Silk's Influence Essay

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Silk and the Silk Road's Influence on China China has more than 5,000 years of history and has changed dramatically over time. Silk and the Silk Road were both responsible for much of the change, beginning when silk became well known and frequently demanded by other countries. Many routes were created, running through all parts of the world exporting silk. As the invention flourished, the routes intertwined to form a trading system that was created and expanded over time. This influential route became known as the Silk Road and soon "channeled merchants, pilgrims, immigrants, smugglers, refugees, soldiers and adventurers across this land" (Clark 139). This prominent route was split into two parts, the Northern and Southern. The more vulnerable part was the Northern route because travelers encountered bandits more frequently, but the Southern route was also dangerous because it required traveling through desolated areas such as the Taklamakan Desert. Because of the harsh conditions, travelers would often venture the route in caravans led by camels. Nonetheless, the journey was still quite treacherous so people rarely traveled the entire route. Out of these many travelers, missionaries introduced their Buddhist beliefs that eventually overtook China's indigenous religion. As the new religion spread through China during the Tang and Han dynasties, the route became very active and China's economy reached its most prosperous and glorious time period. All of this was the result of the production of silk and usage of the Silk Road, which brought profound cultural changes to China's religion, language, material and economy. Before Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism were the major religions in China. Confucianism was more strict than belief based, so when missionaries and traders came to China with Buddhist beliefs, many Chinese people were attracted to the spiritual religion. As the newer 500 year old religion traveled through the Silk Road to Han China, Buddhism quickly popularized across the whole country. When the number of Buddhists increased, translations and explanations of Buddhist scriptures became more accessible. Slowly, Buddhism began to influence China by bringing many new concepts, teachings, and beliefs. Because of the exposure to the foreign missionaries and translations introduced during the Han dynasty, the Chinese were able to understand more of their own language and its origins. They discovered that many expressions common in modern Chinese originated in Buddhist texts. Also, the dependence on tones that is unique to the Chinese language was also sparked by the Indian language.
As Buddhism grew in importance during the Tang dynasty, Xuan Zhuang traveled to India to retrieve Buddhist scriptures. In total, he obtained over 600 scriptures during his travels to India. "He is still see by the Chinese as an important influence in the development of Buddhism in China" (Wild par.28). Many artifacts such as the scriptures Xuan Zhuang brought back through the Silk Road altered Chinas material world. New sacred objects, symbols, buildings and ritual implements were incorporated into China's culture. Situated at the end of the Northern and Southern roads of the Silk Road are cave temples filled with various art forms dealing with Buddhism. Even now, these artifacts have helped influence modern day China. "All these data provide valuable background to the study of political, economic, military, cultural, and religious activities in ancient China" (Shuhong 2). Besides the imports that traveled the Silk Road, the main export of the road also influenced China's material world. Silk, a strong, lightweight, and beautiful material played a huge role in traditional