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HIST341: The Silk Road and Central Eurasia

Unit 3: Early Developments and the Silk Trade   There were several conditions that made the opening of the Silk Road possible.  First, the domestication of pack animals—camels, horses, and yaks—allowed for extended overland transportation.  Second, the nomadic nature of the peoples of Central Eurasia allowed silk merchants to travel across the continent without infringing upon borders or settlements.  Third, the consumption of silk in the Middle East and the Mediterranean spurred the expansion of the lucrative silk trade beyond China.  Moreover, the efforts by the Han Chinese to develop trade contacts with nomadic peoples to the west also opened the door to commercial exchange in Central Eurasia.
 
In this unit, we will study the environmental, cultural and political conditions in Central Eurasia that laid the framework for the silk trade.  In particular, we will consider the early trade networks created by the Han Chinese and the Xiongnu, a nomadic confederation of Central Eurasian tribes.

Unit 3 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 8.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 3.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 3.3: 6 hours ☐    Sub-subunit 3.3.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 3.3.2: 3 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 3.3.3: 0.5 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 3.3.4: 0.5 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 3.3.5: 0.5 hour

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
 
- Identify the environmental and social factors that had a role in encouraging the development of long distance trade in Eurasia. - Identify some of the nomadic peoples involved in the early history of the Silk Road trading network. - Describe some of the key cultural and political milestones in ancient Chinese history and the manner in which the interests and policies of imperial rulers affected the development of the Silk Road. - Describe some of the other peoples and cultures located around the Silk Road and the relations between them.

3.1 Reasons for New Overland Trade   3.1.1 Domestication of Pack Animals   - Reading: University of Washington: Professor Daniel C. Waugh and Elmira Köçümkulkïzï’s “Animals” Link: University of Washington: Professor Daniel C. Waugh and Elmira Köçümkulkïzï’s “Animals” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety. As you will find, this article builds upon the information presented in Unit 1 regarding the critical importance of domesticated animals to the lives of pastoral nomads and their role as intermediaries in the Silk Road.  Pay special attention to how these animals—camels, horses, and yaks—allowed for extended overland transportation. 
 
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3.1.2 Expansion of Trade   - Reading: Pragati: Ullattil Manmadhan’s “Hubs of the Medieval Trade” Link: Pragati: Ullattil Manmadhan’s “Hubs of the Medieval Trade” (HTML)

 Also available in:  

[PDF](http://pragati.nationalinterest.in/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/pragati-issue27-jun2009-communityed.pdf)  

 Instructions: As you read, consider the following questions: What
is the Silk Road and which geographic regions and peoples
participated in it? What ensured peaceful trade? What role did
Calicut play in the Silk Road? What goods traveled along the Silk
Road? What recourse did traders have to ensure payment was
rendered?  
    
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Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
license](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/). 

3.2 Commerce and Trade   3.2.1 Early Central Eurasian-Chinese Contact   - Reading: University of Sheffield: Professor Andrew Sherratt’s “ArchAtlas:” “East-West Contacts in Eurasia” Link: University of Sheffield: Professor Andrew Sherratt’s “ArchAtlas:” “East-West Contacts in Eurasia” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  In this text, Professor Sherratt analyzes the events that led to the linkage of the two ends of Eurasia.  Pay special attention to the role of the development of nomadic pastoralism in the steppe corridor.
 
Terms of Use: Copyright for the material above is held by Andrew Sherratt for http://www.archatlas.org.  Permission has been granted for use in teaching, research, and dissemination of knowledge with due attribution.  The original file can be found here (HTML).

3.2.2 Mining and the Jade Trade   - Reading: Archnet's Digital Library: “Khotan” Link: Archnet's Digital Library: “Khotan” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  This reading describes the oasis city of Khotan—the “City of Jade”—an important strategic and trading center between China and Central Asia.
 
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3.2.3 Introduction of Gold and Bronze   - Reading: San Jose State University: Dr. Kathleen Cohen’s “Silkroad”: “The Han Dynasty Part 2” Link: San Jose State University: Dr. Kathleen Cohen’s “Silkroad”: “The Han Dynasty Part 2” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please go to “Part 2” and read this text in its entirety.  Pay special attention to the many different ways in which the nomads used gold.  This text also discusses the manner in which the trade of such items was influenced by larger developments in Chinese history.  The overview in this resource to the history of important dynasties, such as the Han, will be followed up in greater depth in subunit 3.3.1 of the course.

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3.3 Chinese-Nomad Relations   3.3.1 Introduction to Han China   - Web Media: Harvard University: Professor Peter Bol’s “State and Society in Western and Eastern Han” Link: Harvard University: Professor Peter Bol’s “State and Society in Western and Eastern Han
 
Instructions:  Please scroll down to lecture 8, and click on the hyperlink based on your Internet connection to launch the video.  Watch the entire video lecture (51:38 minutes), which builds upon the information found in the previous resource and provides an in-depth look at life in Han China, with many valuable insights on social relations, popular customs, and economic affairs.
 
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  • Reading: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: “The Han Empire” Link: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: “The Han Empire” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  This reading offers a brief overview of the Han period (206 BCE-220CE), one of the most significant eras in Chinese history.
     
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3.3.2 Han China and Its Policies toward Nomadic Groups   - Reading: Academia Sinica Institute of History of Philology: Ming-Ke Wang’s “The Nomad’s Choice: The First Encounter between Northern Nomads and Imperial China” Link: Academia Sinica Institute of History of Philology: Ming-Ke Wang’s “The Nomad’s Choice: The First Encounter between Northern Nomads and Imperial China” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Download this PDF by clicking on the link under “Division of Humanities and Social Sciences.”  Please read this entire 1-page text. This article studies the relations between the Han Dynasty (206BCE-220 CE) and three groups of pastoral nomads: the Xiongnu, the Xianbie, and the Qiang.  In this work, the author reinterprets ancient Chinese historical materials to provide a new explanation for the diverse economies and social organizations of these early nomads.  This text is published by the Academic Sinica, the national academy of the Republic of China.
 
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  • Reading: University of Washington: Professor Daniel C. Waugh’s “Selection from the Han Narrative Histories” (HTML) Link: University of Washington: Professor Daniel C. Waugh’s “Selection from the Han Narrative Histories” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  This text narrates Zhang Quian’s journey and describes his foreign relations activities.  While the Han Chinese had embraced a policy of tolerance toward their nomadic neighbors to the west, this approach changed under Emperor Wu-ti.  Wu-ti dispatched emissary Zhang Qian on a mission to Central Eurasia to explore the possibility of forging an alliance with nomadic states there.  Zhang Qian’s descriptions of the nomadic tribes—such as the “Description of Western Regions”—formed the basis of political and economic intelligence and stimulated the creation of the Silk Road.  This text was originally digitized at Silk Road Seattle; J. Moore edited this text to ensure standardized spellings and place names.
     
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3.3.3 Xiongnu   - Reading: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: “The Xiongnu” Link: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: “The Xiongnu” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  The Xiongnu were a confederation of nomadic tribes from Central Asia.  Most of our knowledge on the Xiognu comes from Chinese sources.
 
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3.3.4 Scythian Culture   - Reading: Reading: Livius Onderwijs: Jona Lendering’s “Scythians/Sacae” Link: Livius Onderwijs: Jona Lendering’s “Scythians/Sacae” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text and all embedded links in their entirety.  The Scythians or Scyths were ancient Iranian nomadic tribes who lived in the Pontic-Caspian steppe.  Pay special attention to their relations with Han China.
 
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3.3.5 Contemporary Developments on the Indian Subcontinent   - Reading: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: Jason Neelis’s “The Mauryan Empire” Link: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: Jason Neelis’s “The Mauryan Empire
 
Instructions: Please read all of this short text, which provides an introduction to the ancient Mauryan Empire and its significance in the political and cultural history of the Indian subcontinent.  Note that the text touches upon the expanding presence in India at this time of Buddhism.  The subsequent appearance and spread of this faith in China is covered in depth in Subunit 6.1. 
 
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