Culture of Silk Road

The Silk Road is the world's longest and earliest land communications line for trade. Opened in the second century B.C., it traverses the Eurasian Continent that makes up one third of the total land area of the globe. It was first traveled by the adventure of Zhang Qian started the journey to the far West for the political contact with Yuezhi, a nomadic tribe, in 138 BC. But, it was only in 1870s that the geographer, Ferdinand von Richthofen gave the name by which we now know as the Silk Road.  It starts from Chang'an (today's Xi'an), passed through Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai and Xinjiang, and crossed Congling (today's Pamir), via Kirghizstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria to reach the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, totally 7000 kilometers. The section within china's territory totals over 4000kilometers, more than one-half of the total length.

The Silk Road has blended the four inventions (papermaking, compass, movable-type printing and gunpowder) of the ancient times, and linked the Yellow River Valley Culture, the Greek Culture and the Persian Culture together, and promoted the development of ancient civilizations.

In the long period before the flourishing of marine navigation in southeastern coast and a considerably long period of time after that, this road was the sole channel through which political, economic and cultural exchanges were conducted between china and the West. Through this road, the Han Chinese and ethnic minorities in Northwestern China strengthened their contacts, and it linked the northwestern frontier with the interior in the fields of politics, economy and culture, and served as a bridge linking China with countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. The Silk Road is a splendid page in the ancient history of Sino-western relationships. It embodies the friendship between Chinese people and peoples of Asia, Africa and Europe and increases mutual understanding and friendly ties, having far-reaching impact on the development of human civilization.

More and more frequent trade through the Silk Road greatly stimulated economic and cultural exchanges between China and the West. Meanwhile, it also enriched the material and cultural life of various countries. During this period, glass and glass ware, corals, amber, spinach, cucumber, watermelons, grapes, pomegranates, walnuts, fur, woolen textiles and rare animals and birds were introduced into China from the West, and China's technologies of iron smelting, water conservancy, irrigation, lacquer and lacquer ware manufacturing were introduced to the West. Especially the introduction of Chinese inventions, such as papermaking, movable-type printing and gunpowder, to the West greatly promoted economic and cultural development in Asia and Europe.

Moreover, excellent cultural achievements of the Chinese nation, such as astronomy, medicine, literature, music and painting, were also introduced to the West, and acrobatics from Persia and Eastern Roman Empire, as well as music, dance and religious arts from India, Persia and Arabic countries were introduced into China.

The Silk Road was not only the channel for the merchandise, but also the medium of which, forms, styles, fashion and music been transported between the East and West. The transportations underwent upon the Silk Road went by the Kingdoms of Central Asia and China. There is no doubt that Central Asia is the melting pot of different civilizations, was also the point of departure of stylistic influences on the art of Central China. The rich culture along the Silk Road have enabled art historians to research Indian, Kushan, Iranian, Syrian and other influences on the painting and sculpture of Miran, Bamiyan, Kucha, Penzhikent, Khotan, Turfan and Dunhung.

The multi-culture wave from Central Asia had reached China in Tang Dynasty was at the peak time. The artistic aspects from Central Asia were a fashion that affected daily life in areas such as clothing, cooking, music, etc. Moreover, Persian music had been appreciated in the palace of the Tang Emperor while Persian food is served at the table of the gentry and women dressed with Persian style clothes. This enthusiasm for the exotic was soon spread out to other regions of China as well as Japan who had close relations with China in the Tang period. Several traces of the influences still exist there, with the objects, instruments and textiles preserved at the famous Shoso-in, the depository of treasure from the Todaiji temple at Nara, and also more diffuse influences, such as music.

Among the artistic fashions of Central Asia inspiration that then developed in the Chinese capitals, music and dance occupied a special place. Orchestras played the music of Kocho, Kashgar, Bukhara and Samarkand and India, from these Kingdoms of Central Asia with their distinctive instruments such as flutes, percussion (gongs and drums) and stringed instruments, harps, lutes and the pipa of Iran. The music of Kucha was the most popular one of all. As music, the exotic style of dance influenced China in wide. There are figurines of dancing girls and orchestras discovered in the tombs dating from Tang Dynasty. Along with the music and dance, the tradition of drinking grape wine was imported mainly from Lanzhou, Gansu in the 7th century. In addition, the puppet shows and the game of polo were also carried into China from the Central Asia.

Through the excavations of the art along the Silk Road, we have evidence of the significant interchange between East and West. The exchange of culture is powerful till now today because we can still felt the interactive among our daily lives.

The Chinese section of the Silk Road traverses Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai and Xinjiang, which are inhabited by numerous ethnic minorities. They are hospitable and good at singing and dancing. Each ethnic group has its own history, and retains its own distinctive features, traditional culture and religious belief. In areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, tourists can experience the life of the local people, enjoy ethnic singing and dancing, participate in local weddings and festive celebrations, and purchase exquisite handicrafts.