I had the opportunity to attend a press preview for the American Museum of Natural History’s newest exhibit, ‘The Silk Road‘. It was actually the first time I brought my children to a museum and I am so happy that I was given this opportunity. I was waiting until my 4 and 2 year old were MUCH older – what a mistake. My kids had an amazing time on The Silk Road and throughout the rest of the museum.
This exhibition takes you along the world’s oldest international highway, on a voyage that spans six centuries (AD600-1200). It showcases four representative cities: Xi’an, China’s Tany Dynasty capital; Turfan, a bustling oasis; Samarkand, home of prosperous merchants; and Baghdad, a meeting place for scholars, scientists, and philosophers.
What was The Silk Road?
Not a single path, the Silk Road was a network of trading routes that extended more than 4,600 miles from eastern China west to the Mediterranean, eventually including sea routes. The Silk Road is also a metaphor for the exchange of knowledge and ideas among extraordinarily diverse groups of people. Silk—a luxury good in the west, traded as currency, and a secret technology—was China’s most important product, and crucial to the origin of the network. Routes also extended to the north and south. Caravans crossed immense deserts and icy mountain passes, enduring
scorching summers and subzero winters. Overland trade diminished as maritime commerce increased, Islamic society spread eastward, and the desert encroached.
1. Introduction: A network of rough trails, the Silk Road connected China to the cities and empires of Central Asia and the Mediterranean for thousands of years. Along with goods and materials, travelers exchanged technologies, religions, music and literature, and ways of thinking.
2. Xi’an: The biggest city in the world during the Tang Dynasty, this highly diverse and cosmopolitan trading center was the capital of China.
3. Turfan: A sophisticated underground irrigation system transformed this and other central Asian oases into agricultural centers.
4. Samarkand: In present-day Uzbekistan, this city was the center of Sogdian civilization, whose traders were
go-betweens in commerce that extended to India, China, and Persia.
5. Baghdad: The capital of the Islamic world and present-day Iraq, Baghdad was an intellectual center where scholarship fl ourished in architecture, literature, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, chemistry, zoology, and geography.
6. Trading by Sea: Baghdad and other cities became major centers for maritime trade, which was made possible
by advances in technology and eventually overshadowed the caravan trade. Sea travel was faster, and carried artistic styles and new kinds of goods throughout Asia.
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