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Thread: The Silk Road

  1. #16
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    More on the train

    China’s Silk Road Reaches Iran, Pushes Toward Europe
    February 25, 2016 • From theTrumpet.com
    The ancient trade route continues its modern-day advance.
    BY KIEREN UNDERWOOD



    The first train on China’s “Silk Road” railway arrived in Tehran on February 15, making the 5,900-mile journey in a third of the time required by a sea voyage.

    The Silk Road refers to an ancient network of trade routes that connected cultures running from Southeast Asia to the Mediterranean—especially the lucrative trade of Chinese silk. In late 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled his plan to revive the Silk Road with his One Belt, One Road initiative (OBOR). Now that transport network has reached Iran.

    China’s government says OBOR “aims to promote the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents,” while “strengthening partnerships” that run through the path of the ancient Silk Road. Others expect even more. “Some people say there are only 65 countries involved, but that’s a misunderstanding,” says Zhao Changhui, chief risk analyst at China Export-Import Bank. “It’s a new method of development for China and the world.”

    Iran welcomed the project. Mohsen Pourseyed Aqayi, the head of the Iranian railway company, said the train’s arrival in 14 days was an “unprecedented achievement.”

    But the train routes don’t stop in the Middle East. One diesel locomotive already makes the 8,100-mile journey from the east coast of China to Spain. Political leaders in Europe, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have publicly lauded OBOR and expressed enthusiasm to participate in it. Multiple European countries previously showed their enthusiasm for joint cooperation when they joined the China-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

    The Diplomat, which covers the Asia-Pacific region, recognized the opportunities that China’s grand initiative could have:

    For centuries, the long distance between Europe and China has been a natural obstacle to strengthening bilateral trade relations. As the OBOR project concentrates on enhancing connectivity and transport infrastructure, there is huge potential to enlarge and accelerate the movements of goods between China and Europe.

    Critics of the OBOR intiative have pointed to slow growth of major projects in Europe. “Europeans are watching at the implementation in Pakistan, which is really the only country where major OBOR projects are coming up,” said the deputy director of the Asia and China Program, Mathieu Duchatel.

    Zhao says the lack of projects so far is simply because the concept is new: “The time is not ripe. It’s not that there aren’t projects, it’s just that they aren’t developed yet.”

    China’s largest trading partner is already the European Union, and its economic footprint there is spreading. In January, China was accepted as a small yet symbolic shareholder into the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

    The Trumpet has followed the growing relationship between China and Europe (especially Germany) and expects their trade alliance to be further strengthened. You can find out the details of that trade relationship in a column by the late Ron Fraser, “The Great Mart.” ▪
    And more to come...
    Gene Ching
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  2. #17
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    Train kept a'rollin, all night long

    Full-scale launch of Silk Road route from Ukraine to China slated for March
    26.02.2016 | 16:08

    Acting head of Ukrainian rail transport giant PJSC Ukrzaliznytsia Oleksandr Zavhorodniy says that the Trans-Caspian transport corridor from Europe to China will begin to work at full capacity early this spring.


    The Silk Road route from Ukraine to China will take 11 days / Photo from mtu.gov.ua

    "It hasn't been launched at full capacity yet. We have sent a first train to assess the situation, to see if there are problems or restrictions. The route will be launched at full in March. When this Silk Road starts working, we'll be able to deliver freight from China to the border with Poland for 11 days. This is virtually as much time as a train runs via Russia," Zavhorodniy said in an interview with Ukrainian online publication Livy Bereh at lb.ua.

    In his words, Ukrzaliznytsia plans to launch two own ferries to reduce the Silk Road fare.

    "This will significantly reduce the cost of freight transportation along the Silk Road and make the route more attractive and competitive. Our counterparts from Poland and Germany have repeatedly announced their interest in the creation of this transport corridor. And today, we are working with them to hammer out a common policy with a single tariff," he said.

    Zavhorodniy says that this route is of strategic importance to Ukraine in terms of national security.
    I'm starting to ponder the economic impact of this route on tomorrow's international commerce.
    Gene Ching
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  3. #18
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    Another two-fer...

    And there's even a new TV show coming to Discovery Channel.

    David Baddiel on the Silk Road
    Giant dogs, eagle hunters and vodka were all in a day’s work when comedian David Baddiel was filming his new TV series about the historic trade route


    David Baddiel in Kashgar Sunday livestock market, Xinjiang Region, China. Photograph: TIm Pelling/Discovery Communications

    Interview by Will Coldwell @will_coldwell
    Friday 26 February 2016 06.49 EST Last modified on Friday 26 February 2016 06.51 EST

    There’s a famous bit in Blade Runner when the android, Roy, dies and says: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” I like to think that’s something I could say about my Silk Road journey. I was on parts of the Earth that felt like the moon.

    The Silk Road was the first international trade route. Travellers exchanged ideas on scientific invention, religion, culture, music – everything, really. Globalisation has been the wellspring of most ideas.

    There’s an old Georgian saying that wine should be good enough to make a pheasant cry. Wine is meant to have begun there. In Sighnaghi there’s a vineyard called Pheasant’s Tears, where we had a traditional feast of about 27 courses, with a speech between each one, and drank an incredible amount.


    A train container covered with a tarpaulin depicting the Silk Road. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

    We had to track down these enormous, human-sized dogs. Silk Road traders bred them for catching bears. They still exist in Georgia, but they’re really hard to find. We drove out into the mountains and eventually we found a farm that had one. It was terrifying.

    I had to run away from dogs in China, too. We were trying to find the old Great Wall – what we think of as the Great Wall was rebuilt by Mao. The old one is very hard to find because it has fallen into disuse and was made of mud. We thought we’d found a bit of it but it was surrounded by wild dogs. There’s footage of me running away.

    In Xi’an, I was grabbed by a middle-aged woman and pulled into her noodle shop. I thought I was being arrested, but she’d just thought, OK, he’s on TV somewhere so I’ll advertise my noodles. I had one of the best meals I’ve ever had. There are thousands of these places in Xi’an market.


    Food stall in the Muslim quarter of Xi’an, China. Photograph: Alamy

    Kyrgyzstan is the only democracy in central Asia. Everywhere else around there is still very Soviet. Bishkek, the capital city, is still very poor but it’s becoming a hip, exciting city. There are lots of really fabulous cafes.

    In Uzbekistan, the whole crew apart from me fell really ill. Me and the fixer just kept filming. We dined with the one Jewish family left in Uzbekistan and they insisted on me drinking vodka. It was 50C, I was filming with a guy who had never done it before – and I was completely drunk. Then I had to go and wrestle in the main square of Bukhara...

    Turns out I really like camel’s milk – who knew? The food in central Asia is not so great: it tends to be horse. Rabbit stew at an eagle hunter’s house in Kyrgyzstan was really nice, though. At first I felt bad because this thing was hopping around the desert one minute, then killed by an eagle. The hunter skinned it in front of me ... But then his wife cooked it and it was delicious.


    Baddiel with a local boy in a nomad village in Kyrgyzstan. Photograph: Mielnikiewicz Justyna

    In Turkey, I had to harvest pigeon poo to try and make gunpowder. The eventual collapse of the Silk Road happened because the Ottoman took gunpowder from the Chinese and found this way of making it. It led, indirectly, to the fall of Constantinople.

    There’s a shade of blue invented by the Chinese that you can see in Buddhist caves in western China. As you move west along the Silk Road, you see how it appeared on church walls. It’s amazing how you can trace the process. We were trying to find places where things that are very widespread in the world began.

    I don’t think comedians are better travellers but they are communicators and storytellers. I think it was Victoria Wood who said: “I’m over 50 and that means I’m not legally allowed to do a comedy show any more. I have to do a travel show.” There is some truth in that, but I don’t care: I really enjoy it.

    • David Baddiel on the Silk Road is on the Discovery Channel, Sundays at 9pm
    I must give props to our writer Greg Brundage. He foresaw this coming and went on his The Silk Road Kung Fu Friendship Tour, which was the inspiration for launching this thread. And he went again recently, so we'll be bringing you more installments of that series very soon.
    Gene Ching
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  4. #19
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    $1 Trill

    China is spending nearly $1 trillion to rebuild the Silk Road
    BY VIKRAM MANSHARAMANI March 2, 2016 at 11:02 AM EST


    An man in ancient Chinese costume walks next to a camel while participating in the Silk Road Cultural Journey, in Jingyang, Shaanxi province September 19, 2014. Organized by Shaanxi government and a local tea company, the journey, started on Friday in Jingyang, Shaanxi province and was expected to finish in Kazakhstan more than a year later. A total of 136 camels, eight horse-drown carriages and more than 100 people in ancient Chinese costumes will travel an estimated 15,000 kilometers (9,321 miles) along the Silk Road with tea leaves while giving performances and promoting the tea products on the way, local media reported. REUTERES/Rooney Chen

    An man in ancient Chinese costume walks next to a camel while participating in the Silk Road Cultural Journey, in Jingyang, Shaanxi province September 19, 2014. China is rebuilding the Silk Road. Photo by Rooney Chen/Reuters

    Two weeks ago, a 32-container train from Wuyi, China arrived in Tehran, Iran. You might think the arrival of cargo by rail would be no big deal, but in this case you’d be wrong. This was the first journey of its kind between the two cities, and it shortened the typical ship-based travel time by 30 days. This new connection is among the first visible signs of a massive trade network that China is currently constructing across Eurasia. The Silk Route is being rebuilt.

    Known as One Belt, One Road, China’s plan to build veins of trade over land and sea into Europe and Asia — announced in 2013 — may be the most significant global economic initiative in the world today, and it’s not getting the attention it deserves in Western media.

    The initiative is gigantic, with future investments of almost $1 trillion already announced. In comparison, America spent an inflation-adjusted $130 billion on the Marshall Plan following the World War II. China’s web of trade would span over 60 countries that are home to 4.4 billion people — more than half of the world’s population. Further, the initiative would interact with economies representing more than 40 percent of the world’s GDP. It’s a massive program that has the potential to affect global trade patterns.

    One Belt, One Road may be the most significant global economic initiative in the world today.
    The initiative is broken into a land component, known as the Silk Road Economic Belt, and a sea component, called the Maritime Silk Road. The “Belt” will consist of a number of corridors connecting China to the far reaches of Eurasia by road and rail. The “Road” will involve the development of ports and shipping routes connecting Chinese harbors to Europe and the South Pacific.

    Funding this massive program is not a trivial undertaking. There are a number of institutions on hand to support the funding of China’s grand vision. First, Beijing started a $40 billion “Silk Road Fund” that has already helped fund a hydroelectric power project in Pakistan and invested in a liquefied natural gas project in Russia. Second, there’s the newly created, $100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in which China controls 26 percent of the votes. It’s logical to assume it might finance some of these projects. Lastly, the China Development Bank announced in June that it would invest a stunning $890 billion dollars in over 900 One Belt, One Road projects across 60 countries.

    So why would China want to deploy capital in this way? After all, doesn’t it face a massive domestic slowdown and potential debt crisis that warrant financial prudence? Why invest abroad aggressively when there are potential domestic needs?


    A map illustrates China’s One Belt, One Road megaproject at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong, China Jan. 18, 2016. Photo by Bobby Yip/Reuters

    There appear to be two main reasons: one related to the Chinese slowdown and economic vulnerabilities, the other to geopolitical ambitions in the region.

    First, China faces significant overcapacity in its steel and construction sectors. Building roads, ports, rails and other infrastructure will help deploy some of these otherwise idle human and capital resources. Investing abroad might also strengthen the economies of nascent trading partners, thereby securing future demand for Chinese goods and services. There’s also the issue of rising domestic labor costs; better trade networks would help Chinese firms offshore manufacturing more efficiently.

    It will also foster greater trade and energy security. The current maritime trade routes, which Chinese goods flow through, are deeply vulnerable — in a time of war, a blockade could crush the economy. The Silk Road initiative will keep markets open for Chinese goods, but also secure China’s access to energy. Last spring, China announced it would support over $20 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Kazakhstan, a potential energy partner. It is also planning a 2,000-mile, high-speed railway from western China to Tehran, in part to gain easier access to the growing supply of Iranian oil.
    In addition to bolstering its economic strength, One Belt, One Road will also generate significant geopolitical clout for Beijing.
    In addition to bolstering its economic strength, One Belt, One Road will also generate significant geopolitical clout for Beijing throughout Southeast, South and Central Asia as well as the Middle East, parts of Africa and Europe. Just consider the influence China will have in Pakistan. Beijing has already launched a $46 billion infrastructure program in Pakistan, which will double the energy-poor country’s electricity supply. In return, China will secure access to the port of Gwadar, minimizing the time for goods to transit from inland Chinese cities to global markets. Investing in Pakistan will help develop western China.

    The Pakistani alliance is particularly useful, since China can use it as a counterweight to India’s influence in the region, and controlling instability in Pakistan through investment might lessen the risk of it spilling into China. Beijing already has growing concerns of restive minorities within China and wants to minimize the likelihood of domestic instability gaining momentum from external sources.

    Despite the clear benefits the Chinese strategy seems to offer, it’s not without risk. The Financial Times pointed out that the sheer ambition of the project is part and parcel with the fragmented and often contradictory process of economic policymaking in China. How implementation goes is anyone’s guess.

    Further, Chinese inroads abroad could produce international tensions. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signaled openness to cooperating with the initiative, but it remains to be seen how far he will tolerate Chinese influence in Central Asia.

    And the countries that are part of this new Silk Route are not without significant credit risks and political risks. Local instability could undermine investment projects in countries like Pakistan, which is deploying thousands of troops to safeguard China’s investments. The private-intelligence firm Stratfor also points out that the flip side of stronger connections is that they will “provide new routes for the illicit movement of goods and people into China.” Could major Chinese cities emerge as terrorist targets, as New York, Paris and London have in recent years?

    Despite this uncertainty, it is particularly unwise to ignore the One Belt, One Road initiative. It just might shape the 21st century as much as the Marshall Plan did the 20th.


    Vikram Mansharamani is a lecturer in the Program on Ethics, Politics & Economics at Yale University and a senior fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is also the author of “Boombustology: Spotting Financial Bubbles Before They Burst” and is a regular commentator in the financial and business media.
    We'll have more on this soon.
    Gene Ching
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  5. #20
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  6. #21
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    Warming up for tomorrow

    We'll drop The Silk Road Kung Fu Friendship Tour Part 11 tomorrow. Stay tuned.

    Did the Silk Road stretch further than thought? Cloth from funerary mask in Nepal was made with materials from India and China 1,600 years ago

    Cloth was found with a gold and silver funerary mask in mountain tombs
    The cold dry air in Samdzong, Upper Mustang, had preserved the cloth
    Analysis found it contained silk from China and organic dyes from India
    It suggests the Silk Road trade route passed far further south than believed

    By RICHARD GRAY FOR MAILONLINE
    PUBLISHED: 10:43 EST, 5 April 2016 | UPDATED: 12:48 EST, 5 April 2016

    It was the route along which fine cloths, spices and riches flowed between Europe and East Asia for hundreds of years.
    But new analysis of textiles and dyes found in a tomb complex in Nepal suggests the Silk Road may have extended further south than previously believed.
    Archaeologists found a gold, silver and cloth funerary mask discovered in the Samdzong tomb complex in Nepal had been made with materials from north-east Asia between 400AD and 650AD.



    Analysis of cloth found alongside a gold and silver funerary mask (pictured left) found in the cliff-top tombs close to the village of Samdzong in Upper Mustang, Nepal, showed that it had contained materials from China and India. The cloth (pictured right) suggests the trade route extended south into Nepal in 400 to 650AD

    Dr Margarita Gleba, from the University of Cambridge's McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, found the cloth contained degummed silk fibres and Indian dyes.

    Dr Gleba said: 'There is no evidence for local silk production suggesting that Samdzong was inserted into the long-distance trade network of the Silk Road.'

    TEA LEAVES GIVE EARLIEST EVIDENCE OF THE SILK ROAD
    The world's oldest tea leaves have been discovered buried with royal treasures in the tomb of an ancient Chinese emperor who ruled more than 2,150 years ago.
    Unearthed in the tomb of Jing Emperor Liu Qi, the tea provides some of the earliest evidence for the ancient Silk Road trade route that grew to stretch across Asia from China to Europe.
    It appears Emperor Jing, who was the fourth emperor of the Western Han Dynasty, enjoyed the drink so much he wanted to be buried with a large supply of tea leaves so he could drink it in the afterlife.
    Archaeologists discovered the huge stash of tea buds – or tips - in one of the burial pits that surrounded the mausoleum built for the emperor and his wife in Xi'an, Sha'anxi Province, China.
    Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, Dr Houyuan Lu, an archaeologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, and his colleagues described also finding similar tea remains in a tomb in Tibet.
    They said this also dates to around 200AD, which is the earliest indication tea was being transported along, and traded on, what later became known as the Silk Road.
    'The data reinforce the notion that instead of being isolated and remote, Upper Mustang was once a small, but important node of a much larger network of people and places.
    'These textiles can further our understanding of the local textile materials and techniques, as well as the mechanisms through which various communities developed and adapted new textile technologies to fit local cultural and economical needs.'
    The cloth used in the funerary mask was found to contain silk but also Indian dyes such as munjeet and lac, which suggests the materials had been imported from China and India.
    The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade route that ran through central Asia connecting China to the Mediterranean Sea.
    It was initially named after the lucrative trade in Chinese silk but other precious items such as jade, gold, silver, bronze and spice were also transported initially between China and Egypt, then later to ancient Greece and Rome and eventually to Medieval Europe.
    While many sea route were opened up by sailors to transport goods, merchants crossing overland were thought to have travelled by northern and southern routes that bypassed the Takliamakan Desert in north west China.
    The northern route took several paths through Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
    The southern route ran through the Karakoram mountains that sit on the border of Pakistan, India and China.
    They merged again near Merv in Turkmenistan before continuing west to the south of the Caspian Sea.


    The researchers say their discovery suggests merchants travelling the Silk Road (shown in red) had plied their wares far further south than had been initially thought


    Alongside the funerary mask was some wool that included copper, glass and cloth beads (pictured). Analysis of this showed traces of dyes including Indian lac and munjeet alongside silk from China

    But the cloth discovered in the tombs near the village of Samdzong in the Mustang region of Nepal suggest merchants may have also extended their route further south still.
    At a height of 13,100ft (4,000 metres), the cloth was exceptionally well preserved alongside the remains of the ancient people who were buried in tombs cut into the mountainside in Samdzong.
    The man-made remains were only exposed to view in 2009 when an earthquake caused the façade of the cliff to calve off.
    One segment of cloth found in the tombs was made of wool with copper, glass and cloth beads attached to it.


    The tombs were cut into the cliff face in Upper Mustang (similar caves above a monastery in Lo Manthang, Nepal pictured) more than 13,100ft up, where the dry cold air helped to preserve the cloth

    It was found near a coffin of an adult alongside the spectacular gold and silver funerary mask.
    The mask has small pinholes around its edges, suggesting it had been sewn to a fabric and was perhaps part of a piece of decorative headwear.
    Writing in the journal Science and Technology of Archaeological Research, Dr Gleba and her colleagues explain how analysis found a range of organic dyes on the cloth.
    They said turmeric, knotweed indigo, Indian lac and munjeet were all found on the cloth along with cinnabar.
    They said: 'The results indicate that locally produced materials were used in combination with those likely imported from afar, including China and India.'


    The cloth was found in man-made caves hewn into the mountainside alongside many human remains in Samdzong, close to the border with Tibet (shown above)
    Gene Ching
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  7. #22
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    Silk Road spring ****tails

    Drink your way down the Silk Road with Pouring Ribbons' new spring ****tails
    By Dan Q. Dao
    Posted: Tuesday April 5 2016, 10:54am


    Drink your way down the Silk Road with Pouring Ribbons' new spring ****tails
    Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Last fall, the team behind East Village ****tail favorite Pouring Ribbons rejigged the bar's concept, launching the first in a series of creative ****tail menus built around specific themes. That inaugural iteration, a fall menu inspired by America's iconic Route 66, will now give way on April 13th to a springtime drinks list based on the Silk Road, that 2,000-year-old superhighway connecting China to the Mediterranean Sea.

    A collaboration between all members of the bar team, including owner-bartender Joaquín Simó, partner Shannon Tebay and head bartender Demario Wallace, the menu comprises 20 continent-traversing sips as diverse as the disparate locales they allude to. Gin lovers can try creative director Amanda Elder's Painted Veil (pictured above), fusing Chinese pu-erh tea with citrusy London dry gin, baijiu and housemade amaro in a tea pot, while whiskey fans can sip barman Sam Johnson's Bread & Circuses, spotlighting Dutch genever in a mix of Ragtime rye whiskey, toasted barley water and Lustau East India Solera sherry.

    The new hard-copy menu, brought to life by Elder, will nod to the tapestries, fabrics and textiles traded along the road with traditional patterns and materials. The bar itself will also tout thematic decor, with a colorful backdrop of silk paper fans lining the counter. See below for more photos of Pouring Ribbons' Silk-Road-inspired ****tails and head down next Wednesday to try them.


    Bread & Circuses at Pouring Ribbons
    Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz


    Prophet's Cup at Pouring Ribbons
    Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz


    Way of the Warrior at Pouring Ribbons
    Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz


    Joaquín Simó
    Photograph: Eric Medsker
    I doubt that they drank these on the Silk Road. They probably just drank fermented camel milk.
    Gene Ching
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    BBC Four's The Silk Road

    On the Silk Road with Sam Willis
    In a new BBC Four series Dr Sam Willis reveals how the Silk Road was the world's first global superhighway where people with new ideas, new cultures and new religions made exchanges that shaped humanity. Here, Willis tells BBC History Magazine’s TV editor, Jonathan Wright, about the series, about his experiences travelling to places that were once among the most connected and cosmopolitan in the world, and why we’ve got the Silk Road to thank for rhubarb crumble…

    Friday 29th April 2016Submitted by: Emma Mason


    Sam Willis’s three-part series The Silk Road airs on BBC Four on Sunday 1 May at 9pm. (BBC/Alastair McCormick)

    According to Willis, “The Silk Road cut across borders and broke down the borders in our minds”. It’s a quote that in itself does much to explain why Willis wanted to explore the route, which once linked China’s ancient capital Xian with Venice, and its history…

    Q: What was the spark for the series?

    A: I have always been interested in undertaking an enormous journey – one that would be almost too difficult to fathom – and to travel as a historian rather than as a tourist. I think that the Silk Road attracted me because of the scale of the challenge: 5,000 miles, so many cultures, so many countries, so many people, so many stories. I am also fascinated by the unknown; I like visiting places and studying parts of history that are entirely new to me.

    Q: You had a lot of ground to cover – how did you choose where to spend time?

    A: I realised early on that there were certain major building blocks that we could start with. I wanted to emphasise certain major themes: how the Silk Road transported not just goods but ideas, religion, culture, war and peace, and those themes dictated certain locations.

    I also wanted to experience the full range of climate – from the hottest desert on earth (in Iran) to the snow-covered mountains of Tajikistan. My favourite place was an extraordinary desert in central China that was like the moon. It was full of grey stones about the size of golf balls.


    Dr Sam Willis in China. (BBC/Alastair McCormick)

    Q: Perhaps we don’t always realise how connected our forebears were. Did making the journey give you any insights into this?

    A: The one major theme that comes out of the programme and of my personal experience is one of connection – and the flip side of that is how isolated we Europeans seem to have been. The countries of central Asia were most aware of what was happening everywhere because of the constant influence of trade, and people coming from both east and west. Above all, the Iranians were and certainly still are most conscious – and proud – of this. They felt as if they were in the centre of the world.

    Q: What was it like visiting Iran?

    A: It is staggeringly beautiful and the people are so fascinated in their own history and place in the world. They were polite, kind, thoughtful, generous, interested, interesting, charming and funny. They found the idea of a western film crew quite bewildering. “Where are you from?” they would all ask in mild astonishment. The answer, Glasgow (the programme was commissioned out of BBC Arts in Scotland), then confused them even more. I would urge you all to go.

    We were there on the day that the sanctions were lifted and there was a tangible sense of excitement and promise, and if I know one thing now it is that the Iranians are endlessly resourceful. They will now make that country even more magical than the bones of it already are.

    Q: How difficult was it to get all the necessary permissions to film?

    A: This was very difficult. Iran, Uzbekistan and China are three of the most difficult countries for any film crew to access but we stuck to our guns and the gamble paid off. There were one or two major hiccups, not least when we spent a week filming in Tajikistan and were waiting to receive our visas for Uzbekistan, which never arrived. We had no choice but to fly home, with a massive hole in our documentary and very low morale.

    Fortunately, a number of weeks later the permissions came through and we made it to Uzbekistan, which meant that we could visit the iconic Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva – places that changed the world as we know it.

    Q: Was there a favourite moment during filming?

    A: An extraordinary experience was visiting a very remote valley in Tajikistan, the Yaghnob Valley, which is populated by a tribe of people who are related to the Sogdians, who once dominated the Silk Road trade of central Asia but were dominated by countless invading armies and forced to hide in the mountains. These folk – and there are very few of them indeed – still speak Sogdian. To hear them speak is to hear history at least 2,000 years old. It sent a shiver up my spine because the language is dying.


    Dr Sam Willis with a Yaghnob family. (BBC/Alastair McCormick)

    Q: What other themes does the shows throw up?

    A: I like one of the simplest of all examples of the power of the Silk Road. In Venice, on the corner of a house overlooking a canal, is a statue of a man carrying a bag of rhubarb on his back. He is a rhubarb merchant, but rhubarb comes from China. So, although the Silk Road helped spread such world-defining ideas as algebra, paper, printing and gunpowder, it also spread rhubarb: no Silk Road, my friends, no rhubarb crumble.

    Sam Willis’s three-part series The Silk Road airs on BBC Four on Sunday 1 May at 9pm.
    This looks promising.
    Gene Ching
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    Wow! I had missed all the posts from April that I was unaware of... have to catch up on some reading ! Ultra-Cool Thread !

  12. #27
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    Glad your into it, PS

    To be honest, I started this for Greg's articles. He proposed The Silk Road Kung Fu Friendship Tour, which he funded himself, in exchange for LORs to get him into the interviews he secured.

    China's bold gambit to cement trade with Europe--along the ancient Silk Road


    A cargo train bound for Germany waits in Zhengzhou, China. China's leadership envisions a "New Silk Road" of global economic expansion with such train routes. (New China News Agency)

    Julie Makinen and Violet Law

    From his office on a bend of the Rhine River, freight terminal boss Bernd Putens can see — and hear — the early stirrings of what China calls the New Silk Road.

    The clang-clang of forklifts echoes through his building as 42 containers of cargo are unloaded at the Duisburg Intermodal Terminal, part of the world's largest inland port.

    The containers have just arrived on a train from Changsha, China, filled with electronics and other consumer goods, and will return carrying Land Rovers and other European products.

    They represent a bold effort by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to extend his country's economic and political clout.

    Until four years ago, there was no regular rail service linking China and Germany, and for good reason.

    The tracks existed, but at nearly 7,000 miles, the distance is longer than a round trip between Los Angeles and Boston, and trains must switch gauges — a laborious, time-consuming process — as they pass from China into Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland. Trains are twice as fast as sea shipment yet twice as expensive, so rail makes sense only for high-value products or goods with short shelf lives.

    But two millenniums after traders began ferrying gems, precious metals, fabrics and spices on arduous overland routes linking the Far East with Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, China believes the time is nigh for a modern Silk Road. Leaders in Beijing envision a 21st century version of the path trod by the likes of Marco Polo, starting with locomotives but quickly expanding to encompass roads, pipelines and other infrastructure.

    By physically linking itself more tightly with Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, China is aiming to create new markets as growth slows at home while deepening Beijing's influence across Asia and as far away as the Middle East and Europe.

    The effort is at the center of Xi's signature political and economic policy initiative, called the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

    For two years, Xi has been talking up the sweeping strategy — known collectively as One Belt, One Road, or OBOR — on his frequent trips abroad, while lining up financing plans at home and enlisting the participation of state-run and private companies.

    With its expansive ambition, some observers have compared China's grand new endeavor to America's Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II, a game-changing effort that revolutionized trade and recast many long-standing relationships.

    It is expected to cost even more than the Marshall Plan, for which the United States spent the equivalent of slightly more than $100 billion in today's money.

    "With these initiatives, Beijing, and more particularly, the Chinese Communist Party, seeks to reinforce the emerging global narrative that China is moving to the center of global economic activity, strength and influence," Christopher K. Johnson of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a recent paper analyzing One Belt, One Road.

    Markus Taube, a professor of East Asian economic studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen, believes the initiative "will strengthen China's economic and diplomatic leverage in Europe and provide a political and diplomatic counterweight against the U.S."

    "The more I think about [the strategy], the more it makes sense," he said.

    But others are more skeptical, saying China's lofty language around One Belt, One Road masks myriad questions about how much money will be spent on the project and where, and who will benefit.

    "It's generated a lot of buzz, but no one is quite sure what it actually means," said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

    China's government has set up a $40-billion fund to promote private investment in One Belt, One Road initiatives and is encouraging state-run banks to make loans for projects including power plants, ports, pipelines and railways — to be built overseas, in many cases, by Chinese companies. The Bank of China has announced plans to fund $120 billion of those projects from 2015 to 2019.

    In January, the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank officially opened its doors, and the multinational institution is expected to finance tens of billions of dollars' worth of projects that fall under the One Belt, One Road umbrella.

    Chinese firms, eager to avail themselves of government financial incentives and align themselves with a key Communist Party priority, are scrambling to get on board and show they're embracing One Belt, One Road.

    Although massive ground-up infrastructure projects will take years to come to fruition, the ripple effects of the strategy are already being felt in places like Duisburg.

    Xi visited the German city in 2014 to tout the rail project, and since then, interest in China-to-Germany freight has surged. Now Duisburg is receiving one train every day from China, including three to five a week from Chongqing, two a week from Wuhan and one a week from Changsha. There are also weekly trains to Hamburg from Wuhan and Zhengzhou.

    "Now it seems every [Chinese] city wants to send its own train," Putens said.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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  13. #28
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    Continued from previous post

    ::

    Germany is not the only country welcoming new rail service from the Middle Kingdom. In February, the first train to connect China with Iran arrived in Tehran after traveling 5,900 miles through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The 39-wagon train carried $600,000 worth of clothing, shoes and bags.

    China has also pioneered a 16,000-mile round trip between the cities of Yiwu and Madrid. The 82-car train left China full of Christmas decorations, crafts and trinkets, arriving in Spain just before Christmas 2014. The train returned to Yiwu last year hauling olive oil.

    Although the train that arrived in Iran originated from China's eastern province of Zhejiang, Chinese officials believe land-locked western Chinese cities such as Urumqi — which is closer to Iran than to Shanghai — could benefit even more substantially from rail links through Central Asia. In that sense, One Belt, One Road is intended to correct an economic imbalance within China, helping goose the development of the nation's western regions, which lag far behind their coastal cousins.

    Although the arrivals of the first locomotives in places like Iran and Spain have been greeted with much fanfare, it's not clear if they can blossom into vibrant transportation links and significantly boost trade.

    Homayoun Jahani, an executive of the Iranian transportation company Pers, which was involved in arranging the train, said the 14-day journey to Tehran proved the train was a "reliable vehicle" and said plans were already underway to begin monthly service to the port of Bushehr.

    But Masoud Daneshmand of the Iran-UAE Chamber of Commerce, said it was "far from being a viable, hustling and bustling railroad."

    In Duisburg, port spokesman Julian Boecker said operations have grown increasingly smooth since the first test train from Chongqing in 2011. One-way travel time, which took 18 days at first, now averages 11 to 13 days. Putens said customs clearance in Duisburg has been shortened from two days to two hours.

    "As we gained experience in cooperation, efficiency improved," said Boecker, especially in areas such as gauge changes. (While Europe and China have the same gauge width for their tracks, all former Soviet states have wider gauges, so trains have to be adjusted at those borders.) But with the trains now running at 600 miles per day, "it's reaching the limit."

    One problem in Germany is that while there are plenty of Chinese goods coming in, finding enough cargo to ship back out hasn't been easy. Empty containers from China are piling up. Port managers are planning to rent a five-acre plot to hold about 2,000 of the metal boxes while Chinese shipping firms figure out how to handle them.

    Some do go back full. In addition to Land Rovers, China-bound containers have been packed with Porsches, Audis, auto parts from Ford and Volkswagen plants, steel coils, specialized machinery and milk powder. (Jaded by food safety scandals, Chinese consumers pay handsomely for imported dairy products.)

    Putens said his Chinese counterparts had recently requested refrigerated transportation for European wines.

    Despite the growth, China rail freight accounted for less than 1% of all cargo handled at Duisburg last year. That's small, said Boecker, but "it is an important symbolic value."

    The challenge now is to find better balance between inbound and outbound cargo, and to see if the line can sustain itself without government aid.

    "There's economic interest on all sides to keep this rail route alive," said Boecker.

    ::

    Taube, the professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen, said that for China, the initial volume of trade by rail isn't as crucial as the opportunities it opens up for economic development — and greater political clout — along the route.

    "The rail links are the skeletons, but the important flesh will be the industrialization zones along the tracks," he said.

    The long-term vision, he believes, is for China to bring manufacturing to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries as labor in China gets more expensive; at the same time, Beijing can build up its economic and diplomatic sphere of influence.

    Tom Miller, a China expert with Gavekal Dragonomics, said developing transportation links through Central Asia will give China greater access to natural resources in the region, including oil. Diversifying China's sources of energy and the transportation routes will also make China feel more secure, he said.

    Just weeks before the arrival of the train in Tehran, Xi became the first Chinese leader to visit Iran in 14 years, signing treaties on judicial, commercial and civil matters and pledging to boost trade — which stood at $52 billion in 2014 — to $600 billion a year over the next 10 years.

    China has announced similar headline-grabbing contract deals in countries including Pakistan and Kazakhstan.

    Beyond securing more oil and other resources, Miller said China wants to use One Belt, One Road to boost trade with its western provinces and develop their local economies. And Beijing may be hoping to find new customers for some of its excess steel, cement, heavy equipment and rolling stock, among other things.

    China's economy has been slowing, with growth dropping in 2015 to 6.9%, its lowest in several decades.

    David Kelly, director of research at the Beijing-based consultancy China Policy, said the envisioned projects of One Belt, One Road are too big and would take too much time to provide any sudden economic benefits for China.

    The strategy "is not going to yield strong returns on investment for many years," he said.

    Still, unlike many of China's earlier "going out" initiatives that saw Chinese firms encounter friction as they ventured to places such as Africa and South America in search of natural resources, One Belt, One Road is being approached with a greater degree of sophistication and patience, Kelly believes.

    "A lot of these ventures will be successful," he predicted. "There's already a smarter feel to a lot of the proposals."

    julie.makinen@latimes.com

    Times staff writer Makinen reported from Beijing and special correspondent Law from Duisburg. Special correspondent Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran contributed to this report.
    I'm glad Greg brought the Silk Road to our attention as it is once again a global frontier. Quite topical in the world view.
    Gene Ching
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  14. #29
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    Lucky 13

    Gene Ching
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  15. #30
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    2,000-year-old personal hygiene sticks

    Cambridge University: Parasites hitch ride down Silk Road


    2,000-year-old personal hygiene sticks with remains of cloth, excavated from the latrine at Xuanquanzhi. Photo: Hui-Yuan Yeh.

    PARIS (AFP).- Merchants plying the ancient Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean moved more than gold, fabrics, spices and tea -- they also exported gut parasites, researchers said Friday.

    It has long been theorised that the Silk Road helped spread bubonic plague, leprosy, anthrax and other infectious diseases between East Asia, the Middle East and Europe -- though concrete archaeological evidence has been scant.

    But now analysis of the contents of an ancient latrine along the route has revealed evidence that traders 2,000 years ago did indeed spread disease.

    The team from Britain and China examined faeces preserved on wood and bamboo sticks wrapped in cloth -- the toilet paper of their day -- that were excavated in 1992 at the Xuanquanzhi pit stop in north-west China.

    Unearthed from a latrine dating back to 111 BC, during China's Han Dynasty, and which was still in use in 109 AD, seven samples yielded eggs from four types of parasite: roundworm, whipworm, tapeworm and Chinese liver fluke, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

    The fluke, a parasite that causes pain, diarrhoea, jaundice and liver cancer, needs wet, marshy areas to complete a life cycle, whereas Dunhuang is in an arid area on the edge of the desert.

    "The liver fluke could not have been endemic in this dry region," said a statement from Cambridge University, whose researchers took part in the study.

    "In fact, based on the current prevalence of the Chinese liver fluke, it's closest endemic area to the latrine's location in Dunhuang (in north-west China) is around 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) away, and the species is most common in Guandong Province -- some 2,000 km from Dunhuang."

    Xuanquanzhi in Dunhuang was a popular stopping place for merchants, explorers, soldiers and government officials.

    "Finding evidence for this species (liver fluke) in the latrine indicates that a traveller had come here from a region of China with plenty of water, where the parasite was endemic," said study co-author Piers Mitchell.

    "This proves for the first time that travellers along the Silk Road really were responsible for the spread of infectious disease along this route in the past."

    The Silk Road is so called for perhaps the most famous commodity that crossed its inter-connected network of trade routes criss-crossing Eurasia.
    Not to be too crass, but how the heck do you wipe your ass with that?

    Gene Ching
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