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Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron
An astonished peace had settled over the Silk Road. The Mongols’ havoc had died away, and from the Great Khanate of a conquered China their dynasties ruled unbroken to the Mediterranean. From the mid-thirteenth century, for close on a hundred years, trade flowed along routes overseen by forts and the posting-stations of imperial couriers. It was said that a virgin bearing a gold dish could walk unmolested from China to Turkey. Under this Pax Mongolica, the popes and kings of Europe sent monks as emissaries eastward, seeking alliance with the Mongols against the Arabs, and hunting for the elusive Christian realm of Prester John. A Turkic Nestorian monk from China turned up in the Vatican and the court of Philippe le Bel in Paris, and the Polo brothers travelled to the capital of Kublai Khan with a gift of oil from the Holy Sepulchre. The markets of Sultaniya, meanwhile, were hung with newly freed luxuries.
Buddhism wanes c. 1260–1294 Kublai Khan emperor 1260–1295 Marco Polo’s supposed journeys 1279–1368 Yuan dynasty 1368–1644 Ming dynasty Mid 15th c The Ming close their borders 1644–1912 Qing dynasty 1949 People’s Republic founded 1959 Flight of the Dalai Lama 1966 Cultural Revolution starts 1976 Mao Zedong dies 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre 1990–98 Uighur uprisings against Chinese Central Asia 751 Battle of Talas. Arabs defeat the Chinese c 840 The Uighur migrate west to the Tarim 1220–7 Mongols invade under Genghis Khan 1260–1368 The ‘Pax Mongolica’ c. 1300 The Kyrgyz migrate from Siberia into the Tian Shan 1381 Tamerlane invades Afghanistan 1405 Tamerlane dies 1405–1530 Timurids rule at Herat 1500 Uzbek Shaybanids seize Samarkand 1504 Kabul captured by Babur 1747 Foundation of Afghan state 1885 Russians complete the conquest of Central Asia 1917 Soviet power established in Kyrgyz territory 1920 Bolsheviks seize Bukhara; Uzbek and Tajik refugees flee to Afghanistan 1924–7 Stalin defines the borders of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan 1979–80 USSR invades Afghanistan 1989 USSR retreats from Afghanistan 1991 The Central Asian states gain independence from USSR 1994 Rise of the Taliban 1997 Taliban seize Mazar-e-Sharif, then are massacred 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan 2004 First free Afghan elections Iran 765 Birth of the Ismaili sect 874 Occultation of the 12th Shia Imam 1020 Death of Firdausi 1037–1220 Seljuk Turkish dynasty 1256–7 Mongols under Hulagu extirpate the Assassins 1256–1335 Ilkhanid Mongol dynasty 1258 The Mongols sack Baghdad 1304–1316 Reign of Oljeitu 1500–1736 Safavid dynasty 1925–1979 Pahlevi dynasty 1979 Islamic revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini.
Lhasa Li Bai Li Peng Lijian Linxia Living Buddha of Labrang Living Buddha of Tianshui Lop desert Lou Guan Tai Louis, St, King of France Lucan Macartney, George Magi Mahdi see Twelfth Imam/the Mahdi Mahmoud (builder) Mahmoud of Gazni, sultan Mahmud Kashgari, tomb of Mahmuda (Uzbek woman) Maitreya (Buddha of the Future) Maimana Maimundiz Malekshah, sultan Mamelukes Manas (Kyrgyz national hero) Manas air base Manchus Mangnai Manicheism Mansur (student) Mao Zedong Maracanda Maragheh Mardin Margilan Masihi, Artur (church caretaker) Massoud, Ahmed Shah Matisi temples Matthew, St Mazar-e-Sharif Mazinan Mecca Médecins Sans Frontières Medina Mediterranean Merv Meshed Mesopotamia Mevlevi sect Mexme, St Miandasht Mianeh Ming dynasty Mingzhao (daughter of Hu Ji) Mir-i-Arab, Bukhara Mir Sayyid Ali miscegenation Mobin (driver) Moguls Mohammad Jahi Mombasa Mongolia Inner Mongols Moscow Mouli (teacher) Mount Demavend Mount Qiao Mount Sipylus Muhammad, Prophet Mujahidin-e Khalq murals, Chinese Buddhist Sogdian Muslims see Islam/Muslims Namangan Namangani (guerrilla chief) Naqshbandi sect Naryn Naryn river Nasir ad-din Tusi National Minority People’s University (Lanzhou) nationalism and identity NATO assistance force Navoi Navoi, Alisher Nazira (caretaker) Nepal Nestorians Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople Nishapur Niya Nizam al-Mulk Northern Alliance Nurana (Kyrgyz girl) Nuwa (goddess) Oljeitu, sultan mausoleum of Omar, caliph Omar, Mullah Omar Khayyám Rubáiyát grave of One Child policy Orontes river Orumiyeh (town) Orumiyeh lake Osh Osman (taxi-driver) Ostrovsky, Nikolai Oxus river see Amu Darya/Oxus river Pahlavi shahs Pakistan Pakistanis Palestine Palmyra Pamir mountains Panchen Lama paper Paris Paropamisus mountains Parthia Parthians Pasargadae Pashtuns Pass to the West Paul, St Pax Mongolica Persia Persian Gulf Persians Peter (Sinologist’s agent) Peter, St Petrovsky, Nikolai Philip of Montfort Philippe le Bel pilgrimage Piyada, Hajji Place of Drumbeats Pliny Polo, Marco Polo brothers Pompey Portuguese, the Prester John printing Production and Construction Corps, Xinjiang Pure Land of the Amithaba Qadamgah al Qaeda Qajar Qala-i-Jangi Qazvin Qezelabad Qianlong, emperor Qiao, Mount Qilian mountains Qin dynasty Qin Shi Huangdi, emperor terracotta army tomb Qing dynasty Qinghai Qinling mountains Qizil Uzun, gorge of Queen Mother of the West Qum Qumrabat Padshahim Qusam ibn Abbas Rabia Balkh Rawak Raymond of Tripoli Red Guards Revolutionary Guard Rey Richthofen, Friedrich von Romans Rome Roxana (wife of Alexander the Great) Rukn-ad-din Rushdie, Salman Ruslan (Kyrgyz) Russia Russian Orthodox Church Samarkand Russians Rustam (hero) Safavid, dynasty Saladin, sultan Samarkand Sanjar, sultan Sanliurfa Sarnath SARS Sassanian dynasty Saudi Arabia Seleucia Pierea Seleucus I Seljuks Seneca Seres Serica Shaanxi museum Shaanxi province Shah Rud valley Shah Rukh Shah-i-zinda (grave of Qusam ibn Abbas), Samarkand Shahi Shahnama Shalamov, Varlam Shams Kilaya Shandong Shaybanid dynasty Shebergan Shen Congwen Shirin river Shutur Khan Siberia Sichuan silk in Buddhism discovery dissemination in Islam among the Mongols manufacture in Persia qualities Roman view of origins secret betrayal subverting Roman economy superfine uses Silk House constellation Silk Road Antioch at western end of Changan at eastern end of decline of humbler traffic interconnectedness letters travelling along lingua franca of spread of inventions along spread of musical instruments along trade along Sipylus, Mount Sirnak Sogdians Song-kul lake South China Sea Soviet Union/USSR Spain Sri Lanka Stalin, Joseph Stark, Freya Stein, Aurel stirrups Sufis see also Mevlevi, Naqshbandi Sui dynasty Sultaniya Sun Yatsen Sung dynasty Sunni Sussmayr massif Suzhou Syr Darya (ancient Jaxartes) river Syria Syrians Tabriz Tahir (BBC worker) Taizong, emperor Tajikistan Tajiks Takht-i-Pul Taklamakan desert Talas battle of (AD 751) Talas river Talas valley Taliban Tamerlane the Great tomb Tang dynasty and Changan Tangshan Tanintanin mountains Tao Te Ching Taoism Tarim basin Tartars Tash Rabat Tashkent Taurus mountains Tazhong Tehran Termez terracotta army Tethys Sea Tian Shan mountains Tiananmen Square, Beijing massacre Tianshui Living Buddha of Tibet Tigris river Timurids Titus, emperor Tocharians Tochtor (Kyrgyz) Toktogul lake reservoir Torugart pass Turcomans Turkestan Turkey journey in Turkic peoples ‘Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan’ Turkmen desert Turkmenistan Turks Tus Tusi, Nasir ad-din Twelfth Imam/the Mahdi Uighurs Ukrainians Ulug Beg, prince Unai Enye (goddess) United Nations (UN) Assistance Mission, Mazar-e- Sharif United States of America Urumqi University Ushmurvan river Ustkurgan Uzbekistan journey in Uzbeks Vahid (Iranian emigrant) Vakhuman, king of Samarkand Vatican ‘Vegetable Lamb’ Vespasian, emperor Virgin Mary Visigoths Wahabis/Wahabism Wang, Abbot Wang Zhonghu Warner, Langdon Wei valley Wei river West, the time line Western Market, Changan Western music White Jade river, Khotan World Trade Center Wudi, emperor Xian Xinjiang Xuanzang, monk Xuanzong, emperor Yacub Beg Yalda Yangtze river Yarkand Yellow Emperor grave-mound of Yellow Hat sect Yellow River Yenisei river Ying (Luo Ying) Yongchang Youshashan Yu (professor) Yuan dynasty Zahir Shah, king Zanjan Zelim (Zelim Khan) (artist) Zerafshan river Zhangye Zhelaizhai Zhukov, Marshal Zoroaster Zoroastrianism About the Author COLIN THUBRON is an acknowledged master of travel writing.
The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization by Richard Baldwin
3D printing, additive manufacturing, Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, air freight, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Berlin Wall, bilateral investment treaty, Branko Milanovic, buy low sell high, call centre, Columbian Exchange, commoditize, Commodity Super-Cycle, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, domestication of the camel, Edward Glaeser, endogenous growth, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial intermediation, George Gilder, global supply chain, global value chain, Henri Poincaré, imperial preference, industrial cluster, industrial robot, intangible asset, invention of agriculture, invention of the telegraph, investor state dispute settlement, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Dyson, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Lao Tzu, low skilled workers, market fragmentation, mass immigration, Metcalfe’s law, New Economic Geography, out of africa, paper trading, Paul Samuelson, Pax Mongolica, profit motive, rent-seeking, reshoring, Richard Florida, rising living standards, Robert Metcalfe, Second Machine Age, Simon Kuznets, Skype, Snapchat, Stephen Hawking, telepresence, telerobotics, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, trade route, Washington Consensus
While the world’s economic geography was remarkably stable in this era, the political organization of the production / consumption clusters shifted in a kaleidoscopic panoply of kingdoms, dynasties, and empires. Two particularly notable political reorganizations came with the Golden Age of Islam and the rise of the Mongolian Empire. The Mongolian Empire, which still holds the record for the largest land empire, brought the entire overland Silk Road under a single authority for about 160 years, starting from 1200 CE or so. The period is known as Pax Mongolica. The spread of Islam from the seventh to thirteenth centuries advanced trade by integrating much of the southern, sea-based part of the Silk Road. This reduced trade costs over territory that stretched from Southeast Asia to southern Spain. There is abundant evidence that Silk Road trade had important effects on certain cities and on the elite in most nations. However, because of rudimentary transportation technology, it was physically impossible for trade to have a major impact on the average person’s consumption.
The company had a standing fleet of about a hundred vessels, each of which could do four round-trips in its ten-year lifetime. Each voyage brought less than a thousand tons of cargo to Europe. During the entire seventeenth century, only 3,000 European ships sailed to Asia. The number was little more than twice that for the whole of the eighteenth century.5 Stage 3: The Rise of Europe, 1350 to 1820 The boost in trade that Pax Mongolica enabled had the unintended effect of globalizing the bubonic plague. While the disease had caused havoc several times in history, the waves of epidemics from 1350 onward were truly transformative. Moving East to West along the Silk Road, the Black Death arrived in Europe in 1347. The disease wiped out between a quarter and half of all Europeans in just three years. Norman Cantor, in his book In the Wake of the Plague, notes that the effect on the Islamic World was at least as severe.
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley
23andMe, agricultural Revolution, air freight, back-to-the-land, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Bernie Madoff, British Empire, call centre, carbon footprint, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, charter city, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, collateralized debt obligation, colonial exploitation, colonial rule, Corn Laws, creative destruction, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, demographic dividend, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, falling living standards, feminist movement, financial innovation, Flynn Effect, food miles, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hans Rosling, happiness index / gross national happiness, haute cuisine, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, invisible hand, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John Nash: game theory, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Kula ring, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, Northern Rock, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, packet switching, patent troll, Pax Mongolica, Peter Thiel, phenotype, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, Productivity paradox, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, rising living standards, Silicon Valley, spice trade, spinning jenny, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supervolcano, technological singularity, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, transaction costs, ultimatum game, upwardly mobile, urban sprawl, Vernor Vinge, Vilfredo Pareto, wage slave, working poor, working-age population, Y2K, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game
This made it harder for landowners to reimpose serfdom and restrictions on peasant movement after the plague had briefly empowered the labouring classes. In Eastern Europe, Mamluk Egypt and Ming China, serfdom was effectively restored. Empires, indeed governments generally, tend to be good things at first and bad things the longer they last. First they improve society’s ability to flourish by providing central services and removing impediments to trade and specialisation; thus, even Genghis Khan’s Pax Mongolica lubricated Asia’s overland trade by exterminating brigands along the Silk Road, thus lowering the cost of oriental goods in European parlours. But then, as Peter Turchin argues following the lead of the medieval geographer Ibn Khaldun, governments gradually employ more and more ambitious elites who capture a greater and greater share of the society’s income by interfering more and more in people’s lives as they give themselves more and more rules to enforce, until they kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order by Parag Khanna
Admiral Zheng, affirmative action, anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, Bartolomé de las Casas, Branko Milanovic, British Empire, call centre, capital controls, central bank independence, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, complexity theory, continuation of politics by other means, crony capitalism, Deng Xiaoping, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, energy security, European colonialism, facts on the ground, failed state, flex fuel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, friendly fire, Gini coefficient, global reserve currency, global supply chain, haute couture, Hernando de Soto, illegal immigration, income inequality, informal economy, invisible hand, Islamic Golden Age, Khyber Pass, knowledge economy, land reform, low skilled workers, mass immigration, means of production, megacity, Monroe Doctrine, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, open borders, open economy, Parag Khanna, Pax Mongolica, Pearl River Delta, pirate software, Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances, Potemkin village, price stability, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, reserve currency, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Skype, South China Sea, special economic zone, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Thomas L Friedman, trade route, trickle-down economics, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, Washington Consensus, women in the workforce
Bukhara became the eastern pillar of Islam, with thousands of students streaming into its colorful madrasahs to absorb the Samanid amirs’ poetic teachings. The continuous imperial turnover in Central Asia demonstrates that it is not only power that abhors a vacuum but also space itself. “I am God’s punishment for your sins,” Genghis Khan viciously admonished the Seljuk Turks as his Mongol hordes sacked Bukhara in 1221. The Pax Mongolica “made the empires of Rome and Alexander seem insignificant,” wrote B. H. Liddell Hart, and its management of the Silk Road graciously facilitated Marco Polo’s fabled voyages.2 After the plague wiped out much of the region’s population in the fourteenth century, Amir Timur (Tamerlane) claimed lands from Kashgar to the Caucasus, and his grandson Babur established the Mughal dynasty in India. But as Czarist forces looked south to compensate for Russia’s setback in the Crimean War (and plummeting cotton imports due to America’s Civil War), they toppled Tashkent in 1865 and captured as far as Yining in western China.