Culture Diffusion in Asia And The Silk Road

Categories: The Silk Road

The Silk Road and Cross-Cultural Trade

Culture is one of the most important parts of an area of where you live. In the 1400s Asia was booming with trade and culture from all over. During this time exotic and luxury goods where the biggest things to trade for. The silk road was the biggest trading route in Asia interconnecting all of Asia together. The silk road was and still is one of the biggest trade routes in the world.

The Silk Road was a network of trade routes and the first marketplace that allowed people to spread beliefs and cultural ideas across Asia.

Traders of many city states traveled on the silk road to bring goods to other city states, connecting West Asia to East Asia. They imported farm animals, medicine, and spices. This created cultural diffusion. The silk road consisted of numerous trade routes that went through all of Asia. Although long distance trade was effective it was risky. The Hellenistic years was an international and diverse period.

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Marketable interactions were common and people of many ethnic and religious backgrounds merged in populated urban areas. A key component behind the development of the Silk Road is cross-cultural trade. Sea trade was linked from the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The Monsoon system enabled sailors to know where the wind blows in the summer and in the winter.

The Spread of Religion

Religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism traveled throughout the silk roads. "The Chinese empire had extended its frontier into central Asia during the 1st century BC and since then and perhaps even earlier, China had contact with Buddhism through the movement of traders and missionaries along the Silk Road.

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" Buddhism was well established in India and traveled to China. Merchants would explain their Buddhist ways to others and change their lifestyle. Buddhism traveled through central and southeast Asia, China and Iran.

The first Indian ruler to become a Buddhist was Ashoka. "Ashoka's patronage, however, was especially important in the history of Buddhism, for he not only sustained the faith at an important point in its development but spread it far beyond his own borders." Ashoka had commands engraved on pillars, which was a big impact on the spread of Buddhism in communities. "Central Asia became a major center of Buddhism by the first century C.E., and from there the faith spread along the Silk Road and into China and Korea." Because of Ashoka, religions were passed quickly through the Silk Roads. Gregory, the Wonderworker converted people into Christianity. Christian communities thrived in Mediterranean basin by late third century C.E. Christians also attracted people from southwest Asia and in the Roman Empire. Individuals started isolated themselves and lived like hermits, devoting their time to praise God.

The Christian communities in Mesopotamia and Iran were very sizable with the number on converts until the seventh century C.E. There we also Nestorian communities in India, central Asia and China which emphasized human nature of Jesus. Unfortunately, Mediterranean church authorities rejected Nestorius's views. Another religion that was founded was Manichaeism. Prophet Mani, whom was a sincere Zoroastrian from Babylon in Mesopotamia, founded Manichaeism. Mani was inspired by Buddhist, Christian and Zoroastrian and made a mix of the three religions into Manichaeism. Mani had a dualism between good and evil. There were two groups of elected and of laymen but nobody knew who decided. Mani believed in an ascetic lifestyle and had high standards. The spread of Manichaeism attracted merchants in large cities of the Roman Empire, as well as Mesopotamia and Mediterranean regions. Mani died as a prisoner and so did the religion. Some people saw Manichaeism as a threat and it slowly died out. "One by one, Manichaean communities died out, disappearing from Europe by early mediaeval times, driven from the near East and Central Asia in the tenth and eleventh centuries, and finally fading away in southeastern China sometime after the fourteenth century." The religion was erased; it was although it had never existed. Their books were burned and their temples were confiscated. Manichaeism relied on the Silk Road routes of classical times to extend its influence to new lands and people since the religion became extinct.

The Spread of Diseases

Religious beliefs were not the only things that were spread. Contagious diseases were also spread through the Silk Road. Diseases such as small pox, measles, and the bubonic plague were contagious and killed many people. The main places were in Rome and China, which causes many epidemic effects with their economies. Small pox is highly contagious, they are bumps filled with fluid throughout the entire body. Measles is a contagious virus of a respiratory disease that causes a fever, rash, cough and runny nose. The bubonic plague is also a contagious disease humans get from animals. Swollen lymph glands often occur on the armpit, neck or groin and if not treated immediately it may cause death. All three of the diseases caused many deaths due to lack of technology and medicine. Throughout the second and third centuries the Roman and Han Empire suffered an outbreak of the three diseases. The Roman Empire had about sixty million people, and it dropped down to forty million. That is an estimate of twenty million people who died because of smallpox. The population of China went from sixty million to forty-five million by 600 C.E. The effects of the epidemic diseases caused economic problems.

Both economies also moved toward regional self-sufficiency: whereas previously the Chinese and Roman states had integrated the various regions of their empires into a larger network of trade and exchange, after about 200 C.E. they increasingly embraced several smaller regional economies that concentrated on their own needs instead of the larger imperial market.

Political and Economical Problems

Smaller regional economies emerged and the epidemics weakened the Han and Roman Empire. Not only did epidemic diseases struck China, but also the Han dynasty was weakened by political problems. In the third century the government ended and kingdoms took place. The emperor was divided into three kingdoms and generals abolished the Han dynasty. The kingdoms were divided into Wei, Wu and Shu. China became divided for over three hundred years and there was a lot of cultural change, including an interest in Buddhism. One of Han's problems was the uprising of poor peasants and the lack of authority in the government. The government went into an economic problem. Barbarians invaded the Han Empire numerous times, which caused the government to provide military forces. Military forces worsened the economy and finances. In order to save money the government hired overseas soldiers. Social and cultural changes started taking place. "Nomadic peoples increasingly adapted to the Chinese environment and culture, and as the generations passed, distinctions between peoples of nomadic and Chinese ancestry became less and less obvious." They started to look the same partly because of generations and new interracial families being formed. "Second, with the disintegration of political order, the Confucian tradition lost much of its credibility."

Confucian tradition seemed ineffective which is why they lost much of its authority. Buddhism became more popular after the Han dynasty and nomadic rulers embraced it.

The Roman Empire came to a downfall as well. Comparable the Han dynasty, the Rome Empire had political problems and internal disagreements. From 235 C.E. to 284 C.E. there were twenty-six barrack emperors who had a lot of power. Diocletian, a lieutenant and four officials decided to divide the emperor into two administrate districts in the east and in the west. They brought Rome many armies. "As population declined and the economy contracted, emperors found it increasingly difficult to marshal the resources needed to govern and protect the vast Roman Empire." The Roman Empire seemed to be running smooth until population increased.

The Roman Empire also had Germanic invasions because there were many Germanic migrations from northern Europe to eastern, as well as the northern part of the Roman Empire. "When Germanic peoples migrated westward in 376-380 and 405-408 in advanced of Hunnic expansions, they constituted a greater military threat to Rome than had their less-organizes ancestors centuries before."

Similar to the nomadic people from China, the Visigoths settled into the Roman society and adopted Roman law and Christianity. However, the Roman authorities discouraged the Visigoths and Germanic people to settle and kept them on the border. The Huns invaded Hungary, investigated Roman frontiers in the Balkan region, endangered Gaul and northern Italy, and attacked Germanic peoples living on the borders of the Roman Empire. The Huns did a lot of destruction to the Roman Empire. "In particular, the two main phases of population movement - c. 376-86 and 405-8 - were directly caused by the intrusion of Hunnic power into the fringes of Europe." The collapse of the Roman Empire was under the Huns. The Germanic people streamed into the Roman Empire and established settlements in Italy, Gaul, Spain, Britain, and North Africa. The cultural change caused Christianity to become a rightful religion. Because of this, the Emperor Theodosius claimed Christianity the official religion. The pope of Rome became the spiritual leader and they established hierarchy of church officials. Although the Roman Empire collapsed, Christianity served as a culture establishment.


The cross-cultural trade and silk roads network has cultural and biological exchanges with religion and diseases. Internal decays in the Han dynasty and Roman Empire fell into destruction. During Spring Break I decided to head to New York to visit the Metropolitan Museum. I enjoy going to New York City since the distance from my hometown is thirty minutes away. I went to New York City with a friend on the small buses, which cost me five dollars. When I reached my destination, we took a subway from 42nd street to 86th street, which lasted about ten minutes. Once we got off the subway we walked through Central Park and observed horses around the area. Outside of the Metropolitan Museum many people were sitting on the stairs enjoying hotdogs and chicken on sticks. I paid a dollar for my donation and entered the museum. The place was huge with many rooms of sculptures and paintings. They have a fountain in which I tossed a coin and made a wish. They also have old inventions such as one of the mirrors they used to use back in the day. I saw rock crystal, enameled gold and pearl jewelry in glass boxes and Chinese vases with birds and blossoms. The sculpture that caught my eye was the Buddhist sculptures. The Buddhist sculptures were from the sixth and seventh centuries. My favorite sculpture was the head of Buddha with garnet eyes on its forehead that was made in Afghanistan. I decided to write about the Silk Road because I enjoy the topic. My major is Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and I'm minoring in International Business. I believe the Silk Road was the start of the global trade market.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Culture Diffusion in Asia And The Silk Road. (2024, Feb 10). Retrieved from

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