The Horse the Wheel and Language Extended Book Review
THE HORSE THE WHEEL AND LANGUAGE EXTENDED BOOK REVIEW
Contemporary Central Asia has been described as a country amidst political upheaval. The book, the Shadow of the Silk Road seeks to place the current events in the context of the Silk Road, a historic feature that holds with it a lot of meaning in shaping social, political and even religious events. This book explores events during a journey through the Silk Road, one of the greatest land routes in history. The Silk Road had been a trade route for thousands of years, a fact that led to intercultural interaction and even led to the forging of new social interactions and entities. It has been argued that the Silk Road was the center of diversity and Thubron highlights that simply following the Silk Road; one had chosen to follow diversity. This road, which has been described in the book as being the greatest land route, originates from the contemporary Peoples the Republic of China, cuts through central Asia navigating areas such as Afghanistan, Kurdish area of Turkey and Iran before finally ending in the shores of the Mediterranean Sea CITATION Thu12 l 2057 (Thubron 2012). This paper seeks to relate the Silk Road to the numerous events that came to be associated with it. This text is an association of various books that are related to the Silk Road phenomenon.
With its creation credited to Ferdinand von Richthofen, this route has for ages become famous as both a trade route and the source of numerous world cultures and social trends today. Being many centuries old, this land route went through many transformations together with shifting over the years. Thubron had made a journey through the road in person two decades ago. It is through this first-hand experience that he describes the close to seven thousand miles as being an equivalent to following a ghost. Despite the physical sense of this road having disappeared from the political maps today, it can still be traced using the number of civilizations it has made since. Thubron claims that modern borders have originated from this route. Thubron depicts this as being ‘counterfeit borders’. He not only highlights the fact that he has to contend with border officials through a journey via this route, but he also explores and appreciates the cultural diversity that has resulted from the Silk Road. The visas and bureaucracy that one has to grapple with in the journey through the road in modern times are frustrating. Modern borders have led to the creation of what the author describes as artificial constraints leading to the formation of new nations and states, something that has sort of broken the cultural continuity of people that were once influenced by this road. From its origin in a province in China, one would be amazed how the Silk Road has possibly shaped the contemporary cultures through the whole route to where it ends. The shifting of people and their ideas is what has become significant historically with the creation of the land route.
Thubron is surprised by the rapid changes that have taken place on the route since the last time he set foot on it. The author claims that some places can barely be recognized due to what he describes as changes towards westernized architectural designs. Further, while he visits friends, he comes to terms with how people have forgotten the historic Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Mao Zedong Cultural Revolution that has shaped contemporary cultures. The few that experienced it choose not to remember it while the younger generation has no such thing to refer to. Thubron gets to meet friends from the past who are happy with the new transformation but with the keenness not to arouse their past experiences.
Thubron is haunted by the whole new emergence of the China supremacy phenomenon that forces him to forget about the history of the Silk Road, which essentially shaped this civilization. The author thinks that the new borders have worked to shift people’s allegiances and cultures. Thubron dramatizes the rapid transformation of this route claiming that the route was once famous for transporting silk to Western Europe. In contemporary times, it has become a route through which the SARS virus has left fatalities in its path through this same route. During his journey through the route, the virus breaks out in some parts of Asia forcing officials to isolate him in a quarantine setting. This in itself is a clear indication of how boundaries have come to work in the modern times.
Thubron records that, the same way goods made their way through the route from China to the sea, so did numerous ideas flow through the same route. It is through this that the modern civilizations and cultures have been credited. One of the things that made Thubron’s journey effective through the route was the fact that he was able to talk to people making it easy to reconnect the route with its history. Importantly, the book Shadow of the Silk Road Associates numerous events, the development of Islam and Buddhism in Asia, which have been majorly influenced by this trade route. The story does not end there, development of current political trends have been associated with the blend of history and modern culture and civilization.
Lost Enlightenment written by Fredrick Starr explores the Silk Road from a different yet amazing point of view. This book dates back to the Arab onslaught of the 8th century and the events that surrounded these developments. In his notion, the Silk Road allows people from diverse backgrounds to travel great distances and interact. The acquaintances, initially based on trade, come to influence science, culture, and religion. Frederick Starr chooses to explore majorly philosophy and science in the background of the history of the Silk Road CITATION Sta13 l 2057 (Starr 2013). In this same context, the Silk Road was a route for trade as well as a route of transmission of cultural diversity that came about with the interaction of people from the Asian world. The book uses the Silk Road as a background to explore the cultural trends in central Asia, so complex that they have to be broken down regarding their various categories. The book is informative in the sense that it seeks to associate the current civilizations to the past, dating back to the Silk Road era. Fredrick Starr does this by unraveling the untold story of Central Asia with its rich culture in the medieval times. This book explores the culture and how effective it has been in tying society together. Importantly, the Silk Road offers a platform through which cultural diversity is advanced.
The author goes ahead to explain how the greatest and recognized ‘minds’ in the Arab kingdom boast their origin in Central Asia. Central Asia was a region alive with culture with great transformation at every instance due to the significance of this trade route that made the cultures alive. This book importantly revisits history and the great culture of Central Asia. In the background of all this is the emergence of the Silk Road at this important historical age. The Silk Road is most significant for being among the very first indications of globalization. The Silk Road back in history allowed many world cultures to interact. Initially, the cultural interaction and coexistence were greatly motivated by the collective economic gain. The desire to trade made the various cultures blend freely leading to many transformations. The adoption of Islam by Central Asia and its historic association with the Arab world has been misunderstood by many people. Fredrick Starr seeks to explore clearly this phenomenon.
Starr seeks to explain how these two events came to be about the Silk Road. The author explores that the Arabs, rather than desiring to gain complete control of the central Asian region, opted to control the region partially by taking over the trade routes and ensuring they were at the center of the economic livelihood of the region. In his book, Starr recreates the world as it was spanned by the Silk Road and the various cultures that were associated with it. Starr uses the great accomplishments in the region to reveal this previously untold story. This region that spreads from China to modern day Kazakhstan led the whole world regarding economic development and most importantly trade. This is evidenced by the great sophistication that is seen in its cities, the fine art and the vast knowledge evident in all other fields. The power of the Silk Road can be evidenced by the influence in science among the dwellers of middle Asia. It is even said that the great minds of this region had predicted the development of present-day North and South American ages before Columbus explored the region.
There are numerous texts about the relevance of the Silk Road. But these, just like the numerous traders that used the route, none of them settles and describes the events in one region too long. Starr’s book achieves the detailed description of Central Asia. The book has achieved in highlighting the greatness of central Asia. The region, which houses some of the world poorest states such as Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, was once a trading hub, wealthy enough to be unmatched with any region at the time. The Silk Road is the center of all these developments, and it cannot be ignored by any historian that desires to explore the deep history of this region.
The Horse, the Wheel and Language intelligently put down by David W. Anthony goes into detail in trying to highlight how the American language came to be. In his works, David W. Anthony records that the language developed from the Steppes following domestication of animals, majorly the horse. The horse transformed many regions due to the increasing demand based on many uses. People were ready to trade due to the existence of horses, thereby introducing the whole new concept of the Silk Road. People were now able to trade and interact with other traders as far as China. This had a major impact on the Steppes language.
The Silk Road is credited for having influenced the development of languages. English is thought to draw its origin from the language family called the Indo-European. Linguistics claim that languages such as Polish, French, and English just to highlight a few developed from the same ancient tongue. After the Silk Road had become the center of the trade in Central Asia, the chariot was developed. Since the development of the chariot had exploited the concept of the wheel, many people think that it was then used for war. Despite the Silk Road dated as having developed in the 2nd century, it is still possible that trade was tangible in central Asia in as early as 1000BC. Many traders had invested in land routes before sea routes became more efficient to the extent that they came to surpass land routes. Under the Han, the barriers, majorly social and political, that had broken the link between China and the world came to be breached. The expansion of the Chinese political territory made China come into contact with other new states and people. China came to transform how trade is done in the region. The Chinese traders mostly supplied silk. It was significant as the major good in the trade that the route came to be named after this sole product.
The Golden Peaches of Samarkand is an interesting read. Edward H. Schafer explores how the Silk Road shaped many events in history. This book focusses on the globalization of central Asia which dates back to earlier than the 20th century and how the Silk Road came to influence this phenomenon. For instance, the Silk Road is at the center of connecting the various cultures of the world and how they came to be associated. Historians record that the silk road as having been propelled by the Tang dynasty. The author explores in great detail the exchange of both goods and knowledge through the Silk Road during the Yuan and Tang dynasty. Edward H. Schafer exhumes volumes of texts and encyclopedias as a basis for his claim on the vast trade that existed along the development of the Silk Road CITATION Sch63 l 2057 (Schafer 1963).
Commercial goods and other valuables found them enrooted China, a major trade hub connected to the trade route. The movement of goods are involved majorly luxury items. The author further records that the trade came to experience the export of people that seemed exotic who were on demand as slaves to China. At the same instance, inventions made by the Chinese people easily found their way out of the region into other areas, an impressive form of globalization at this ancient age. Despite the Silk Road having been just a slightly less significant event in the Chinese economic activities, major credit is given to its development following the cultural diversity that came with it. In fact, the kingdom of Tang is recorded to have invited dancers from regions as far as Asia to a region considered to be a nexus of the trade route to entertain visitors at various events. It is through this that the Chinese were able to adopt the music culture of Central Asia and went as far as adopting their musical instruments.
More evidence of Chinese interaction and close ties with the outside world can be drawn to the multicolored ceramics used by members of the Tang dynasty that had pieces of art from Silk Road travelers of all kinds. Importantly, the transformation of religion by the introduction of foreign religious beliefs had by far the major impact on the history of the Silk Road to China. First, Buddhism found its way to China through the land route. With time, the religion took root to the extent that the religious texts had to be translated to local language. The introduction of Buddhism to China led to more social interaction with central Asia. At some point, Chinese pilgrims traveled to India to assist in the securing of more Buddhist texts. Naturally, the escalated interaction between the Chinese and Indians meant that the interaction was not solely about religion but encompassed all aspects of culture.
Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road is a book by Johan Elverskog that explores the religious aspect following the popularity of the Silk Road route as a major trade and cultural channel. The author of this piece has sought to rubbish keenly the misconceptions about the relationship between Islam and Buddhism. This book enables the readers to visit their assumptions on the possible cultural encounters in the area of central Asia as far as China. Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road have sought to explore clearly why the history of the interaction between the two religions is wider than we expect CITATION Elv11 l 2057 (Elverskog 2011).
Despite the fact that the two religions, Buddhism, and Islam are different regarding ideals and doctrines, the two share many things that make one attempt to find their link using history. However, regarding religious philosophies, the two have major differences on the basis on which they were developed. For instance, Islam and Buddhism differ regarding the time they were developed. Also, the places they originated differ to a great extent. Buddhism was founded in Nepal at around the 5th Century BC. On the contrary, Islam was developed at around the 7th Century BC in an area thought to be the Arabian Peninsula. Further, the Buddhist do not believe in a supreme being unlike the other religions. Buddhism is majorly based on human creativity and knowledge as a basis of answering world problems and events. On the other hand, Islam is majorly rooted in the belief that there exists God (Allah), a supreme being that they seek to impress. Both religious groups have a rich association with the Silk Road, which served to expand the territories covered by these faiths. This routed served to help pilgrims travel far and wide to reconnect to the origin of their religions.
In the modern context, the interaction between Islam and Buddhism has proved to be a more violent one. Indeed, the destruction of Buddhist religious bases and settlements in 2001 sought not only to reignite the long-term rivalry between the two but also expose Islam as potentially being a violent religion. This meant that Buddhism remained as a rational and peaceful religion deeply entrenched in philosophy. But, if the attack on Buddhist religious centers reignites the violent nature of the Islamic religion, one would then question how possibly would have the Buddhist Bamiyan statues survived up to a century of Islamic rule.
Johan Elverskog looks at it differently. In his texts, full of historical references, he highlights that the Muslims and Buddhists met on many instances in the Silk Road. As opposed to the violent confrontations that are described by many analysts, the two groups exchanged diverse cultural practices. The two religions were greatly transformed following this encounter due to the exchange of cultural and religious idea creating sort of a blend between the two varied beliefs.
In conclusion, the Silk Road was a very significant phenomenon both on the historical and cultural sense. This trade route not only sought to establish great economic ties but also led to the transfer of culture in the wider Central Asia, traversing China into the Arab world. A close focus on the historical aspect of this route tells a rich story of the interaction of people from diverse backgrounds. Yet, this is the power behind the current concept of globalization. Before contemporary political boundaries were formed, there existed free trade and cultural exchange along the Silk Road. It is this same trade route that has been credited for the expansion of religious faiths such as Buddhism from India to as far as China. Further, this road has a basis for the long time tension that has existed between the Muslims and Buddhists. Further, modern languages such as English and French among many others are postulated to have developed following the interaction along the Silk Road, which stimulated trade between different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. It is the complex interaction that led to the development of the many dialects.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Anthony, David W. The horse, the Wheel and Language. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.
Elverskog, Johan. Buddhism and Islam on the silk road. Pennsylvannia: University of Pennsylvania, 2011.
Schafer, Edward H. The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A study of T’ang Exotics. California: University of California, 1963.
Starr, S. Frederick. Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013.
Thubron, Colin. Shadow of the Silk Road. Random House, 2012.