When you’re writing about East meets West as I am in The Force of Wind, you can’t really avoid research into the fascinating history of The Silk Road. This network of land routes linking Europe, Africa, and Asia began as far back as Alexander the Great. By the time the Chinese silk trade rose to world prominence, the Silk Road (which was actually a myriad of connecting roads) covered over four thousand miles and stretched from Rome to China. (Appropriate for Gio and B, no?)
The Silk Road carried silk, of course, along with spices, textiles, rare jewels, and gold; but it was the human trade that I was most interested in. Not slaves (though slaves were traded along the route), but the trade of technology, philosophy, language, art, and culture that moved back and forth along this vast network.
And along these ancient paths, some fascinating and mysterious stories arise. Legends of blond-haired, blue eyed tribes that roamed central Asia. Lost people groups and dead languages. Mysterious mummies. The ancient world was a vast sea of myth. Rising in the far East, and closely tied with Taoist and Buddhist philosophy, are the stories of the Eight Immortals, who I’ll introduce you to next week.
During its height, the Silk Road represented a kind of international culture that can hardly be matched, even in the modern world. Mediteranean, Persian, Magyar, Armenien, Bactrian, Indian, Chinese. All these peoples and cultures traveled the Silk Road, exchanging goods, stories, language, and culture. The Silk Road spread philosophy and art, war and disease. Success along the Silk Road brought wealth and influence, and its gradual descent into obscurity brought down kings and nations.
In modern times, the old routes are still being used, but this time they’re crossed by Eurasian rail lines instead of camels and horses. Many museums have exhibits that feature the history of the Silk Road, and there is even a Silk Route Museum in Jiuquan, China with over 35,000 artifacts from all over the ancient trade routes.
And for your listening pleasure, here’s another song from The Force of Wind soundtrack:
What is this life that pulls me far away
What is that home where we cannot reside
What is that quest that pulls me onward
My heart is full when you are by my side
Thanks for reading,