Thursday, February 1, 2018

Carpe Diem #1361 Chang'an (Northern Route)

[...] "After the usual time of the exercise in meditation had passed, Govinda rose. The evening had come, it was time to perform the evening's ablution. He called Siddhartha's name. Siddhartha did not answer. Siddhartha sat there lost in thought, his eyes were rigidly focused towards a very distant target, the tip of his tongue was protruding a little between the teeth, he seemed not to breathe. Thus sat he, wrapped up in contemplation, thinking Om, his soul sent after the Brahman as an arrow." [...]
(Source: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

After doing my morning excercise, the greeting of the sun, a yoga-salutation, I decided to create this new episode. After my meditation I thought that we are going to follow the Chinese "Silk Road" around the "Taklamakan Desert". The Chinese had a "northern route" and a "southern route" and those "trails" we will follow the upcoming days. We will visit places along those "trails" and I hope to tell you something about those places. Today we will start at Chang'an (nowadays Xi'an) for our first halting place (or caravanserai).

the first day
after salutating the early morning light
birds point the way

© Chèvrefeuille

The northern route started at Chang'an (now called Xi'an), an ancient capital of China that was moved further east during the Later Han to Luoyang. The route was defined around the 1st century BCE when Han Wudi put an end to harassment by nomadic tribes.

The northern route travelled northwest through the Chinese province of Gansu from Shaanxi Province and split into three further routes, two of them following the mountain ranges to the north and south of the Taklamakan Desert to rejoin at Kashgar, and the other going north of the Tian Shan mountains through Turpan, Talgar, and Almaty (in what is now southeast Kazakhstan). The routes split again west of Kashgar, with a southern branch heading down the Alai Valley towards Termez (in modern Uzbekistan) and Balkh (Afghanistan), while the other travelled through Kokand in the Fergana Valley (in present-day eastern Uzbekistan) and then west across the Karakum Desert. Both routes joined the main southern route before reaching ancient Merv, Turkmenistan. Another branch of the northern route turned northwest past the Aral Sea and north of the Caspian Sea, then and on to the Black Sea.

Chang'an Great Wild Goose Pagoda

Along this part of the Silk Road many goods were brought to China for example, dates, saffron powder, sandelwood, glass bottles and myrrh. In return the Chinese brought porcelain and silk brocade back along the Silk Road to the countries of origine of the trading goods as there were India and Persia.

In a way you can see this whole structure of trading trails as the Internet nowadays. Maybe you can say that the Internet is our modern Silk Road, but that's not always very clear, because there has been a time (and maybe it's still so) that the "modern silk road" was used for trading / smuggling drugs and weapons. That kind of "modern silk road" doesn't exist anymore on the easy to "travel" Internet as we use daily. That "modern silk road" is now hidden on the so called "deep web" or "dark web", the criminal part of the Internet. That part of the Internet I am not familiar with and I hope to stay far from that part this month.

Let me tell you a little bit more about Chang'an:

Chang'an was an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese since it was a capital that was repeatedly used by new Chinese rulers. During the short-lived Xin dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace"; yet after its fall in AD 23, the old name was restored. By the time of the Ming dynasty, a new walled city named Xi'an, meaning "Western Peace", was built at the Sui and Tang Dynasty city's site, which has remained its name to the present day.

Chang'an had been settled since Neolithic times, during which the Yangshao Culture was established in Banpo in the city's suburb. Also in the northern vicinity of the modern Xi'an, Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty held his imperial court, and constructed his massive mausoleum guarded by the famed Terracotta Army.

The Terracotta Army (wikimedia-image)

From its capital at Xianyang, the Qin dynasty ruled a larger area than either of the preceding dynasties. The imperial city of Chang'an during the Han dynasty was located northwest of today's Xi'an. During the Tang dynasty, the area to be known as Chang'an included the area inside the Ming Xi'an fortification, plus some small areas to its east and west, and a major part of its southern suburbs. The Tang Chang'an hence, was 8 times the size of the Ming Xi'an, which was reconstructed upon the premise of the former imperial quarter of the Sui and Tang city. During its heyday, Chang'an was one of the largest and most populous cities in the world. Around AD 750, Chang'an was called a "million people's city".

The Han dynasty, as metioned above, is also the "founder" of the "Silk Road". They created it to open the Chinese borders to the outside world for trading purposes ... Without the establishing of the Silk Road by the Han dynasty, there wouldn't be a "Silk Road".

entering the city
the sweet perfume of spices
mouth watering

© Chèvrefeuille

Nature around Chang'an (painting by unknown Chinese painter)

high above the silk road
pine woods stretch against the mountains
breath taking

© Chèvrefeuille

A wonderful start of this journey Along The Silk Road I think ... I hope I have inspired you to create Japanese poetry and of course hope to see you again tomorrow. For now ... have a nice day full of inspiration.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7:00 PM (CET) and will remain open until February 8th at noon (CET). I will try to publish oiur new episode, a new weekend meditation, later on.

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