The Silk Routes: Cultural Exchanges


History in Review_Ancient China and Buddhism(1)

WORDS | Claire Catacouzinos

Commonly known as the Silk Roads, these famous routes linked east Afro-Eurasia with the Mediterranean world. They connected merchants, traders, pilgrims, monks, nomads, soldiers, and urban dwellers throughout history. It all started thanks to the ancient dynasties of China, when they welcomed trade from foreign cultures. From this came the magic of cultural exchanges and the development of our multicultural world. Life-ways such as basic pastoralism, methods of bronze work, livestock, agricultural produce, irrigation, urban manufactures, and crops spread around because of the empires and nomads occupying the edges of the steppes and desert lands that the Silk Routes passed. These people began to operate by exchanging goods, ideas, languages, technologies, genes, diseases, and religions from India to Siberia, from China to the Mediterranean.

One famous trade good and why the routes were labelled, was China’s silk. If you’re working on a uni assignment right now, that paper you’re scribbling on was invented by China, and without the Silk Routes, we wouldn’t have this technology. And I know you’re probably thinking, “screw this damn assignment!” – well my friend, gunpowder would be a nifty thing to blow it up with, and I bet you know who invented that as well?

Traders and merchants were the main transmitters of cultures and ideas in this world system. So being a tourist yourself, when you travel during uni breaks, it makes you a contemporary transmitter. Even religions spread like gushing rivers. And if you one day decide to travel the Silk Routes, make sure you visit the Chinese Magao caves with her richly decorated walls of paintings depicting Buddhism.

Never forget, in this modern world we are indirect products of the abundant synergy, spawned by colossal ancient exchanges.

For more information, visit the website of the National Museum Australia.


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