Silk Road Trade & Travel Encyclopedia

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

Xuan Zang (Hsuan-tsang)
(c. 600 CE) Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar and translator of the Tang Dynasty who travelled across the Tarim basin via the northern route to Turfan, Kucha, Tashkent, Samarkand, Bactria, then over the Kindu Kush to India. He returned via the southern route and spent the remainder of his life translating sutras into Chinese. His travel and story became legends which were used in plays and novels, such as Wu Ch'eng-en's famous novel in the 16th century. Xuan Zang had stayed in Turpan for sometime on his pilgrimage to India, and preached sermons at Shengjinkou, Jiaohe, Gaochang, Tuyugou and the Thousand Buddha Caves. More...

Zanzibar The term "Spice Islands" has been used to refer to islands known for their spice production in the Zanzibar Archipelago off East Africa. A number of these islands were formerly part of Zanzibar, but now form a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania. It should be noted that the "Spice Islands" most commonly refers to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, once the only source of mace and nutmeg. These islands of Indonesia are situated along important sea routes which were active in the lucrative spice trade that led to the Spice Wars between the European maritime powers after the 16th century. (See Moluccas Islands)

Zeugma an ancient settlement, and now a small town in southern Turkey, called Samandağ in Hatay Province, at the mouth of the Orontes River on the Mediterranean coast, near Turkey's border with Syria and 25 km from the city of Antakya. Samandağ lies near the site of the ancient Seleucia Pieria, founded in 300 BC by Seleucus Nicator a general of Alexander the Great, in the Seleucid era that followed Alexander's demise. Seleucia Pieria became a major Mediterranean port of the Hellenistic and Roman eras. But it was subject to silting and an earthquake in 526, leading to its demise as a port. Samandağ, then called St Symeon, became the medieval port of Antioch, and played an important role in the capture of the city by the Crusaders in 1098. Control of St Symeon was important to the capture of Antioch by the Crusaders at the end of the eleventh century. In November 1097, the Crusaders besieging Antioch were heartened by the appearance of reinforcements in a Genoese squadron at St Symeon, which they were then able to capture. In March 1098, a fleet said to be commanded by the exiled claimant to the English throne, sailed into St Symeon with siege materials from Constantinople. Another raid by the Turkish defenders of Antioch seized the materials from the Crusaders, but the Crusaders successfully counter-attacked.

At the start of the Crusader period St Symeon was only a local port, but in the second half of the twelfth century Nur ed-Din, and later Saladin, brought order to Moslem Syria, reviving its prosperity and opening it as a trade route to Iraq and the Far East. St Symeon shared in the prosperity as one of the ports used by the merchants of Aleppo until the Mongol conquests of the thirteenth century resulted in a movement of trade routes to the north. In 1268 a Mameluk army under Baibars captured St Symeon.

Zhangye is in the center of the Hexi Corridor. The area was the frontier for much of China's history, forming a natural passage to the Central Asian portion of the empire. In fact, the name Zhangye ("to extend the arm") is an abbreviation of 国臂,以通西域 (lit. To extend the arm of the country, through to the Western Realm). During the Western Han dynasty, Chinese armies were often engaged against the Xiongnu in this area. It was also an important section of the Silk Road. The city was formerly known as Ganzhou (甘州), a name retained both in the municipal region seat Ganzhou District and the Gan of the province of Gansu. In The Travels of Marco Polo, Marco Polo describes spending a year in a city called Campichu, which has been identified with Ganzhou (Zhangye).

The Western Regions or Xiyu (Chinese: 西域; pinyin: Xīy) was a historical name specified in the Chinese chronicles between the 3rd century BC to 8th century AD that referred to the regions west of Jade Gate, most often Central Asia or sometimes more specifically the easternmost portion of it (the Tarim Basin). More generally, the Indian subcontinent and Middle East were also considered Western Regions. Because of its strategic location astride the Silk Road, the Western Regions have been historically significant since at least the 3rd century BC. It was the scene of conflict between the Han Dynasty and the Xiongnu Huns until the middle of the 2nd century. In the 6th century the Tang Dynasty took control over this area until the An Lushan Rebellion. The region became significant in later centuries as a cultural conductor between East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Islamic world and Europe. One of the most significant exports of the Western Regions was Buddhism, which was carried by traders and pilgrim monks to China. The Tang Dynasty monk Xuanzang crossed the region on his way to study in India, penning the classic Great Tang Records of the Western Regions upon his return to the Tang capital Chang'an. In the 18th century, the Qing Dynasty conquered part of this region and put it under military administration. In 1884, the region was established as a province under the name Xinjiang. See History of Turkistan

Zheng He (Chinese Traditional: 鄭和; Chinese Simplified: 郑和; Hanyu Pinyin: Zhng H; Wade-Giles: Cheng Ho; Turkish: Cınğ Hı; Arabic: حجّي محمود شمس Hacı Mahmud Shams) was admiral of the imperial Ming navy and led one of the most powerful naval forces ever assembled. As the greatest seafarer in China's history, Zheng He led seven ocean expeditions for the Ming emperor during the 15th century. The unsurpassed voyages of the imperial fleet, from China to Africa, reflect the peak of naval technology in China. 

Zheng He began is life in southwest China where he was born Ma He to a Muslim family, the son of a rural official in the Mongol province of Yunnan. He was taken captive when an invading Chinese army overthrew the Mongols in 1382, and was sent to serve in the household of Zhu Di, the Prince of Yan, who later became the Yongle Emperor. Zheng He spent his early life as a soldier on the northern frontier and participated in Zhu Di's military campaigns against the Mongols.

Between 1405 and 1433 Zheng He commanded the Ming dynasty's fleet of immense trading vessels on expeditions as far west as Africa. These missions were unequaled not only due to their distance, but also due to the size of the ships and fleet. During the first expedition, Zheng He traveled from China to Southeast Asia and then on to India, as far as major trading areas along India's southwest coast. In his fourth voyage, he traveled to the Persian Gulf. During the three last voyages, Zheng He went even further to the east coast of Africa. Chinese merchants had previously traveled such distances, however what was most impressive about these voyages was that they were done with hundreds of immense ships and tens of thousands of sailors, passengers and valuable cargo. Over sixty of the three hundred seventeen ships on the first voyage were enormous "Treasure Ships." According to some accounts these sailing vessels were over 400 hundred feet long, 160 feet wide, with several stories, nine masts and twelve sails, with luxurious staterooms and balconies. Comparable ships had never before been seen in the world, and it would not be until World War I that such an armada would be assembled again. Although Zheng He was an outstanding historic figure in the 4,000-year annals of China, the account of how these flotillas came to be assembled, the routes they took, and what happened to them is one of the great puzzles in world history and involves a 10,000-mile search of his legacy. This great navigator's tomb, designed with a mix of Chinese Puhaddin (Puhading) and Middle Eastern traditional style, rests in Nanjing at the foot of Niushou Mountain.  More...

Guan Zhong
(c. 720-645 BC) The first known reference to the nomadic Yuezhi was made in 645 BC by the Chinese politician and statesman Guan Zhong, who wrote that the Yuezhi supplied jade from the Tarim Basin to the Chinese. The nomadic tribes of the Yuezhi are also documented in detail in Chinese historical accounts, in particular the 2nd-1st century BC "Records of the Great Historian," or Shiji, by Sima Qian. More...

King Mu of Zhou
(See Wang)

Xuan Zhuang
In the seventh century, the Chinese traveler Xuan Zhuang crossed the Silk Routes on his way to obtain Buddhist scriptures from India. He followed the northern branch round the Taklimakan on his outward journey, and the southern route on his return to China. He carefully recorded cultures and forms of Buddhism along the way. On his return to the Tang capital at Changan, he was permitted to build the `Great Goose Pagoda' in order to house the more than 600 scriptures that he had brought back from India. He is still seen by the Chinese as an important influence in the development of Buddhism in China.

Zoroastrianism Well before the 6th century CE, Zoroastrianism had spread to northern China via the Silk Road, gaining official status in a number of Chinese states. Remains of Zoroastrian temples have been found in Kaifeng and Zhenjiang. By the 13th century, the religion had faded from prominence in China. However, scholars continue to study how Zoroastrianism (as well as Manicheism) may have had impacts on Buddhism.  More...

Behistun Inscription, Iran.

Silk | Ipek