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  • CHINESE-IRANIAN RELATIONS i. In Pre-Islamic Times?
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Remnants of the Sasanian royal family and nobility sought aid and refuge at the Tang court, but to no avail. Between and , many Iranian artisans, having lost their aristocratic patronage, must have migrated eastward to Sogdiana, Tokharistan, Xinjiang, and ultimately China. Due to such events it is difficult to specifically identify the origins of the complex crosscurrents of stylistic influence that swept over early Tang China.

Silver vessels had come to China through trade from the Han Era onward.

Iranians in China - Wikipedia

Sima Qian, the great historian of the Eastern Han era, noted that the inhabitants of Dayuan Ferghana turned all the Han gold and silver they could get into vessels and used them as currency by weight, a practice well-known in ancient Iranian culture Watson, , p. Silver vessels became popular early in the Tang Dynasty due, not only to the flood of imported goods, but to the growing Chinese taste for exotic luxuries that flourished with newly prosperous times. Sogdians in great numbers, together with other peoples of Iranian heritage, settled permanently in China in the 6th and 7th centuries, bringing their treasured silver with them.


  • CHINESE-IRANIAN RELATIONS xiv. The Influence of Eastern Iranian Art?
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Immigrant silversmiths and native Chinese artisans mutually influenced one another in their output. Under a Tang dynasty aesthetic, however, shape and ornamentation were gradually assimilated into a newly created Chinese silverwork idiom often only vaguely reminiscent of its prototypes Grabar, , pp. Silk brocades of Iranian and Central Asian origin became highly fashionable in China during the same era.

Iranians in China

Silk weaving was known in the oasis kingdoms of Xinjiang from the 5th century, and the brocades of Samarkand are mentioned in the Sui Annals vol. Prior to , finely woven silk brocades with pearl roundels encircling a variety of single elements must have come to China primarily from Sasanian Persia.

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A diaspora of silk weavers from Iran after no doubt vastly enriched both Sogdian and Xinjiang workshops, where a variety of brocade designs continued to be made in similar style. From the Tarim Basin to China the exotic style of silk weaving flourished. Iranian-inspired silk brocades became articles of fashionable luxury during the Tang Dynasty, and can be seen depicted here PLATE 4 as the robe of a Buddhist deity at Dunhuang Akiyama and Matsubara, , pp.

One luxury item from the West that China prized highly was glassware, especially bowls, cups, and flasks, beginning with imports from Roman Syria. Since the Chinese had no knowledge of glassblowing technology, glass was considered to be some sort of natural material like jade or crystal An Jaiyao, , pp. The earliest Sasanian glass vessel, a hemispherical bowl with pointed bosses comes from a Western Jin tomb dated CE.

Later during the Northern Wei fine, faceted Sasanian glass bowls have been excavated from tombs in Jiangsu and Datong. Although the Chinese had made small objects of molded glass, it seems probable that the technology of glassblowing was introduced to China by Bactrian artisans brought to the Northern Wei court at Datong, although the Chinese manufacture of blown glass did not begin to expand until the mid-seventh century.

Sasanian glass continued to be imported from the Sui into the early Tang eras and was considered to be of great value. Shortly afterward a court Tang favorite of Sogdian origin with the Chinese name of An Lushan fomented a rebellion that almost destroyed the dynasty. After these setbacks China began to turn inward. The Uighur Turks who were brought in to help quell the rebellion against the Tang became protectors of ethnic Persians and Sogdians in China until , when their own empire was destroyed by the Kirgiz.

Difficulties ensued for all communities of alien heritage, especially during a persecution of foreign religions between and Gradually, all peoples of Iranian heritage in China lost their cultural identity. Sogdian trade continued by sea on the southern routes, but by the time of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty it had ceased. Nevertheless, an indelible Iranian imprint remained in Chinese art, music, and dance, primarily through the Sogdian vehicle. The Uighur Turks adapted their initial script from Sogdian, which itself was originally derived from Syriac. The Uighurs passed on much of their alphabet to the Mongols.

The Manchu, who were founders of the Qing dynasty , adopted a modified version of the same alphabet. Matsubara, Arts of China: Buddhist Cave Temples, tr. Lerner, Turnhout, , pp. Dawn of a Golden Age AD, ed. Monks, Warriors and Merchants on the Silk Road, tr. Loveday, New York, Huyse, Paris, , pp.

Lawton, Princeton, , pp. Dawn , a, pp. Stein at a post on the Chinese northwestern frontier near Tun-huang Dun-huang has provided striking evidence of Sogdian preeminence at an early date. The letters turned out to have been written by Sogdian merchants to their home bases See ancient letters. Beside personal news of family and friends, the letters include information about the latest commodity prices and rates of exchange for silver, as well as about difficulties in postal communications. One of them also tells of recent sensational events in China: Harmatta argued, on the contrary, that the report corresponds better to events of the years , during the civil wars at the end of Eastern Han.

His specific dating to the year depends, however, on a highly questionable interpretation of the date formula at the end of the letter, and the new identifications of place names that he proposed are also in doubt. Although silk was the most important commodity in the trade between China and the west, many other products were also exchanged.

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The Sogdian letters mention, in addition to various kinds of silk, textiles of hemp, blankets or carpets, perfumes, musk, rice wine, camphor, fragrant resins, drugs, and similar items Harmatta, , p. The many western products, especially plants, that were introduced to China from Iran or through Iranian intermediaries were the subject of a classic study by Berthold Laufer Sino-Iranica. Sogdians who settled in China or had dealings with China are recognizable from the characteristic Chinese surnames that they adopted.

An was originally an abbreviation of An-hsi i. There was a great vogue, especially in the first half of the eighth century, for Iranian objects and customs of all kinds: Sogdians among the nomads. At least two of the typical Sogdian surnames were already found among the Chieh or Chieh-hu who participated in the barbarian uprisings of the 4th century. The Iranians present among the subject peoples of the Hsiung-nu who settled in Han China must have been slaves taken by the nomads through conquest, but it is not clear whether at this early date there was already a desire to make use of the skills of oasis dwellers in order to profit from the trade between China and the west.

Nor is it clear whether these Iranians maintained contact with their original homeland or with the Sogdian merchants who came to China independently, seeking profits, or whether the Sogdian merchants themselves sought to influence their nomadic overlords to protect the trade routes. Soon after the Turkish overthrow of the Hephthalites a Sogdian named Maniach was sent first to Persia and then to Byzantium to open up the silk trade, and other Sogdians played a prominent role in diplomatic relations between the Turks and the Chinese Chavannes, , pp.

The Sogdian component among the northern Turks did not disappear after this event. This name continued to refer to the descendants of these Sogdians for the next hundred years, long after the specific administrative unit had disappeared. An Lu-shan, who rose through service in the Chinese army to become military governor of a large sector of the northern frontier and in led a revolt that nearly overthrew the dynasty Pulleyblank, , passim , was the son of a Sogdian father and a Turkish mother and probably came from this group.

Encyclopædia Iranica

The descendants of the Hu of the Six Prefectures can be traced even later in history Pulleyblank, , pp. It must be acknowledged that in the long history of the Hu of the Six Prefectures there is little evidence of direct connections with their Sogdian homeland or with mercantile activities. Living in the grasslands of the northern Chinese frontier, they seem to have adopted the way of life of their Turkish neighbors, with whom they frequently intermarried, and it is as mounted warriors that they are usually mentioned in the sources.

Persians in the China sea trade. Persia is not mentioned directly in these sporadic early Chinese references to sea trade with the west. In the 5th and 6th centuries, for which evidence of regular commerce via the south China Sea is more abundant, Persian goods played a major role, and the epithet Po-ssu Persian was even sometimes applied to non-Persian products that came to China from the west. Opinions have differed, however, about whether or to what extent Persian traders came to Chinese ports Wang, pp. Iranians and religion in China: In the 2nd century c.

Lying directly on the path between East Asia and Western Europe, the Central Asian states will be key to the success of the belt and road initiative. Get updates directly to your inbox. Uzbekistan has large gold and uranium deposits, as well as considerable oil and natural gas reserves.


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After leaving Arys the railway enters Tashkent. Tashkent was destroyed by Genghis Khan in but later rebuilt. There is evidence of human activity dating back to the late Paleolithic era. Historically, Samarkand was home to a diverse religious community, although today, approximately 90 per cent of it citizens are Sunni Muslims with minor Christian and Jewish communities.

As the railway lines traverse Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan the route travels through a number of historical cities such as Bukhara. Located on the historic Silk Road, the city-museum has long served as a centre for trade, scholarship, culture, and religion and is packed with about architectural monuments. Turkmenistan has been a major beneficiary of this initiative due to its vast energy reserves.

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