Edited by Raymond Cooper and Jeffrey John Deakin
Section I Introduction
Section II Eastern Asia
Mongolia1. Medicinal Plants of Mongolia7Narantuya Samdan and Odonchimeg Batsukh
China 2. Medicinal Plants of China Focusing on Tibet and Surrounding Regions49Jiangqun Jin, Chunlin Long, and Edward J. Kennelly
Section III Central and Southern Asia
India3. Medicinal Plants of the Trans-Himalaya73Ajay Sharma, Garima Bhardwaj, Pushpender Bhardwaj, and Damanjit Singh Cannoo
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan4. Medicinal Plants of Central Asia105Farukh S. Sharopov and William N. Setzer
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan 5. Melons of Central Asia133Ravza F. Mavlyanova, Sasha W. Eisenman, and David E. Zaurov
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan 6. Resources along the Silk Road in Central Asia: Lagochilus inebrians Bunge (Turkestan Mint) and Medicago sativa L. (Alfalfa)153Oimahmad Rahmonov, David E. Zaurov, Buston S. Islamov, and Sasha W. Eisenman
Section IV Western Asia and the Middle East
Iran7. An Overview of Important Endemic Plants and Their Products in Iran171Reza E. Owfi
Iran 8. Crocus sativus and the Prized Commodity, Saffron201Jeffrey John Deakin and Raymond Cooper
Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan9. Natural Plant Dyes of Oriental Carpets211Jeffrey John Deakin
Iraq and Syria 10. Wheat and Rice – Ancient and Modern Cereals219Raymond Cooper and Jeffrey John Deakin
Georgia 11. Ethnobotany of the Silk Road – Georgia, the Cradle of Wine229Rainer W. Bussmann, Narel Y. Paniagua Zambrana, Shalva Sikharulidze, Zaal Kikvidze, David Kikodze, David Tchelidze, and Ketevan Batsatsashvili
Turkey 12. Plants Endemic to Turkey Including the Genus Arnebia255Ufuk Koca Çalışkan and Ceylan Dönmez
Section V Maritime Routes
Sri Lanka 13. Maritime Routes through Sri Lanka: Medicinal Plants and Spices271Viduranga Y. Waisundara
The History and Geography of the Silk Road
The term, Silk Road, denotes the complex network of trade routes connecting China with the rest of the Eurasian continent over land and sea. Its very existence promoted trade and cultural exchange among the peoples it connected. The Silk Road contributed to forming and transforming the cultural, ethnic, and religious identities of diverse peoples: Chinese, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Turks and Mongolians.
During the Western Han dynasty in the 2nd century BC, the Chinese imperial envoy, Zhang Qian, was sent to Central Asia. The mission gave the Chinese much knowledge about Central Asia and opened trade between China and Central Asia and beyond, extending to North Africa and the Mediterranean coast. There was no single road. These ancient trade routes collectively became known as the Silk Road. The term referred to a multiplicity of routes: camel trails, mountain passes, seaports, and desert pas-sages, which connected the great economic centers of the classical world, Han China and the Roman Mediterranean. As the caravans rolled and trade flourished, cities and towns along the route grew, usu-ally at strategic points such as crossroads or water wells. Traders and middlemen became rich.
The Silk Road extended some 10,000 km from east to west and 3,000 km from north to south. Initially, goods moved along the Silk Road from east to west and in the return direction. It linked Constantinople to Xi’an in China. Eventually, trade developed in other directions: goods headed north into the Russian principalities and south to Persia, modern-day Iran.
In Mongolia, there were two main arteries: in the north and in the south. The Hunnu, Xi’an, Juan-juan, Turkic and Uyghur peoples controlled the northern element of the Great Silk Road and made substantial profits. The route ran southwest of the Bulgan River in the Altai Range. There was also the “Yellow Road” in the south, a trade route in the Gobi region (Sukhbaatar, 1992). During the golden age of the Mongol Empire (1206–1371), territory under control extended well into Asia as far as Europe. It was at the time the largest contiguous empire in history (Figure 1).
Mongols led a nomadic life, were dependent upon horses for mobility and for transport, and traded them for goods. The Mongols improved communications by establishing a courier system, along a line of stations called Örtöö, which connected the empire with other nations using the Great Silk Road. Through these measures, the Mongol Empire was able to provide military protection for convoys of caravans using the routes of the Silk Road from the capital, Karakorum, to Samarkand, to Bukhar, and on into Mongolian-occupied Chagatai Khanate (Cleaves, 1982). During the Mongol Empire, the Great Silk Roads became more secure and were radically extended. European visitors began to arrive via the Great Silk Roads: emissaries of King Louis IX of France; envoys of Pope IV Innocent; and the merchant and adventurer, Marco Polo.
Many hundreds of different finished products passed along the Silk Road: gunpowder from China, beautiful Venetian glass, and Levantine gold. Inevitably, as economic exchange grew, so did the influ-ence of different religions notably Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. The Silk Road helped to trans-fer innovation in logical thought too – in mathematics, in algebra, and in chemistry. A considerable part of the commerce was handled by itinerant traders famed for their caravans and financial acumen. Many items were known to have been carried; among them were silk, linen, woolen cloth, saffron, pepper, camphor, and artifacts of gold and silver. Traders were the ‘glue that connected towns, oases, and regions. They played a major role in Chinese silk reaching the eastern Mediterranean while silver European ornaments have been found in the tombs of the Chinese elite (Frankopan, 2015). Trade in silk was an early catalyst for commerce. The prominence of trade in Chinese silk probably resulted in the trading routes themselves becoming known as the Silk Roads.
However, the land routes of the Silk Road were not easy to traverse. Goods were carried from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea and were taken to and from India by sea and land. Exchange with Sri Lanka, China, and the eastern Mediterranean rose sharply. As trade between India and the Greco-Roman world increased, spices came to rival silk and other commodities in importance. By the time of the medieval period, Muslim traders dominated maritime spice-trading routes throughout the Indian Ocean, shipping spices from trading centers in India westward to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea from which overland or sea routes led to Europe. However, restriction of east-west trade in the east-ern Mediterranean, Anatolia, and the Arabian Peninsula by the Ottoman Turks during medieval times motivated western European trading nations to seek maritime routes to the Far East as an alternative (Figure 2). Vasco da Gama was born in the 1460s and died in 1524. He was a Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea. His initial voyage to India (1497–1499) was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route via the Atlantic and the Indian oceans thereby connecting the Occident to the Orient. Da Gama’s discovery of the sea route was highly significant and opened the way for the Portuguese to establish a colonial empire in Asia. Traveling the ocean route allowed the Portuguese to avoid sailing across the highly disputed Mediterranean Sea and traversing dangerous land routes to the Orient over the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. In 1498, Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut (modern-day Kozhikode), a city in the state of Kerala in southern India, and quickly established exclusive European access to Indian spice routes. At first, pepper and cinnamon were obtained but soon many other spices new to Europe were sourced. Sri Lanka is known as The Pearl of the Indian Ocean due to its geographi-cal shape and natural beauty. The island has a strategic location in the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. Deep-water harbors, such as that at Trincomalee, became key maritime locations from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to the modern era. Great commercial importance was placed upon spices as a commodity. Key spices were cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Not only were these spices used as flavoring agents, locally as well as overseas, but they also had thera-peutic properties well known to traditional medicinal practitioners since ancient times.