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Silk Road: The Characters

Use this LibGuide to learn more about The Silk Road and to assist you with your project.

Zhu He

It is 1307 C.E. and your name is Zhu He and you are a Hui (“who-ay”) Chinese merchant living in the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an/Chang’an during the Yuan Dynasty under the Mongols. You wish to trade Chinese silk, porcelain and tea at your final destination in Cairo, and will be making a sea voyage on a Chinese ship to get there. Your first stop after you leave Xi’an will be the port city of Guangzhou. You will then stop for a visit to Malacca where you trade some of your goods for cinnamon and nutmeg to sell in the market in Cairo. You then stop in Ahmedabad to trade more of your silk and porcelain for pepper, also for the market. Because you are a devout Muslim you will use the opportunity this trip provides to make the Hajj in Mecca. After your completion of the Hajj, you journey up the Red Sea to Cairo to sell your collection of goods at the Khan el Khalili market, make some purchases of Arabic glassware and textiles to bring back home, and attend lectures at Al-Azhar University. After spending some time in Cairo, you have sold all of your goods, made a good profit, and so you now make the long voyage back home.

Ashide Lushan

It is 695 C.E., and you are a Sogdian noblewoman. Sogdiana was a territory of the Persian Empire. You believe in Zoroastrianism, and are a renowned horseback archer living in the Ferghana Valley. You will be going to Chang’an (X’ian) the capital city of the Tang Dynasty in China with your father. The purpose of the visit is that your father, Yu Lushan, has been invited by the Tang imperial court to discuss the purchase of some horses from the Ferghana Valley, which are prized by the Tang military. Your father has invited you so that you might show your skill to the envoys of the Tang and demonstrate the strength of your horses. Your group will be taking a common route on the Silk Road headed east to China. First you will travel by horseback to Merv to visit with family you have there. You will then head east to Samarkand to purchase horses and supplies for the trip. Your group will then travel to Kashgar for supplies and to join a camel caravan in an effort to not exhaust your horses with riders and supplies as you cross the Taklamakan Desert. Your caravan stops in Dunhuang in the Gobi Desert to resupply and rest, while there you visit the Mogao Caves. While in Dunhuang, you visit with a colony of fellow Sogdians living there, which was one of your group’s purposes in taking this route - your group spends a few days socializing with them and learning about their experiences in this area. Finally you depart for your final destination of Chang’an (X’ian) to meet with envoys of the Tang Imperial Court, show your skills, and hopefully make a profitable trade on your horses.

Muhammad Aibak

It is 1226, and you are a trader from the Delhi Sultanate in northern India who is on his way to Arabia via East Africa to sell some ivory to Islamic traders. You begin your journey in Delhi, where you acquire a large quantity of gems to transport to eastern Africa. You travel over land to Ahmedabad, where you board a dhow to Kilwa. Using the monsoon winds to cross the Arabian Sea, you reach Africa relatively quickly. In Kilwa, you acquire some gold and ivory and board another ship in order to travel to the Arabian peninsula. You also This sea journey also makes use of the monsoon winds. Once in Aden, since you are a devout Muslim, you decide to make your pilgrimage to Mecca. After seeing the Great Mosque and making the Hajj, you continue up through the Red Sea, overland through Egypt, and on to the Italian town of Venice, which you hear is a rising power in world trade. In Venice, you meet with its leader, the Doge, and hear tales of Venice’s recent crusades and conquests. On your way home, you decide to stop in Constantinople to see the capital of the once-great Byzantine empire. After stocking up on goods to sell back in India, you take the long journey back home.

Alexander Gregorus

It is 780 C.E., and your name is Alexander Gregorus, and you are an Eastern Orthodox Christian merchant living in Constantinople under the Byzantine Empire. Although Islamic empires have successfully taken much of the territory of the Byzantine Empire, trade and prosperity remain strong in Constantinople and you have established successful business relationships with Arab traders. The primary goods that you sell is Byzantine made silk and bronze ware to Arab merchants. On your journey, you stop at Antioch to get supplies and goods to sell in Islamic lands. you first go to Cairo to sell some of your goods where new, powerful Islamic Empire has taken control in the Middle East called the Abbasids. After spending time there, you cross the Red Sea to Damascus to meet with trading contacts and sell more of your goods. From there you join a camel caravan to head to the capital of the Abbasids, Baghdad. It is a truly remarkable place, full of wealth, learning, and beautiful architecture. You end up spending weeks there, which was far longer than you had planned. While in Baghdad, you strike a deal wherein you will cross the Ferghana Valley into Sogdiana to purchase some of their prized horses to bring back to Baghdad for new trading partners. Although recently conquered by Muslims, you make contact with Zoroastrian merchants and find a unique civilization there. Once this mission is completed and a good profit has been made, you head home for Constantinople.