China and the Silk Road - Earliest Development of Civilization and Overland Trade with the West
A Chronology of the Silk Road
Estimated 500 BC - 14Th Century Emergence Maritime Trading Routes
This page was last updated on: October 9, 2017
This page was last updated on: October 9, 2017
Smaller examples Buddhist Cave art of the Monumental Wei Dynasty buddhist statues of Yungang near Datong in Shanxi, still colorful after 1800 years. Other Wei Dynasty caves, evidence of the penetration of buddhism on the silk road, are found at LuoYang in Henan, Lanzhou in Gansu and other places.
A Magnificent Liao Dynasty Era (907 AD -1125 AD) carved Statue of GuanYin, the Goddes of Mercy (Clay on Stone). At the Shanxi Provincial Museum of History, TaiYuan, Shanxi Province.
Map 1 of the Silk Road during the early Tang Dynasty Era. Clearly depicts the North & South Routes West of Dunhuang as well as the lost civilizations of Loulan and Hotan.
AD 906-1279: The Silk Road of the Sung Dynasty and the Mongol Empire.
1206 AD: Mongolian tribes unify and begin to conquer Asia under the rule of Genghis Khan.
The 3 Kingdoms and succeeding Sui and T’ang Dynasties:
3rd Century BC: At some time in the first decades of the third century BC activity starts at the silk road Buddhist Relic Site of Kizil (also Kyzyl) near Kuqu (also Kucha ; or Kuçar, Kuchar; Uyghur: كۇچار, Куча ;Chinese: 龟兹), today a location underneath the Tianshan (Heavenly) Mountains in Aksu Prefecture of Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region of the Peoples Republic of China. It is the beginning of the the Kyzyl Buddhist Caves (克孜尔千佛洞), the early works of which are commonly associated with the Buddhist Kingdom of Kucha of the now mostly lost Tocharian Civilization. After having been rediscovered and visited in the early 20th century, the Kizil Caves will become known as the (probably) oldest surviving examples of Buddhist Cave Art anywhere along the ancient silk road in modern day China. The Kizil Caves are held to be contemporary with the (destroyed) oldest known Buddhist Cave site at Bamiyan in
, Lop Nor, Loulan and Khotan, to Kashgar in Central Asia and, via what today is the pathway of the Karakoram Highway, on to India. The goal behind the mission was simple: to acquire better knowledge of Buddhism than was available at that Time within China. The Monk hoped to bring back the teachings of the Buddha where possible in the form of scrolls and scriptures.
In his later published accounts of his travels Fa Hsien describes Khotan City, Kucha and Turpan (Turfan), Khotan (Yutien), the Taklamakan Desert, Taxkorgan - the ethnic home of the Kazakhs, and in general the daily Life and Culture of the various peoples and regions he traveled through on his way to India.
Although the travel accounts of Fa Hsien are not always sufficient to pinpoint exact locations, nor his exact route of travel, his account does provide interesting information on the conditions of travel and the Buddhist sites and practices he witnessed. Interested as he was in the practice of Buddhism and its exact theology Fa Hsien clearly indicates the importance of the seven precious substances in Buddhist worship, the widespread practice of stupa veneration, and his acquaintance with several of the jataka tales about the previous lives of the Buddha Sakyamuni, tales which are illustrated in the paintings at the Mogao Caves just outside of Dunhuang in Gansu Province.
Although Fa Hsien traveled to India overland, he returned by Sea. After a two year stay in India, he was shipwrecked (probably on the island of Java). Nevertheless he managed to return to Qingzhou in
5th-6th century AD: Silk Road traffic increases along with Buddhist influence, with 2 million Buddhists in China by 514 AD. The Gandharan Kingdom extinguished by Hephtalite (White Hun) invasions.
By 430 A.D. the invasion by the Huns has established a large but shortlived territory in eastern Europe.
432 AD: Nestorians outlawed in Europe by Roman Church; move to Persia and onwards as far east as the Tarim Basin, now part of China's Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region.
439 AD: The Northern Wei Dynasty (386 AD - 535 AD)(Tuoba Wei ; (拓跋魏) manage to unite all of Northern China under their rule.
442 AD: A Comet appears in the sky being followed for some 100 days. As it makes its pass through the solar system and along the sun it appears in the sky as a sword like star visible in opposition to the sun.
451 AD: Halley's Comet lights up the sky above the earth day and night as the Romans do Battle with the nomadic Huns who have appeared out of the Asian
701 - 704: On orders of the female Empress Wu Zetian, additional floors are added to the Great Wild Goose Pagoda at the Temple of Great Benefaction in Chang An, built in 652 A.D. by Tang Gaozong upon a received request from the Monk Master Xuanzang. Instead of having five layers (floors) the Pagoda is reshaped in to a tower like square and seven stories high brick pagoda altogether standing some 64 meters tall.
22 February, 705 AD: Having seen the completion of the landmark Da Cien Pagoda in the southern district of the Capital, the by then truly legendary Empress Wu Zetian (武則天) dies in Luoyang, in Henan Province. Although thoroughly resented by (especially) Confucian Literati who had been marginalized under her Government, she was buried with full Imperial Honors. On July 2, of the year 706 she was interred at Liangshan Mountain (梁山) in a joint burial with Emperor Gaozong at the Qianling Mausoleum (乾陵), now a legendary tourist spot in Qian County of Xianyang City in Shaanxi Province. To date both tombs remain unopened and not archeologically excavated.
707 AD - 710 AD: In the Jinglong Period (707-710) under the reign of Tang Emperor Zhongzong, 2 years after the Monk Yi Jing (義淨)(Life: 635 AD - 713 AD) had become abbot of Jianfu Temple, the “Jianfu Temple Pagoda” - today better known as the "Small Wild Goose Pagoda" of the city of Xi'An, was built in order to store the some 400 Buddhist scriptures sutras that this monk had brought from India and his journey of some 30 odd countries in south-eastern and southern Asia. When Yi Jing dies in the year 713 AD, he has translated some 56 texts written in 230 volumes and also leaves a biography, which to this date holds vital historic clues about ancient contacts between Chinese and Indian Civilizations and about maritime sea routes in South Asia.
The Small Goose Pagoda, a brick stone tower, has withstood over 70 heavy earthquakes since has many times been damaged, among things losing its top floors, but still stands to this day.
712 AD: Kuteybeh Ibn Muslim conquers west Turkestan including Khotan; probable time of the destruction of Buddhist temples at Khotan.
In 837 AD: Halley's Comet may have passed as close as 0.03 AU (3.2 million miles; 5.1 million kilometers) from Earth, by far its closest known approach. Its tail may have stretched 60 degrees across the sky. It was recorded by astronomers in China, Japan, Germany, the Byzantine Empire, and the Middle East.
845 AD : Persecution of Buddhists by Muslims begins. Anti-Buddhist movement of the 9th century: 4,600 temples reported to be destroyed, with 260,500 monks and nuns defrocked. Large Scale Vandalism of Buddhist Statues at LongMen Caves, near LuoYang in Henan Province.
With the Dynasty already in complete disarray since prior to his Reign, Emperor Gaozong of Tang (1st Reign Period: 888 AD - 1 December, 900 AD) descends into depression and (alledged) alcoholism. Apparently mentally instable, he is deposed by a powerful Court Clique ultimately led Eunuch General Liu Jishu. In an attempt to take control of the Dynasty, Liu Jishui and his plotters install son of Gaozong, Li Yu to the Throne in order to replace the father and salvage the Dynasty. However, the new rule is soon aborted and a counter-coup restores Emperor Tang Gaozong to the throne to rule until his death by asssassination on orders of Liu Jishu in 904 AD. Son of Tang Gaozong Li Zuo is then made crown prince and subsequently Emperor.
In Mid-March of the year 852 AD Chinese Chronicles record the passing of a bright "star", dragging a 75 degrees tail in the sky. Later scientists determine it was likely a sun grazing comet.
905 AD: In the spring of the year 905 one of the Great Comets in (recorded) human history appears. As recorced in the Chinese Annal named T'ang Hui Yao (dated to 961 AD) and later again in the Qin T'ang Shui (1060 AD) the object is first observed in China on May 18, when it was said to have been as bright as Venus while trailing a tale which took up some 50 degrees in the sky. Subsequently its passing is recored in Japan, in (Islamic) Iraq (Al Muntazam Fi Al-Ta' Rikh, dated 1201 AD) as well as in Europe. The spectacular comet passing is noted in Byzantium (Constantinople, today: Istanbul, Turkey) where the sighting is immediately linked to the birth of the Holy Roman Emperor Contstantine VII, who had been born into the world earlier on that same day (Later Byzantine texts will hold that both the birth and death of Constantine had been foretold by visiting comets).
Spectacularly, the comet remains visible for months until last being sighted on June 13.
906 AD: Fall of T’ang Dynasty; rise of Five Dynasties (AD 907-960). At some time during the fall of the Dynasty and its Capital, the Temple of Great Benefaction in the southern district of Chang An burns down to the ground, however its magnificent 7 storey pagoda remains standing amidst the turmoil.
630 AD : In about 630 AD Hsüan-tsang (Xuan Zhang) travels through Lanzhou on the Yellow River and JiaYuGuan & Pass to Dunhuang, where he leaves the Jade Gate to travel along the Silk Road to India. The Journey is a dangerous, adventurous, interesting and perilous one. Among countries and sites visted: The Bedal Pass (Iron Gate), Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Bamian in Afghanistan, The Khyber Pass, then parts of today's Karakoram Highway and finally the Kashmir Region.
In India Xuanzang's Travels were also extensive. In pilgrimage he visited several of the places where important events in the Life of the (Sakayamuni) Buddha took place.
Many Years later and much the wiser on the religion of Buddhism he returned through Kashgar, Khotan and Dunhuang to arrive in 645 AD at Chang'An and meet a Heroes welcome. Xuanzang was to translate his Buddhist Scripture collection and become a Master of Buddhism, the founding Father, Professor and head Master of the Da Cien Si Temple and Sect of the Tang Capital. His Life, work and Legacy leave a unique and continuing impression on
Late T’ang Dynasty and aftermath:
8th century AD: Islamic conversions begin to spread in Central Asia.
Chinese Culture and Civilization. In Xi'An Xuanzhang wrote the Hsi Yu Chi. In the aftermath of Xuanzang's Journey to the West the Tang Dynasty saw a popular rise of Buddhism and much political intrigue, all favoring Buddhism in Tang China.
The Caves of the Thousand Buddhas are heavily utilized by Buddhist monks, nuns, and worshippers, with considerable T’ang art work added.
Route Map of Xuanzang's "Journey to The West" (India).
A view along the Central Section of the Mogao Caves Ridge, south-east of Dunhuang, Western Gansu Province. The Mogao Caves are famous for their unique cave art, documenting the shift from Greco-Indian Buddhist art into destinctly Chinese forms more suitable to the local People and Cultures.
Shandong Province to write his travel accounts and descriptions of the earliest practice of Buddhism along the Silk Road. Apart from his valuable travel logue, Fa Hsien is most known for his pilgrimage to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. In fact, it was only using Fa Hsien's accounts that late 19Th Century historians managed to pinpoint the exact location of Lumbini and the parental Home of Sakayamuni, The Buddha.
420 - 422 AD: a monk by the name of Tanhung arrived at Maijishan (麦积山石窟) near Tianshui and proceeded to build a small monastic community. Within a few years the Monastic Community came to thrive, only to abandon the Maijishan Cave Complex in the year 444 AD amidst a heavy bout of Buddhist Persecution sweeping the regions in that time.
420 AD: At the end of the Western Qing (西秦) Kingdom, one of the many nations of the so called 16 Kingdoms Period, first work on Buddhist Cave Art is started at the Bingling Buddhist Caves (Bingling Si ; 炳灵寺)(Today a remote site on the eastern rim of the Tibetan Plateau) near the Liujia Xia Reservoir of the Yellow River in Yongjing County, Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province). As work continues through the Wei, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasty periods, altogether 183 Buddhist Caves and countless shrines and dieties are created situated on a high cliff face along the uppermost reaches of the Yellow River (Huang He) in China.
By the year 609 AD, the Sui Dynasty has conquered large swaths south of the Yangtze River from Vietnam. A new founding and elongation of the Great Wall of China has fixed the so called Hexi Corridor (along the northern rim of the Tibetan plateau) under Chinese control, however heavy raids from neighboring Gokturks People (Tujue) who occupy much of northern Asia) are a recurring problem.
618 AD -906 AD: T’ang Dynasty expands westward in a “forward policy” that spread its power farther into Central Asia than ever before.
221 AD -265 AD : Period of the “Three Kingdoms;” China gets divided into rival dynasties.
226 AD : Chinese sources record a Roman trading party reaching China from India via a Sea-Route. Romans have managed to bypass both the Persian and the Indian sea-trade monopolies.
286 AD : Chinese sources record another Roman Trading Party reaching South China. After this visit Roman sea-power declines making direct contacts between the Roman Empire and China increasingly rare. Persian fleets take control of the Seas.
301 AD: Christianity became the State Religion in Armenia.
4th-5th Century: Greatest flow of Buddhism to China, during Northern Wei Dynasty (386 AD - 535 AD).
336 AD: Religious unrests disturb the ancient Kingdom of Armenia.
In 337, just before the death of Constantine the Great (Reign: 324 AD - 337 AD) in Constantinople, Shapur II, provoked by the Roman rulers' backing of Roman Armenia, broke the peace concluded in 297 AD between the Persian (Sasanid) Emperor Narseh (293 - 302) and the Roman Emperor Diocletian (284 - 305), which had been observed for forty years. This was the beginning of two long drawn-out wars (337–350 and 358-363) between the Romans and Sasanians.
363 AD: Roman Forces once more penetrate deeply eastward into Mesopotamia on May 29 leading to The Great Battle of Ctesiphon (Today a ruined archeological site some 35 kilometers south-west of current day Baghdad), a face off between the Army of the Roman Emperor Julianus and his Sasanian counterpart Shapur II (also Saphur The Great). Although the Romans are victorious at Ctesiphon, only weeks later the Roman Emperor Julian is killed at the undecided Battle of Samarra. There after the Romans are unable to hold their grounds and are left stranded. They are eventually forced into a peace treaty and withdraw.
366 AD: The construction of the Mogao Caves (Mogao ku ; 莫高窟) , near Dunhuang at the very western end of the Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province, is generally taken to have begun sometime in the fourth century AD. According to a book written during the reign of Tang Empress Wu, Fokan Ji (佛龕記, An Account of Buddhist Shrines) by Li Junxiu (李君修), a Buddhist monk named Lè Zūn (樂尊, which may also be pronounced Yuezun) had a vision of a thousand Buddhas bathed in golden light at the site in 366 AD, inspiring him to build a cave here. The story is also found in other sources, such as in inscriptions on a stele in cave 332; an earlier date of 353 however was given in another document, Shazhou Tujing (沙州土鏡, Geography of Shazhou). He was later joined by a second monk Faliang (法良), and the site gradually grew, by the time of the Northern Liang a small community of monks had formed at the site. Members of the ruling family of Northern Wei and Northern Zhou constructed many caves here, and it flourished in the short-lived Sui Dynasty (581 AD - 618 AD). By the Tang Dynasty Era (618 AD - 907 AD) - famous for its flourishing of Buddhism during certain reign periods, the number of caves had reached over a thousand.
Much later, in the beginning of the 20th century the caves would become world famous, among things, as the location of the find of the worlds oldest printed book (The Diamond Sutra).
367 AD: Armenia was divided between Sasanian Persia and the Roman Empire. The Sasanid Empire established control in Eastern Armenia after the fall of the Arshakuni Armenian kingdom in 428 AD creating the State of Sasanid Armenia (or also Persian Armenia).
368 AD: The Xianbei, a Proto-Mongolian Peoples who have become populous and powerful roaming Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and North and East China after the flight of Xiongnu (Huns) westward across the EurAsian continent and the subsequent fall of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 221 AD) in China, found the so called Northern Wei Dynasty (368 AD - 534 AD)(also Tuoba Wei ; 拓跋魏 ; Later Wei or Yuan Wei) in North and North-Eastern China. At the time these regions are inhabited by nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples. In the course of their Dynasty the Tuoba Wei adopt Chinese cultural traits and among things acquire the religion of Buddhism which after some time appears in art styles and as the emergence of Buddhist Cave Complexes and Temples throughout north- and eastern China.
370 A.D. The Huns, a unified band of fleeing and wandering Nomadic Tribes driven westward arrive at the Volga River.
374 AD: a return visit of the object later named Halley's Comet takes it on an unusual trajectory which brings it within a mere 13 million kilometers distance to the sun. The resulting bright appearance and long tail is recorded at observatories in China but no such recording is made in the west (or this is later lost). As far as is known today this was the 2nd closest pass of Halley's Comet near the sun in recorded history.
Map of the Modern Silk Road, connecting Istanbul in Turkey via highways, roads and railways to Beijing in the Far East. Travel beyond that point is possible to Vladivostok, Dalian and Dandong in Liaoning Province, or Pyongyang in North Korea, DPRK.
On the Western side, Istanbul connects via former Yugoslavia to the European Railway network.
YouTube Video: Yang guan - Sun Gate; China's Sun Gate Revives (2013).
9th-10th c.: Silk Road traffic and Khotan both decline as Buddhism begins to wane. Arabs take over Silk Road trade domains and start acting as middlemen, raising prices. As a result the Maritime Routes, the “Sea Silk Route” to China become more economically attractive.
At some time during the 10Th Century, the once might western Gate of the Tang Dynasty Empire (ultimately established during the Han Dynasty (220 BC - 221 AD), the Yang Guan (Sun Gate) due south west of Dunhuang (Blazing Beacon) already out of function for some time, is abandoned entirely. The Sun Gate Beacon Tower and the mighty Fortress supporting it start a long process of degredation and erosion by the desert winds and sands. What has been to far western border of China for well over a 1000 years disappears. Centuries later the border of China will be reestablished at Jiayuguan 100's of miles eastward during the advent of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD).
1006 AD to 1165 AD, the Western Taklamakan Desert City and former Chinese Vasal State, the City of Hotan falls into the hands of the advancing Muslim Kara-Khanid Khanate arising in the West.
The Silk Road southern path along the Taklamakan Desert falls out of control of the Han Chinese and the process of Islamification of the "Xinjiang" region goes through a new stage.
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636 A.D. Completion of The Book of Sui (Suí Shū ; Simplified Chinese: 隋书), the official history of the Sui Dynasty (581 AD - 618 AD), as compiled by its successor Dynasty the Tang Dynasty (618 A.D. - 907 A.D.). Officially recognised as the first authorative history of the Sui dynasty this book also includes a mass of names, dates and information regarding the history and development of the Silk Road in Central Asia in this era. It ranks among the official Twenty-Four Histories of imperial China. It was commissioned by Emperor Taizong (Life: 28 January 598 – 10 July 649 ; Reign: 4 September 626 - 10 July 649) of the Tang Dynasty, and written by a team of prominent scholars, including Yan Shigu, Kong Yingda, and Zhangsun Wuji, with Wei Zheng as the lead author. Because it could not yet include the information gained through the extensive travels and adventures of the Monk Xuanzang on his journey through the Silk Road to India and vice versa, the book represent the situation and views as directly prior to the monumental work done by Xuanzang after his return to Chang'An in 645 AD. The Book of Sui contains; Annals, Treatises and Biographies.
646 A.D.: One year after his return from India delivering to Chinese Civilization some 657 complete volumes of Buddhist Scriptures, the Monk Xuanzang completes the compilation of all information gained on his travels through what were at the time 125 countries and territories during a period of some 17 years. All is published for the Tang Emperor and his court in the book: "Record of the Great Western Regions of the Tang Dynasty", which today remains recognised as an invaluable early source of information on the history, cultures, habits and geography of Central Asian regions as well as parts of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the period of the 7th century AD.
In 630, the same year that the Monk Xuanzang illegally crosses the last Gate of the Silk Road and the borders of China which are closed due to ongoing hostilities in regions extending to the north and west, Emperor Taizong sent his general Li Jing against the Göktürk Khanate (also known as: Eastern Turks; Göktürks, Celestial Turks, Blue Turks or Kok Turks (Old Turkic: Kök Türük Chinese: 突厥/تُكِئ; pinyin: Tūjué, Khotanese Saka Ttūrka, Ttrūka, Old Tibetan Drugu), defeating and capturing its Jiali Khan Ashina Duobi while nearly annihilating Göktürk military power. This important and succesful military campaign against united opposition from the nomadic Turkish peoples occupying Central Asian crossroads east of the Caspian Sea made Tang Dynasty the dominant power in East and Central Asia, and also cleared the way for the re-founding of the Silk Road as an active conduit between China and ultimately far western Asia, the Mediterranean Sea and Europe. Having thus gained a new level of confidence, power and wealth, the Emperor Taizong subsequently took the title of Tengeri Qaghan ("Tenger Khan" or the God like Emperor).
Subsequently, having been victorious further westward, Emperor Taizong then launched a series of campaigns against the oasis states of the Tarim Basin in effort to widen his control over the important Tarim River Basin which holds the Taklamakan Desert as wel as the routes of the silk road in (current day) western China (Xinjiang).
During the reign of the Taizong Emperor, Tang armies annexed Karakhoja (near current day Turpan in Xinjiang) in 640, Karasahr (Tocharian Ārśi (or Arshi), and; Sanskrit अग्निदेश Agnideśa ; Chinese: 焉耆; pinyin: Yānqí)(Today: the capital of Yanqi Hui Autonomous County in the Bayin'gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang) in 644 and its neighboring state of Kucha (Kuçar, Kuchar; Uyghur: كۇچار, Куча, simplified Chinese: 龟兹; traditional Chinese: 龜茲; pinyin: Qiūcí)(Today: Kucha County Town of Kucha County in Aksu Prefecture in Xinjiang) in 648.
Military Campaigns were also directed against the main allies of the humiliated Gokturks, the Western Turks ( Western Turkic Khaganate or Onoq Khaganate (Chinese: 西突厥)(581 A.D –657 A.D) which (at its heighpoint) occupied what is now Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and parts of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Russia.
647 AD: Less than two years after the return of the Monk and Buddhist Master Xuanzang to the Tang Era Capital of China, on order of Emperor Tang Gaozong, the Da Cien Temple and Sect (also Dayan Ta (大雁塔)) is founded at the (Imperial) Temple of Great Benefaction in Chang'An. The Da Cien Temple, to the world better known as the Great Goose Pagoda of Xi'An, becomes the center of studies of Buddhist knowledge as gained by Master Xuanzang who is appointed Abbot of the Temple, Library and study center. With this it is also the home Temple (and Pagoda) of the Da Cien Buddhist Sect, which will grow to become one of the leading Mahayana Buddhist (Great Vehicle) sects in all of China. In the future it will have great influence on the development of Buddhism in Chinese society.
649 AD: Death of Emperor Tang Gaozong, through conquests in Central Asia up to the shores of the Caspian Sea, the Tenger Khan or God Like Emperor. Coronation of Emperor Tang Taizong (Li Zhi)(Reign: 649 AD - 683 AD).
January 665 AD: Although some historians hold events as to have been an effectively engineered Coup D'Etat, officially all State matters in Tang Dynasty China fall into the hands of Empress Wu Zetian (武則天), after her husband the Emperor Tang Taizong suffers a series of strokes. Signing all matters of State over to the Empress laid the foundations for a fresh new intermediate period in the Tang Dynasty history, as for the first time the entire Chinese State was effectively ruled by a woman. Positioning herself as a great Matriarch of Buddhism as opposing the earlier Confucian paternalist style, in this period of myriad of new Buddhist wonders of the Silk Road are created. As a result of her reign all of Chinese society will see a period of revelation, until, after her death she is thoroughly vilified and the order
View of the iconic 7 storey brick pagoda raised to 7 stories height near the end of the reign of Empress regnant Wu Zetian on a quiet day in the year 2003. Since, the Temple and surrounding grounds have been transformed into a tourist zone celebrating the historic Tang Dynasty heritage of city, region and Chinese people.
of the ancient confucian patriarchal system thoroughly restored within the common minds of the people. For the first time in living memory Chinese women are able to go abouts on the streets without male escorts and within elite circles women may be held equal to men in all affairs of State and even the military (although as one may deduce from archeological finds, in earliest Chinese history women generals and warlords had already taken high positions within society in the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC - 1121 BC)).
671 AD: The Monk Yi Jing (義淨)(Life: 635 AD - 713 AD), an admirer of both renowned Chinese Silk Road travelers, the Monk Fa Xian and the Monk Xuanzang, leaves China through the southern port of Guangzhou, taking to the maritime trade routes on a quest for knowledge in some 30 odd countries in South Eastern and Southern Asia, including India.
676 AD: Passing of a comet today identified scientically as X/676 P1. Its appearance first logged by Chinese Astronomers of the Tang Dynasty in the Book Hsin T and Shu, the object at first appeared alike a normal comet passing (as happened earlier that same year) however quickly grew while passing through the Ursa Major constellation to create a spectacular 30 cubits arc. Subsequently visible for but an additional month, the object, probably a sun grazing comet, disappeared from view.
399 AD to 414 AD: the Chinese monk Fa Hsien (Simplified Chinese: 法显, also Faxian, or Fa Hsien) undertook the Silk Road journey from Chang'An (Xi'an) in China via the border garrison town of Dunhuang
453 A.D.: Death of Attila the Hun.
465 AD: First construction of what will be a large complex of Buddhist Caves starts at a sandstone cliff near Yungang Village outside of Pincheng, at the time the Capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty. During the time that the city of Pincheng (平城)(Datong) serves as the Capital of the Dynasty (471 AD - 494 AD), a complex of some 50 caves is carved out and adorned with Buddhist Deities and shrines. Additional shrines are added up to the year 525 AD after which all activity is seized.
467 AD: Byzantine observers record the passing of a comet. The objects appearance is trumpet shaped and visible for some 40 days, according to Byzantine Chronicler Theophanes of Byzantium.
493 AD: Under Emperor Xiaowen (Reign: 471 AD - 499 AD) of the Northern Wei Dynasty (365 AD - 535 AD). having moved its Capital from Pincheng (平城) (Today: Datong (North Shanxi Provincei) to Luoyang (North Western Henan) in 494 AD, first construction of a Buddhist Cave complex is started at Longmen near Luoyang. Over time, and continued during the subsequent Sui and Tang Dynasties, Royal and other faithfull will build it into a complex of some 2345 Buddhist Caves, holding one hundred thousand Buddha statues and dieties, big and small, ultimately to become one of the three most noted Buddhist Cave complexes in all of China (today).
534 AD: The second edition of the Justinian Law (Book) is published in Byzantium in the Eastern Roman Empire. Today it is the only surviving original text of fundamental works of Law jurispridence together known as the Corpus Juris Civilis i.e. Justinian Law in modern times.
537 A.D.: In Byzantium (current day Istanbul) the Yasofia (Greek: Αγία Σοφία ; "Holy Wisdom"; Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia; Turkish: Ayasofya)(Today: Hagia Sophia Mosque museum) Church rises. Until the fall of Byzantium it will be the first Church of the (Eastern) Roman Empire and the seat of of the Patriarch of Constantinople.
540 AD : Rise of a Wall of Anushirvan, built on orders of the Persian King Anushirvan the Just (Chosroes I (Kasra) of Persia - انوشیروان عادل , Reign: 531 AD - 579 AD). The wall reaches from western beach of the Caspian Sea to the City of Anushirvan and from there across the ridge of the Caucasus in order to dominate cross-border Trade. It became known as the Iron Gate (Mongolian: Timur Qapu). Parts remain today.
552 AD : Nestorian Monks succeed in smuggling out Silk Worms from the Chinese Empire. After a perilous journey the Monks present the Silk Worms and spied technology to Justinian, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople (current day Istanbul). Delighted the Emperor orders the creation of Royal Silk Farms and silk weaving factories.
This is the first Time the Chinese Monopoly on Silk Cultivation and production technologies has been broken.
Chinese Silks remain however the highest in quality and Silk Road Trade continues uninterrupted.
552 AD: Establishment of the Turkic Khaganate (Old Turkic: Kök Türük i.e. Göktürk; Chinese: 突厥汗国; Jujue or Tūjué hánguó), which, with its territories expanding across the EurAsian Continent as far as the east coast of the Black Sea becomes a major power in Asia and a major adversary for the rising Sui Dynasty (581 AD - 618 AD) and other Nations in East Asia.
581 AD: The Türk Khaganate implodes and after a series of internal wars splits into two halfs; The Eastern and the Western Turkic Khaganates. While military pressure on surrounding Nations dwindles, in the interval, that same year the Sui Dynasty (581 AD - 618 AD) is founded in China.
Gansu Province Map 1 - Geographic Map
A Geographic overview Map of Gansu Province entire delineating provincial borders and parts of neighboring Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region Province and Qinghai Province in the West, Inner Mongolia AR and Ningxia Province in the North, Shaanxi Province to the East and Sichuan Province in the South. Includes Cities and Towns (shown by size), Main Monuments & Landmarks of Gansu Province, the flow of the yellow river through Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Ningxia Provinces, BingLing Si, Maiji Shan and Mogao Caves UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Main Mountains (with Height), major highways, provincial railroads and main railroad-stations, and main waterways & rivers. This Map further provides links to on site photos and information on the Cities and Main Monuments Other sites will be included in the Future.
384 AD - 417 AD : During the "Later Qin" (Dynasty) Era (384 AD - 417 AD , probably after the establishment of the Kingdom of Northern Liang (北涼) in 397 AD work begins on a Buddhist Cave and Temple Complex at "Wheatstack Mountain" (麦积山) near Tianshui, in the Wei River Valley (current day Gansu Province). It is the beginning of the Silk Road wonder of the Maijishan Grottoes (Chinese: 麦积山石窟 ; Màijīshān Shíkū).
Around 390 AD: At some time during the early years of the rule of the Northern Wei Dynasty (Tuuoba Wei ; )(386 AD - 534 AD), in what today are the southern regions of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of China (P.R.C.), the first cave for Buddhist worship is cut near the Sikouzi River (Historically: Stone Gate River) at Mount Xumishan. The complex, which will be renovated and expanded during the following Western Wei (535 AD - 557 AD), Northern Zhou (557 AD - 581 AD), Sui (581 AD - 618 AD), and the Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD), will go on to become the largest Buddhist Temple Site in the wider regions, altogether featuring some 8 stone carved cliffs which are separated from eachother by narrow ravines. Today, the resulting mount Xumishan Buddhist Caves (Xumishan Grottoes ; Chinese: 须弥山石窟) are ranked among the top 10 of most noted such Buddhist Cave complexes along the Silk Road of ancient China.
390 AD: A Great Comet appears in the sky its light and size growing to staggering proportions as the celestial object closes on both sun and planet earth. Eye witnesses in China report a comet tale covering a full 100 degrees of the sky in daylight, while the massive object appeared brighter than the planet Venus in sky. In Ancient Greece, the historian Philostorgios recorded its passing describing it as only slightly less bright than Venus while taking the shape of a sword. His contemporary Roman Ammanius Marcellinus described the sight as a pillar in the sky, which according to him was visible for 30 days.
The 390 AD Comet was likely a sun grazing comet which upon its approach to the sun came to within a distance of 14 million kilometers (0.1 AU) of the earth (compared to 1 Astronomical Unit (A.U.)= the (rough) distance earth to sun = about 150 million kilometers, or 93 million miles). Nearly impacting the earth, the amazing comet streaked past then disappeared out of sight.
397 AD: Chinese chronicle Taï-thsing-i-tung-tshi reports Khotan flourishing as a trade center.
397 AD - 439 AD: At some time during the brief existence of the Kingdom of Northern Liang (北涼)(or possibly slightly earlier during the Eastern Jin (晉) Dynasty (265 AD - 420 AD), one of the 16 Kingdoms of the 16 Kingdoms Period in Chinese history, near Zhangye in the Hexi
400 A.D.: An amazing comet, reportedly larger than any seen before lights up the skies above planet earth. It causes a great stirring among humanity as its closes on the planet to (likely) within 10 million kilometers of earth (some 0.07 Astronomical Units). Escaping a full impact of this Comet planet earth and humanity survive as the object disappears into the far corners of space.
Early 5th Century AD. Work starts at the Bezeklik Buddhist Cave complex (Chinese: 柏孜克里千佛洞 ; Bózīkèlǐ Qiānfódòng) near the Oasis of Turpan along the central northern route of the Silk Road in "Chinese Turkestan" (Today: Xinjiang). Activity and construction at the complex will go on until the 14th century during the Western Uyghur Kingdom.
From the early 3rd century AD, work on the caves will continue through to the 8th century AD.
Plains and Caucasus Region to attack the Roman earstern borders. In a momentous battle in the Catalanian Plains not far from Rome the armies of Attila the Hun are finally stopped.
YouTube Video: Wu Zetian - the secret history of China's female Emperor; spetacular and revealing finds about an unusual Era in Chinese history.
683 AD: The death of the Emperor Taizong at the secondary Capital city of Luoyang in northern Henan Province, leaves the widow Empress Wu Zetian the first (and only) Empress regnant in all of Chinese history. In the same year, ritually, 100 days after the death of Tang Taizong, his original residence was converted into a Temple Complex. Thus was created the Jianfu Temple on the 20th day of the 3rd lunar month in AD 684 in order to dedicate postmortem fortune to the deceased emperor. Thus it was named as "Xianfu Temple" (献福寺)(In 690 AD changed to Jianfu on orders of Empress Wu Zetian).
684 AD: The appearance of a bright comet, in Chinese records report it as the "broom star" (of that year). According to traditional beliefs and customs it is taken as a heavenly omen, in case the on earth visible representation of the deitification (joining with heaven) of the great Emperor Tang Taizong. (Today: the comet apparition is identified as to have been a passing of Halley's Comet.).
695 AD: Having completed early translations of scriptures gained on his quest in Maritime South East Asia and India, the Monk Yi Jing (義淨) returns to the Tang Court, which at the time is situated at Luoyang, to receive a heroes welcome from the Empress Regnant Wu Zetian.