Xinru Liu’s The Silk Roads

1. Read the introductory essay in Xinru Liu’s The Silk Roads, and skim over the remainder of the little book to
become familiar with its contents.
2. Imagine that you possess a rose-colored silk shawl or neck-scarf. You are somewhere in western Europe, and
the year is somewhere between 1000 and 1200. If you are male, you intend to give the garment to your wife, and if
you are female, you have recently been given the garment by your husband. You have reason to think that the
garment has come from a great distance, probably over an extended period of time. You will want to choose a more
precise time and place to fit the information you have available. The Christian Crusades to the Holy Land may be
a factor in your understanding, but be very careful about where that might place you in either time or location.
3. Select Option A or Option B, and respond appropriately.

Option A (geography and politics): By what route has the silk garment come to you?
Your answer will identify a starting point somewhere far away and will trace or outline a sequence of places
through which the garment will have been transported until it reaches you. Some portions of the journey may be by
land, and some may be by water. Local politics will be a factor; you are not likely to travel through somebody’s
civil war. Season of the year may also be a factor. So also will your own endpoint location. The presumed
general direction of transport is from east to west.
This is more than an exercise in listing places from one of the maps in the reader. Those maps are better than
anything that was available to merchants and travelers a thousand years ago. Your answer must depend on the
information in the documents in the reader, and your task is to demonstrate (and properly acknowledge) your use of
at least three of the documents. You will, in addition, need to use the maps, the editor’s footnotes, and the
Introduction (and perhaps other sources) to determine modern names for the geographic places you identify.
These practical questions may help your inquiry: Who traded with whom (what cultures)? What were the trade towns
like? What different steps in the garment-making process were done in different places along the overall trade
route, and how did that determine the route? What were the conditions of travel (safety issues, climate issues,
land, cultural conflict, etc.)? What were the risks, and what were the protections?
Documents especially helpful for this option are 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 17, 21, 22, 27.


Option B (commercial networks and cultural exchanges): Along the route that your silk garment may have been
transported, what else was exchanged?
Your answer to this question should focus on three or four exchange points (including your own final transaction
in obtaining the garment). Depending on where those points are located, what goods or services were being traded?
Your answer will overlap Option A if you spread the garment-making process over several steps along the overall
trade route, because some of what was exchanged was work on the garment itself. What else might have been
exchanged? What about cultures and knowledge, or ideas, or even diseases? Your answer to this question cannot be
an account of all possible transactions that may have transpired along the silk roads. It must instead be
selective and representative, but it must demonstrate the use of at least three different documents in the silk
roads reader.
You will need to use the geographic and political terms found in the readings but you should also use the editor’s
footnotes to identify places with their modern names as well. The presumption is that the general direction of
transport is from west to east.
This option will require making some educated inferences about relative values in their cultural settings.
Commercial transactions did happen but we cannot be certain that the parties were all pleased with the fairness of
the outcomes. Hints of grumblings in the documents are a clue to unstated values and frustrations. Be sensitive
and even creative in your reading and interpreting.
Documents useful to this option are 6, 7, 9, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 32, 33.
4. Write your response as an essay, developed in the following sequence:
On the right side of the top of the first page, give your name. Include your name and page number in a header on
all subsequent pages.
At the very beginning, state the option you have selected. A thoughtful answer should then begin with a little
bit of historical context (information drawn from the text and the reader introduction) in order to set up the
selected question and your answer. You will need to address two items in particular. The first, which will take
about a paragraph, will be a very concise summary of the nature of the Silk Road, and will be documented from the
Introduction and the Spielvogel text. The second, which may be as brief as a single sentence, will explain to the
reader that you will be giving focus to an imaginary garment, adding whatever other information you think
Structure your answer in whatever way seems most appropriate to you. You may keep your evidence from each of your
sources discrete and separate, or you may combine and interweave the material for purposes of argument and
stylistic development.
Quote appropriately, perhaps even generously, using quotation marks and always indicating sources. In the text of
the paper, wherever you provide a specific item or quotation or paraphrase from one of your listed sources,
include the author and page within parentheses. Please note that some documents will be important only for
identifying a single trade town and nothing more, but if that is where you found the information, you must include
the reference in text and at the end of the essay.
Make appropriate connections and assessments.
The end result will be an essay of two-five pages of text. The text should be typed, double spaced, in a standard
font such as 12 point Times New Roman. All sources used should be properly acknowledged.
5. Include a separate Sources and References page at the end of your essay, giving the complete bibliographic
information on your sources. The page will, for most of the papers, include five, six, or seven items. For this
paper, do not alphabetize the individual documents from the reader. Instead, list them in the order they appear
in the little book of readings. Begin with the editor’s Introduction as the first item. The second, third, and
fourth items (and possibly more) will be the numbered selections used in the paper. These should all be followed
by a complete citation for the course textbook by Spielvogel, and then by any other sources consulted for the
project. A model of a partial page is the following, and please note that the style is something of a mix of MLA
and APA. For this project, translators’ names do not need to be listed for the items in the reader.

Liu, Xinru, “Introduction: From the rise of the silk roads to a Eurasian market system,” in The Silk Roads. A
brief history with documents. Edited by Xinru Liu. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006). Pages 1-33.
Polo, Marco, “The Travels of Marco Polo, the Venetian,” Document 33 in The Silk Roads. A brief history with
documents. Edited by Xinru Liu. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006). Pages 166-168.

Complete the page with the documents and other sources you have selected for the paper.



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