The Silk Road is a modern term for both land and sea trade routes that connected Asia to Europe. Civilizations that became part of the Silk Road include Chinese, Indian, Persian, Arabian, and European. Commodities such as silk (the reason for the name) as well as food, art, porcelain, technology, religion, literature, and philosophy were transported between the “East” and “West.” Sadly, disease such as the bubonic plague was also transmitted.
The trade routes that are considered part of the “Silk Road” were given the name “Silk Road” or Silk Routes due to the trade of Chinese silk, which began during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.), although other commodities were traded on these routes as well. Marco Polo (1254 – 1324) is a famous explorer who traveled from Europe to Central Asia along parts of what is now called the Silk Road. His travel escapades are recounted in The Adventures of Marco Polo. A German explorer named Ferdinand von Richthofen actually coined the German terms “Seidenstraße” (Silk Road) and Seidenstraßen” (Silk Routes) based on several journeys he made to China from 1868 – 1872.
The study of the Silk Road entails many perspectives including literature, art, music, history, religion, philosophy, economics, sociology, environmental science, and geography. Many questions that we would want students of this course connection to consider in studying the Silk Road are relevant to students’ lives today. One could argue that the Silk Road was an early form of globalization, specifically “collaborative” globalization.
Course Connection Objectives:
1. At the concrete level, students will learn about the history and culture of the Silk Road from a variety of disciplinary perspectives (Humanities, Arts, Social Science, and Natural Science).
2. At the more general level, students will learn to make comparisons between issues related to cultural transmission during the age of the Silk Road and issues related to Globalization today. What are the similarities? What are the differences?
3. Ultimately, why should students in the 21st century care about what happened on the Silk Road trade routes of bygone days?