread, via fleas, to other rats, and then to people.
44 - QUESTION: What word is used to describe the trade of goods, or services, without the exchange of money?
Many items were bartered for others along the Silk Routes, and objects often changed hands several times.
45 - QUESTION: To where does "Eastern Rome" and "new Rome" refer?
Answer: Constantinople, Byzantine Empire.
Rome had been an important destination for Chinese silk until about c. 200 CE, but for a much longer time, beginning in the fourth century, the “Rome” to which all roads led in the Mediterranean world was “Eastern Rome” or Constantinople. Even in its long centuries of decline down to its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the wealth of the city was legendary, and its location ensured it a role in the trade with the East. The turning point in the city’s history occurred in 330 CE when Emperor Constantine I moved his capital east 850 miles. The city was called Byzantium, but Constantine changed the name to "New Rome," and later the name changed again to Constantinople (now Istanbul).
46 - QUESTION: Where in Central Asia was a major 8th century battle fought near a river?
Answer: Battle of Talas.
Arab victory in Central Asia took place at the Battle of Talas in Kyrgyzstan in 751 CE.
47 - QUESTION: Which city is located halfway along the Silk Road? (hint, the city begins with the letter "K")
Kashgar (Kashi) is the halfway point on the Silk Road. It is located in the western Xinjiang province of China.
48 - QUESTION: What commodity transported along the Silk Road is surrounded by mystery, legend, and stories of smuggling (hint, it eats mulberry leaves)?
Answer: Silk worms.
Historical records suggests that sericulture (raising silkworms) and silk production developed as early as c. 4000-3000 BCE in China. By the second century BCE, silk-making had spread throughout southern China. According to Confucian texts, silk production dates to about 2700 BCE. The caravan route across Central Asia, known as the Silk Road, took Chinese silk to Syria, and on to Rome. Sericulture, the raising of silkworms, began in Europe c. 500 CE. There are many stories of how silk worms were smuggled to the West from China.
49 - QUESTION: What Silk Road traveler is reputed to have said: "I have told only half of what I saw!"?
Answer: Marco Polo.
Marco Polo's book about his journey, called "The Travels of Marco Polo," was widely disbelieved during his lifetime. As he was dying, Marco Polo was again asked to admit that he had lied. He refused, insisting, "I have told only half of what I saw!" The airport in Venice is named in his honor.
50 - QUESTION: Can the Silk Road be travelled upon today?
”The Silk Road today is a series of paved roads and train tracks that connect east to west along many of the paths of the old routes. Trade now takes less time and does not include silk as a major trade item. In today's world, rapid transport, travel, communications, and the forces of globalization are transforming and reshaping markets across the globe. As Silk Road economies prosper, younger generations will have the opportunity to better inform the international community about the realities of the “East,” which previously had been associated with mystery. As the modern-day 21st century version of the Silk Routes expands, nations along these routes must promote a more accurate understanding of their countries and reveal the opportunities their markets offer. The approaching century should be one in which the East and West live harmoniously. Enhanced relations are vital to cultivating this spirit so that modern-day exchanges and dialogue build a sound future with cultural, educational, scientific, economic and international cooperation.
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