Did you know?: Khwarazm Region and the Silk Roads

City walls of the ancient city of Khiva © Mehmet O / Shutterstock.com

Situated at the crossroads of the caravan routes, Khwarazm region in modern Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan participated in the cultural exchanges and interactions that existed in the Silk Roads. Khwarazm had an important role, notably through its cities founded in the Antiquity along the major trade roads.

Between the 3rd and 8th centuries CE, Khwarazm region experienced many political changes due to the circumstances of these times. After the decline of the Kushan Empire, Khwarazm region witnessed issues between diverse rulings such as the Hephthalites, or the Sasanians, until the arrival of the Arabs at the end of the 7th century. In response to these political and social changes, Khwarazm society and culture always adapted and developed along the centuries, maintaining its crucial position within the trade roads.

Khwarazmian traders had a significant part in the socio-economic life of Khwarazm and were essential to the passage of trade across Central Asia in the early Middle Ages. In “T’ang Shu” (Annals of the Tang Dynasty), the Chinese writer narrates the journey of the Khwarazmian merchants who travelled to distant regions with their drawn carts carried by bulls. This mode of transportation is believed to be a special characteristic of Khwarazm region.

From the 4th to 8th century trading relations with the regions of the Aral Sea, the Northwest Caspian Sea area, the Volga, and Ural regions were significant for the economy of Khwarazm. Consequently, commerce with these northern regions also influenced Khwarazmian culture, an influence that was displayed through the interior designs of the houses for example, or the forms and decorations of ceramics. Khwarazmian culture was the result of the historical and cultural interactions between the dominant traditional local features, and the cultural elements brought by Khwarazm merchants and the foreign populations through trade.

Besides trade, sciences had also an important role in Khwarazm region, especially thanks to scholars such as Al-Khwarizmi (8th-9th centuries) from the city of Khiva, known for his remarkable works on mathematics (especially algebra), geography, astrology, and astronomy. Al-Khwarizmi remains an outstanding example of the scientists who travelled along the Silk Roads from Khiva to Baghdad; or Al-Biruni (973-1048), who compiled data about the Khwarazmian calendar. Based on oral information ancient traditions, and historical literature his work “Chronology of Ancient Nations” (“Kitab al-athar al-baqiya”) remains the most precise record of the ancient Khwarazmian calendar. Al-Biruni is also well-known for his works in astronomy and astrology, where he reviewed the different theories existing along the Silk Roads to make great advances in this field.

Despite the diverse political movements that occurred, Khwarazm region preserved its unique character, identity, and pursued its development. Nevertheless, Khwarazm cultural wealth also comes from the integration to its traditions of other influences resulting from various foreign artistic evolutions and standards that existed then along the Silk Roads.


See also:

Quanzhou – The Heart of the Maritime Silk Roads

Mongolian Nomadism along the Silk Roads

The Spread of Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia through the Trade Routes

Sayyid Bin Abu Ali, a True Representative of Intercultural Relations along the Maritime Silk Roads

Thailand and the Maritime Silk Roads

Greek Presence in Central Asia

The Central Asian Maritime Silk Routes

Izmir and the Silk Roads

Baghdad and the Silk Roads

The Old City of Sana’a

Mapping and Compilation of the World Maps along the Silk Roads


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