For a long time, historians tend to regard the period from the demise of the Tang Dynasty to the establishment of the Mongol Empire as the window of the ancient land Silk Road.
for a long time, historians tend to regard the period from the demise of the Tang Dynasty to the establishment of the Mongol Empire as the window of the ancient land Silk Road. According to some historians, the Silk Road in ancient China has been completely paralyzed since Li Yuanhao, the son of Li Deming, the leader of the Dangxiang clan in northwest China, occupied the Hexi Corridor and controlled the eastern section of the Silk Road in 1036. The important theoretical support is that the Western Xia rulers imposed heavy taxes on the merchants along the route and the opening and development of the Maritime Silk Road in the Song Dynasty.
the establishment of Xixia did play a certain role in promoting the opening and prosperity of the Maritime Silk Road in the Song Dynasty, but did the rise of Xixia block the smooth flow of the land Silk Road, which lasted for thousands of years?
the Silk Road in the Xixia period
Silk Road has been an important bridge between China and the world since it was opened. The traditional Silk Road started from Chang'an, the capital of the Western Han Dynasty, and then reached Central Asia through Gansu and Xinjiang of China, then through Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria to the Mediterranean region, and finally ended in Rome. The total length is 6440 kilometers.
the journey from Chang'an, the starting point of the Silk Road, through the Longxi Plateau and Hexi Corridor to Yumenguan and Yangguan is called the eastern section of the Silk Road. The focus of our discussion today is on the eastern section of the Silk Road.
in the early Northern Song Dynasty, with the formation of the confrontation between Xixia and the Song Dynasty, the traditional Silk Road was firmly grasped by Xixia. To continue the commercial exchanges with the countries along the Silk Road, in addition to opening up a more rugged Qingtang Road, the rise of the Western Xia Dynasty also promoted the rise of the Maritime Silk Road in the Song Dynasty.
although the rise of the Maritime Silk Road reduced the trade volume of the Silk Road on land, the Silk Road on Land was not cut off but exuded vitality under the rule of the Western Xia Dynasty. Since the end of the Tang Dynasty, the Silk Road was on the verge of being cut off.
at the beginning of the establishment of the Xiazhou local regime of Yuan Hao's grandfather Li Jiqian, the Song Dynasty contacted the Uighur and Tubo regimes in the Hexi Corridor to jointly hijack party items and seek joint efforts to destroy the Xiazhou local regime. With the intervention of the Northern Song Dynasty and the escalation of the conflict between the party items and the three parties, the situation in the Hexi Corridor became more complicated.
in 1002 AD, Li Jiqian took advantage of the fierce battle between the Song Dynasty and the Liao Dynasty in Yanyuan, and Li Jiqian took the opportunity to capture the important town of Lingzhou in the northwest.
the fall of Lingzhou is of far-reaching strategic significance. Without Lingzhou, the Guanzhong area of the Northern Song Dynasty was directly exposed to the threat of Xixia, and the northwest defense line of the Song Dynasty had to retreat, so it lost the ability to intervene in the affairs of the Hexi Corridor.
without the threat of the Northern Song Dynasty, Li Jiqian soon began to move towards his ideal of "taking the clans of the Qin Dynasty in the west, looting the healthy horses of the Uighurs in the north, and driving the herdsmen in the south".
finally, with the efforts of Li Jiqian, Li Deming, and Li Yuanhao, Xixia completely unified the Hexi Corridor under one regime.
Yuan Hao's unification of the Hexi Corridor not only determined the important transportation hub position of Xixia in the political, economic, and cultural exchanges between the Song, Liao, Jin, and Western countries but also reconnected the Silk Road cut off because of the separatist regimes of all parties since the late Tang and Five dynasties, which is of far-reaching significance to the development of the Silk Road.
third, keeping a low profile-- the operation of the Silk Road
during the heyday of the Western Xia Dynasty, the territory "extends to the Yellow River in the east, Yumen in the west, Xiaoguan in the south, and the desert in the north, with a vast territory", covering an area of more than 20, 000 square kilometers.
despite this, because most of the land is located in the Gobi desert with poor soil, the mode of production that combines agriculture and animal husbandry can only be adopted, and the social productive forces are not well developed. it can only be attached to the Song Dynasty in the early days of the founding of the people's Republic of China.
with the continuous escalation of the contradiction between the two countries, Xixia began to make use of its advantage in the Hexi Corridor to find a way to enrich the country and strengthen its troops. It was under these circumstances that Xixia began to run the Silk Road on its own.
Many commodities enter the Song, Liao, and Jin dynasties or westward into the Central Asian countries and even West Asia, Persia, and food through the Western Xia Dynasty or eastward into the Song, Liao, and Jin dynasties.
according to the Chinese text "miscellaneous words" of the Xixia document unearthed in Heishui City, the goods purchased from the West and resold to the Central Plains include valuable items such as frankincense, benzoin, sandalwood, incense, musk, jade, coral, agate, amber, and glass.
while the goods resold from the East to the West are mainly tea from the Song Dynasty.
during the peace period of the Song and Xia dynasties, the Song Dynasty gave Xixia a large number of "year-old gifts" every year. In addition to money and silk cloth, one of the most important items was tea.
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Nomads are mainly meat-based, so they need tea to help them digest food better, but the place where they live is not suitable for the growth of tea, so they need to import a lot of tea from the Song Dynasty every year.
in addition to resale trade, Xixia's local specialties such as horses, green salt, and rhubarb are also popular in countries along the silk road. The green salt rich in the Western Xia Dynasty is of excellent quality, but the price is very low, the performance-to-price ratio is very high, and the rich rhubarb has even been exported to Europe.
in the Western Xia Dynasty, because of the stable situation and convenient terrain, the post road of "Xingqingfu-Xiazhou-Suizhou" was the only way for the envoys of the western regions to the Song Dynasty, if the inland countries along the road want to reach the Song Dynasty, this post road is their only way.
for the Hexi countries that paid tribute to the Liao Dynasty, "the post road set up by the Western Xia Dynasty leading directly to Nanjing, the capital of the Liao Dynasty, is their only way." Every year, a large number of tribute envoys pass through this road from the Western Xia Dynasty to the Liao Dynasty.
IV. The significance of Xixia to the continuation of the Silk Road
through the occupation of the Hexi Corridor, Xixia firmly controlled the trade and trade in the eastern section of the Silk Road. Through the resale trade with the Song Dynasty and the Western countries, the Xixia rulers not only made a lot of money by themselves but also invisibly continued the economic and cultural exchanges between the Central Plains and the Western countries. In addition, the local specialties such as horses, green salt, and medicinal herbs, which were widely welcomed by the Song Dynasty and the Western regions, made Xixia a key node in the trade of the Silk Road.
although the Xixia rulers imposed heavy taxes on merchants, a stable Xixia government greatly ensured the safety of trade along the Silk Road and ensured the smooth flow of the Silk Road.
Trade on the Silk Road prospered the economy of Xixia, while Xixia protected the smooth flow of trade on the Silk Road on land.
in the history of the Silk Road, the Western Xia Dynasty played an important and irreplaceable role in the maintenance and development of the Silk Road. In that turbulent era, under the protection of the Western Xia Dynasty, the Silk Road still served as an important medium for economic and cultural exchanges between the East and the West. Therefore, Xixia's contribution to the Silk Road can not be denied.