We here at Curious Lizard had an amazing time traveling through Morocco. Our gracious guides wrote this song about us and we are ever so grateful to them for their hospitality.
While we know it today for it’s magnificent blue and white porcelain, the Ming Dynasty is credited with closing off China from the rest of the world, putting an end to over a thousand years of cultural and economic exchange along the Silk Road. It was the Ming Emperor Zhu Di who moved the capital to Beijing and built the Forbidden City with it’s sprawling palace complex, wall and moat. The largest building of this Chang tomb is equal in size to the largest building in the Forbidden City, yet it was made entirely with sacred Sandalwood and without the use of nails. In life, Emperor Zhu Di had sixteen concubines, he took them with him in death. Construction dates from 1409 AD.
In the ruins of the ancient city of Kashgar, we visited the Mor Pagoda. It was the first Buddhist Temple established in China and dates from the 2nd century AD. Ancient Kashgar was an important city along the Silk Road but was abandoned in the 10th century after internal strife and a war of succession led to the adoption of Islam as the official religion. When the city location was moved 30 km away, it continued to be an important Silk Road destination.
We once again have access to youtube. This video from Bukhara shows a typical Silk Road Caravanserai. Thank you to Archaeologist Bekhruz Kurbanov for sharing his expertise.
We visited the historic Samarkand Paper mill as part of our Silk Road expedition. It lies on the outskirts of modern Samarkand, beyond the opulent Registan Square of Timur. It can be found among the long stretches of old mounded earth, all that remains of the storied mud brick Samarkand leveled by Ghengis Khan.
The site was idyllic with clear running streams turning small water wheels and buoying a pair of lovely white geese. Yellow and golden flowers accented the manicured lawn, and pottery, artfully arranged, gushed water from an unseen source. In this very location, paper burst forth into the western world, a secret learned from the Chinese by Arabs in the 8th century AD.
The materials and methods used today remain the same as those used in that time and I was told that due to the unique qualities of mulberry bark, Samarkand paper will last 2000 years. I was fortunate enough to handle the pages of a 400 year old book written in Arabic on Samarkand paper and the pages felt as crisp and fresh as those that had just been pressed. The ink used in these beautiful books was lampblack, a carbon black ink created from the soot of the oil lamps burned in mosques.
While traveling through Central Asia on our Silk Road expedition, I noticed there were many shops and buildings dedicated to Puppet Theater. Archaeologist, Bekhruz Kurbanov explains.