Why ceramics trade on Silk Roads important to Chinese civilisation

20Jun 2016
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Why ceramics trade on Silk Roads important to Chinese civilisation

The Silk Road" is an ancient overland trade route that connects China with Europe. Originally a caravan route and used from c. 100 BC, 6,400-km route began in Xi'an, China, followed the Great Wall to the northwest,

Dr. Fang Lili, Member of National Committee of experts for China intangible culture heritage protection, Chairman of China Artistic Anthropology Society… stresses a point on ceramics trade on Silk Roads, to participants recently in Dar es Salaam.

climbed the Pamir Mountains, crossed Afghanistan, and went on to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, where goods were taken by ship to Venice and other European cities.

Silk and other items were carried westward; while such goods as wool, gold, and silver were carried eastward.
Dr. Fang Lili, Member of National Committee of experts for China intangible culture heritage protection, Chairman of China Artistic Anthropology Society, and Director of Artistic Anthropology Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Arts talking about the importance of ceramics trade to China said that there was no any civilization that can stay alone. “It needs interaction with other civilizations.”

She detailed that the current civilisation China is boastful of did not come out from the vacuum, but rather it was an interaction between different cultures from the Middle East and from Europe, mainly after the geographical discovery.

“People from other civilisation that were coming to China to buy Chinese ceramics, also came with different designs and ornaments; and culture from other countries became part of the Chinese ceramics,” she said.Because of that trade from the 1st to the 8th centuries China became very rich.

"The Silk Road" is made up of an interconnected network of trade routes that have bridged the Asian and Mediterranean worlds since antiquity. The Silk Road" is a series of trade routes between China and the Mediterranean Sea, extending some 6,400 km. The total length of all routes can be debated.

This route served as the primary path of commerce for the states along its way until the 15th century, when maritime routes became increasingly used.

Scientific developments, knowledge, and new inventions were also shared upon the routes. The rise and fall of empires along the regions of the routes also had an impact on trade and cultural exchanges.

“Before the geographical discovery people from Europe did not know about the Chinese ceramics; but after the discovery many Europeans came to China to buy Chinese ceramics,” she said.

When asked how much money was China earning from ceramics trade, she said there was nobody who knew the exactly amount, but during that time a lot of silver flowed into China, and became so rich.

The Silk Routes influence carried over into Korea and Japan, and along the maritime routes which extended to the Philippines, Brunei, Thailand, Malacca, Sri Lanka, India, the Persian Gulf, Egypt, Italy, and Portugal and beyond. The "Silk Road" has been proposed for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage.

Another period when the Silk Road flourished was under the Tang dynasty (618–907), known as a "Golden Age" of cosmopolitan culture in China which reflected the height of cultural exchanges. Traders usually traversed only a section of the routes, transferring their goods to other caravans at various points along the way.

Silk was only one of the commodities traded. Goods from China included gold, silver, iron, weapons, porcelain, lacquerware, tea, paper, gunpowder, and medicines; from India, slaves, animals, furs, fabrics, woods, jade and other precious stones; and from Persia, incense, foodstuffs, dyes, and silver goods.

Other commodities that originated in Asia and were traded included spices, ivory, flowers, horses, jewelry, minerals, and individuals with special skills. From the West, traders brought wool and linen, vessels of bronze and glass, amber, coral, glass beads, coins and bullion, wine, and ambergris. The Silk Road also led to the exchange of knowledge, culture, religion, and technology between the East and West.

Algebra, astronomy, Arabic numerals, medical techniques, architectural styles, and a host of primarily Chinese techniques and inventions (e.g., printing and papermaking) spread from East to West, while various construction techniques, seafaring methods, medicinal plants, and cotton cultivation spread from West to East.

The Silk Road" is surely one of the oldest routes of international trade in the world. First called the "Silk Road" in the 19th century, it is actually a web of caravan tracks connecting Chang'an (now the present day city of Xi'an in China), with Rome, Italy, beginning in the Han Dynasty during the 2nd century BC.

In recent years, both maritime and overland Silk Routes are again being used, often closely following the ancient routes.
The Silk Road also served as a conduit for the spread of knowledge, ideas, religion and culture between different parts of the world (Ancient China, Ancient India, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean).

Trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the great civilisations of China, India, Egypt, Persia, Arabia and Rome, and helped lay the foundations for the modern world.

In the late Middle Ages, transcontinental trade over the land routes of the Silk Road declined as sea trade increased.
The term "Silk Road" was first used for this ancient trade network in 1877. The person who coined the term "Silk Road" was the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen (who used the German word "Seidenstrasse," which literally means "Silk Road"). The term has found its way into general usage in many languages, i.e. "La Route de Soie" in French.

The Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) is credited with the birth of the Silk Road, when Chinese envoys sought to learn the geography of the regions beyond China. As a result of their explorations, the Han Dynasty opened-up to trade with the territories west of China.

However, modern-day global transportation and communications are also indebted to all peoples who for centuries were part of the intermingling of cultures along the Silk Routes, as demonstrated by the worldwide impact of the Silk Road's rich civilizations, scientific achievements, discoveries, and living legacies of arts and architecture.

According to China Ceramic Tile Industry Report, 2015-2018-After thirty years of rapid development, China's economy has entered a new normal state, in which real estate investment and development slows down, construction area declines and the demand for decoration falls.

As a result, the architectural ceramics industry witnesses a lower growth rate. In 2015, the full-year revenue of the industry will reach RMB447 billion, a year-on-year increase of 4.9 percent.China architectural ceramics industry has been booming nationwide through decades of development and several rounds of industrial transfer.

There are now 1,452 ceramics enterprises and 3,621 production lines (including 181 Spanish tile production lines) in China except Beijing, Tianjin, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, with the daily ceramic tile capacity of 45.036 million square meters, according to statistics of China Building Ceramics & Sanitaryware Association.

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