If a nation does not know its history, if the country loses its history, then its citizens have nowhere to go.
Mirzhakyp Dulatuly
Today in history

Bazaar of ancient Taraz

The bazaar in Taraz was the focus of all life. It was thanks to the bazaar that the town came into being with a citadel, mosques, caravanserais, pise-walled cottages, walled courtyards and handicrafts

The bazaar in Taraz was the focus of all life. It was thanks to the bazaar that the town came into being with a citadel, mosques, caravanserais, pise-walled cottages, walled courtyards and handicraftsmen’s workshops. In the motley gay- coloured crowd one could see swaying turbans, embroidered skull-caps, hats, papakhas and caps. It seemed that people from the entire world were coming to the bazaar place in order to sell, buy or exchange something. One could sell and buy practically anything one wanted to.

What was it that the Great sale attracted so many people? What treasures did camels bring in the packs loaded on their humps?

One of the major trading partners, especially in the pre-Mongol period, was Russ. It offered at the foreign market furs of sable, polar fox as blue as the morning snow, fox, as bright as the autumn ashberry, beaver, musquash, sheaves of squirrels, ermine, marten and others.

Besides furs Russ sent to caravan sales linen, flax; they were bought up quickly as clothes made of them pleasantly refreshed one’s body. At the Russian sale place there were tamed falcons and gerfalcons for amusing hunting, golden amber, mammoth tusks. Russian merchants sold rye, barley, German wheat, hive honey, ornamented wooden dishes and toys, silver, precious stones, chain armour, forged swords, emery paper, birch bark quivers with arrows, shields made by blacksmiths.

In return Russian merchants took with them heavy taffeta, cashmere, muslin, and other Indian textiles, colorful Persian carpets, whale bone, medicinal ginseng roots, sweet-root, santonica, rice, ambergris, unusual precious stones.

Rich and famous was the trade town of Taraz. Its business contacts were extensive. There was no country which did not send its caravans there. What did they carry? From beyond the Hindu-Kush camels brought bright silks. Only in the waters of the Indus does the plant grow and it is from its flowers that the purest blue dye is made. Hence its name is indigo. To wear silk clothes of the indigo color was the honour of high rank people. In the handicraftsmen’s quarters of Delhi and Calcutta they knew how to make splendid dyes. From see mollusks they obtained purple and carmine colors, from blue-ultramarine. No other people could make faster dyes from ochre, lapis-lazuli, minium and cinnabar.

Sale is going on, the bazaar is buzzing. Indian merchants give bunches of corals as change whereas tusks are worth their weight in gold. Here you can see real elephants, monkeys, exotic birds with long rainbow tails, snakes dancing al flute sounds. The bazaar world is full of wonders. The ancients were right to say: “The Taraz bazaar is the mirror of the world”.

Goods are quite different in the Chinese row. The first place is given of course, to chinaware, ringing articles. It is beyond the Great Wall that they knew how to turn kaoline clay into blinding white bowls, vases with elegant ornamentation. Blue and lemon yellow wolfram was used to paint chinaware. They were produced from topaz. At last the secret of china production was revealed but how in old times they made heat-resistant wolfram paints remained unknown. Their secret has gone never to return.

Here are lot of Chinese medicinal drugs made from ginseng, maral root, reindeer antlers, arsenic, lion bile, monkey liver, infusions of Tangut rhubarb, soporific mandragora root, sedative remedy, mixtures of gum and ammonium chloride, liniments for leprosy and cosmetic preparations. The Tibet profeciencj has not been revealed yet.

In the Byzantine row one could see many-colored expensive velvet of many threads, transparent veil, silver and gold-brocaded cloth.

But cotton textiles were in the greatest amount and variety at the Taraz bazaar. The quality of textile was superb; tsars and noble people preferred it to other cloth paying as much as for brocade.

In an Indian’s shop you could find a great choice of cloth: Kashmir and Turkic silk, high quality broadcloth made by skilful masters of Bardi’s firm dyed dark-cherry-colored and therefore it was named bordo (wine-coloured), broadcloth from Flandria and woolen cloth from foggy Albion.

Not many goods from Persia reached Taraz. Arab sources mention rock ozocerite used for illumination of dwellings, medicines, aromatic mastik, black hair dye, skins of Asian tiger, ambergris and jewelry stones.

Diversified were goods from foreign countries. What did the hosts sell at bazaars like that at Taraz? They offered sheepskins like satin, morocco cushions, saddles covered with hard-wearing koulan leather, harness decorated with silver chasing, leather quivers, bows, encrusted with gems, arrows, niello, scissors, metal and wooden utensils, Turkestan stained glass (the Turks instructed the Chinese how to make it), blankets made of taffeta lined with fur of foxes and ermine, thin silk, cotton seed, medicinal preparations, linen, pig iron, non-ferrous ingots.

Rakip Nasyrov, “Along the Great Silk Road”, published by “Kramds—reklama”, 1991.