At the very beginning of its existence the Silk Route served for the Chinese silk export to the western countries, later on, China-bound caravans returned with commodities, produced in Rome, Byzantium, India, Iran, Arabic caliphate, Europe, Russia. Among the most exotic goods, arriving via the Silk Route, were myrrh and incense, jasmine water and ambergris, cardamom and nutmeg, spices and sugar, ginseng and python’s gall, carpets and textiles, dyes and mineral raw materials, diamonds and jasper, amber and corals, ivory, ingots of gold and silver, furs and coins, bows and arrows, swords and Umces. In addition to the “heavenly horses” from Fergana, there were Arabic horses, camels and elephants, rhinoceroses and lions, guepards and gazelles, hawks and falcons, peacocks, parrots and camel-birds. The Silk Route promoted the spreading of cultivated plants, such as grapes, peaches, melons, and other sorts of fruit and vegetables.
Nevertheless, the main article of trade on the Silk Route remained silk. Moreover, it was quoted as a currency alongside with gold. Silk was presented to tsars and ambassadors, used as means of payment state debts and for mercenary army maintenance.
It is no mere chance, that silk garments, depicted in ancient frescoes, discovered by archaeologists in the palaces of Chinese and Asian rulers, were painted very thoroughly with a plenty of ornamentation and details.
It is quite natural, that not all of the goods travelled the whole length of the Silk Route, many of the items being bartered or sold at the oases or towns on the way. This fact is readily proved by archaeological finds.
Via the Silk Route different artistic styles were brought into fashion; providing certain social demand and ethno-cultural environment, they were practiced on a large scale. It is thought, that owing to the Silk Route the Timuride style in ceramics, notable for the blue gamut tracery against the white background, became widely spread. Being designed by Chinese craftsmen under the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), this style was successfully developed in Iran, Turkey, Central Asia. Beautiful ceramic bowls and vases, ornamented with cobalt, decorate museum expositions in many countries of the world.
In the early Middle Ages, in Asia, there existed a theory, concerning the origin of the world’s largest kingdoms: China, India, Persia and Byzantium, based on symbolizing certain types of culture and state power. Formation of these monarchies, located in the directions of cardinal points, was tightly associated with their natural resources. India was considered to be the land of elephants (south), Iran and Byzanium — the land of jewels (west), Turkic kaganats — the land of horses (north), China was known as a land of people (east). In this connection of great interest are ancient frescoes, discovered in the village of Kushania not far from Samarkand. One of them depicts Chinese emperors, another— Turkish khans and Indian brahmins, the third — Persian tsars and Roman emperors. These wall-paintings seem to embody examples of the state power.
Karl Baipakov, “Along the Great Silk Road”, published by “Kramds—reklama”, 1991.