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The Silk Road was one of the most significantly historical medium of trade and

commerce that allowed the exchange of various aspects of different culture to spread or be
adapted in a particular place. Central Asia lead the trading industry during this time due to many
reasons.

Central Asia had among the other Asian countries had massive desserts that spread across
the Silk road. This is not surprising considering Central Asia is landlocked. From the
documentary video, I have never seen Ken Ogata travel by boat or cross a bridge under a lake.
His team traveled by train, car and foot. Before, being land locked was an advantage because
there wasn't any technology that allowed transportation and travel in any other medium in far
distances. This allowed for easier trade among the countries that are around the Silk Road, unlike
in South Asia and South East Asia where you had to travel by sea to trade between the near
countries and even though the temperature is relatively warm, there are a lot vegetation to make
up for it.

Central Asia and parts of East Asia had already communication and trade with each other
unlike the rest of Asia who weren't as engaged in trade such as Maldives, Malaysia, Indonesia
and other countries that were separated by bodies of water. They were the first hand traders of
different products and shipped them off to the further east and further west parts of Asia. For
example would be from the video where Ken Ogawa visited a shop where they manufactured
cloth with intricate patterns. Here we can see that when the Chinese and West Asia traded cloths
they somewhat adapted the patterns into their own by making patterns that are closer to their
culture. From here, China would trade the cloth to the countries in the Sinosphere, like Japan,
Korea and Northern Vietnam.

Central Asia as we know today was a whole lot different from the Central Asia before. To further
understand the role of Central Asia in the development and influence in the Silk Road and the
rest of Asia, we must first look at its history. A lot of resources that I have consulted used
evolution of groups of people in narrating the history of Central Asia, I will also follow this
convention.
The very first civilization that was recorded in Central Asia was the Scythians. According to
Rossabi, they were nomadic in nature. A distinct characteristic of these people includes the
amount of power the women had. Simply put, the women were in charge of economical relations
while the men engaged in war. These people also welcomed trade. Their decline was because
some of them chose to live the city and abandoned the nomadic life. The next significant empire
was the Xiongnu empire which descended from the Huns in China. During this empire there
were a lot of attacks and raids from the Xiongnu nomads that China and the Xiongnu nomads
formed alliances through marriage but was in vain. The attacks continued. It only ceased when
China agreed to trade with them on conditions that Xiongnu nomads had to follow. Xiongnu as
replaced by the Turkic Uyghurs which introduced Islam in China and brought Chinese culture
back to their home town and neighboring regions.

According to Rossabi, the nomadic nature of the people came to a decline due to a lot of people
adapting to the sedentary life. During this time Islam was widely spread throughout Central Asia
and both the Chinese empire and the Persian Empire were experiencing internal problems and
therefore, not much trade happened. "Central Asia could no longer function as transmitter, the
role that it traditionally played"(Rossabi, n.d.)

Throughout the brief history the most significant role of Central Asia would be "cultural
transmitters", as Rossabi would put it. The people from Central Asia, as established above, loved
trade and commerce. They would trade with the Eastern region of Asia with their western
products thus, bringing the culture of the east to the west and the western culture to the east.

An example would be between Persia and India. When Alexander of Macedon


successfully invaded the Persia, he influenced them with his Greek culture such as the language,
mode of commodity and arts. However, Persia retained the dominant religion and belief. This
resulted to art that was fused with Persian and Indian cultures. An example would be depicting
Aphrodite, a Greek goddess with wings and a bindi, which are eastern in nature. This region "had
already become a crossroads of Asia, where Persian, Indian and Greek ideas met" (Wild, n.d.).
Resulting from this was another fusion of cultures, in the form of Greek and Buddhist art when
the Xiongnu moved to Northern India also known as the Gandhara culture.
"The most significant commodity carried along this route was not silk, but religion"
(Wild, n.d.). An example would be how Buddhism travelled from India to China. A lot of other
religions, ideas and beliefs are also 'exchanged' due to the crossroads brought upon by the Silk
Road.

The Silk Road also was significant to the development of both East Asian and Central
Asian civilizations in such a way that it served as a cross roads for exchanging culture
throughout central Asia. As said before, patterns originating from West Asia traveled all the way
to Japan, although they adapted their culture to it.

Upon reading the history of the Silk Road, I noticed that as civilizations continued to
interact more, the silk road also became more active and made more interconnecting roads,
which paved the way to expansion of knowledge and trade between the different countries during
that time. But the drive of countries to flourish, succeed and become more powerful are a few of
the main reasons why the Silk road also expanded from what it originally was. It's like a
continuous cycle that maintained the silk road to be the medium of transmission of cultures.

Central Asia today is not as active in trade as it was before, however still important and
as significant as it was before. According to Denoon, the importance of Central Asia lies in its
three aspects: location, hydrocarbon resources and the movements of Isalmist
governments."[Central Asia] is the linchpin between Asia and Europe. Thus, keeping [Central
Asia] autonomous is vital to preventing any one power gaining dominance in Eurasia. So,
Central Asia’s first critical feature is its location"(Denoon, 2016). Next would be the
hydrocarbon resources. "Turkmenistan’s gas reserves put it in the world’s top five potential
producers"( Denoon, 2016). With all of the reserves that are in Central Asia this could
potentially support a lot of economical problems in the region and possibly export their product
in nearby or ally countries. Lastly, the third aspect is more of a problem, "movements that seek
to establish Islamist governments. These movements grow out of religious fervor and assorted
grievances and have led to underground activities and violent protests in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
and Uzbekistan. In addition, Tajikistan had what amounted to a civil war in the early and mid-
1990s. So, Central Asia has key advantages in its location and natural resources, but is a tinder-
box where political instability could surface at any time"( Denoon, 2016).
Generally, the importance of Central Asia to the world and to Asia is somewhat
connected and related to each other. "Central Asian countries are increasingly directing their
foreign relations eastward. Meanwhile, Asian states are equally turning to Central Asia in their
search for energy resources and new markets. This dual dynamic is giving rise to closer and
deeper ties in three key areas. As far as infrastructures are concerned, various Asian powers have
adopted Silk Road policies that see Central Asia as a fundamental transit route for their long-haul
connectivity projects" (Contessi, 2016).

In conclusion, the foundation of Asia's culture has been a result of numerous years of
continuously engaging in trade and commerce. Despite the many differences of each region in
Asia, interregional relations were still made possible in a civil manner through trading. Central
Asia, particularly was a pioneer at this, acting as "cultural transmitters" throughout history and
played a big part in building and developing their nations as well. Central Asia today might not
be the main trading ground but their assets, such as their hydrocarbon reserves and their location,
are still some of the reasons why a lot of countries are investing and considering business with
Central Asia despite its political problems. Today, culture from different countries might be
harder to adapt due to well-established identity of each country and people are sometimes jaded
of other cultures to the point where it is maliciously affecting the latter. However, technology has
been constantly bringing the world closer than ever before and this could the new medium of
transmitting cultures.
Bibliography

Contessi, Nicola P. “Central Asia in Asia: Charting growing trans-Regional


linkages.” Journal of Eurasian Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 3–13. ScienceDirect,
doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euras.2015.11.001. Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.

Denoon, David. “ The Strategic Significance of Central Asia.” The World Financial
Review, The World Financial Review, 23 Sept. 2016, www.worldfinancialreview.com/?p=4956.
Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.

Kusakabe, Minoru and Masaya Shimizu, directors. The Journey Along The Silk Road.
Tokyo Shock, 2005.

Rossabi, Morris. “Central Asia: A Historical Overview.” Asia Society, Asia Society,
asiasociety.org/central-asia-historical-overview?page=0,2. Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.

Wild, Oliver. “.The Silk Road.” The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, www.cais-
soas.com/CAIS/Geography/silk_road.htm. Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.