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The Developement Of The Silk Road During The Han Dynasty

2876 words - 12 pages

IntroductionThe Silk Road was a huge complex trading network made up of many small sub networks. It was used to transport goods between China, India, Near East and Europe. By examining the different civilizations/political powers that were involved and the commodities that were traded, it is possible to see what stimulated the development of the Silk Road. It is important to look at the civilizations involved because a strong economy is required for trade to flourish. Political stability is also an important factor since trade is vulnerable to war and bandits. The second important point which must be looked at is commodities that were traded. The supply and demand for commodities is what ...view middle of the document...

Wudi tried to establish trade relations with these western regions sending many trade envoys. At first many countries were uncooperative, one of the envoys sent to Ferghana was even killed. Wudi reacted to this by sending General Li Guangli to Ferghana. After Li Guangli conquered Ferghana in 101 B.C. the Western regions started to show respect towards Han. "Pan Ku also makes the following remark: 'After the Erh-shih General (i.e., Li Kuang-li) conquered Ta-Yuan, the entire Western Regions were shocked and frightened. Most [states] sent envoys to present tribute [to China].'" (Yu, 1967, #139). Since this battle the exchange between China and near east nomads began to flow more freely. But Han did not have complete dominance over the region until Xiongnu was defeated when the leaders Jih-Chu (60 B.C.) and Hu-han-yeh (52 B.C.) finally surrendered (Liu, 1988, #14). The defeat of the Xiongnu further increased the cross-cultural exchange between China and the near east as many countries started to pay tribute to China.Through all the military confrontations between the western regions, Chinese emperors realized that obtaining goods through military operations is just too expensive and unpractical. So their solution to this was to increase the trade with the west. In order to improve the safety of the trade routes, Han government extended the Great Wall and built the Jade Gate west of Dunhuang, and then set up several garrison stations in the north western frontiers. As for the trade through the Tarim basin, China made several alliances with the Oasis states along the Taklamakan Desert. With all these improvements and China's strong economy, trade flourished. Foreign goods poured in from all parts of the world: glassware from Rome; corals and pearls from India; fragrance and spices from Arabia; horses and furs from Central Asia etc (Liu, 1998, #5).In between former Han and later Han there was a civil war in China, and so the Xiongnu was able to regain some control. However they were hindered by drought in the stepped region (Liu, 1988, #15). The Chinese, desire for western products caused military operations to start again. However, instead of large scale military operations, General Pan Ch'ao used a different approach. He could keep the western region under control with a small force because he was able to mobilize merchants to participate in battles, and also because the oasis states also supported him soldiers and food. The reason for the oasis states to prefer Chinese rule instead of the Xiongnu is because not only did the Xiongnu plunder their goods, the Xiongnu also enslaved a large number of their residents. Pan Ch'ao and his army also participated in trade, and he often sent goods back to the Han court, and this is why the government also supported his operations.Overall Pan Ch'ao's tactics were effective because everyone benefited from this, and so all had the same goal of protecting the trade routes and the commodities traveling through it....

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