The Influence of Others (RELS 348)

The Silk Road, an ancient international trade route that connected China with the West. The Silk Road spurred on the desire and opportunity for nations to expand and conquer. This surge of colonialism caused by the Silk Road allowed for the mixing of different worlds. Originally and intentionally created for the trading of physical goods, it was also responsible for introducing multiple other things to China. According to the article “Xi’an’s Silk Road roots continue to fuel one of the city’s most interesting modern-day enclaves” created by Nellie Huang on March 26th 2015, the Silk Road was responsible and still has influence on the culture and ethnicity of Xi’an today.

Xi’an was the starting point for the Silk Road, a 6400km ancient trading route which mainly allowed the Roman Empire to connect with China. China back in ancient times was the main producer of silk, when Rome expanded its empire to China trade started to become apparent between the nations and the Silk Route was opened with a fitting name. However before the Romans began trading and officially formed the Silk Road, Persian and Arab Empires also had trading influences in China. The Persian and Arab traders spread Islam in their travels and according to the article, Islam did not only become introduced but it is also thriving today in Xi’an. The fact was provided that ten million ethnic Chinese Muslims found their religion mainly due to the Persian and Arab traders. The introduction of Islamic religions not only challenged the very religious ideals of pre-Islamic China, today you can go and visualize a variety of ten major mosques that can date all the way back to 742 AD. An interesting thing about these mosques that Nellie brings up is that these mosques were not build with the classic and traditional architecture, these mosques have been influenced by the Chinese containing Chinese styles and architecture features. It is apparent that this introduction to Islamic religions was not always welcomed. Between 1966 and 1976 a Cultural Revolution took place in which the Chinese communist party attempted at ridding Islam from China, burning copies of the Koran and destroying more than 29000 mosques. However Islam managed to survive, the Muslim Chinese peoples created smaller, hidden mosques that were used to practice Islam in secrecy. Today, the government in China has relaxed and allowed descendants from the Silk Road traders, known as the Hui to openly pursue religion in their own interest.

This article is a very good summation of the influence of other nations as they expand empires and create colonies elsewhere. It is so evident that traders that had passed in Xi’an left a big mark on their culture and religion. It is so interesting that just the introduction of a religion can leave people wanting to experience that themselves. In China’s case Islam was introduced and not only did it substantially grow, it was frowned upon for a time. I think that this truly shows the power of influence, that when a government was trying to abolish Islam, that it continued to thrive and grow. I think another very important and interesting part in regards to religion and the influence of others is that religion also becomes influenced and mutations arise. As it was seen in China, the mosques were not kept to traditional standards, splashes of Chinese culture and tradition were mixed into the buildings and most likely the religion. Not dramatic changes but little changes over time create massive changes. I think that this is a very important change to the evolution of religions. As religions continue to spread, changes take place and they adapt to the people every time it is introduced. I believe that this is a very interesting idea that religion changes over time and it is up for debate if this should be tolerated or not. #uwreligions

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