China and the Silk Road (5) Song Dynasty, Mongolian Empire & the Ming Dynasty (906 AD - 1644 AD)
A Chronology of the Silk Road
Estimated 500 BC - 14Th Century Emergence Maritime Trading Routes
This page was last updated on: October 17, 2017
The 15Th Century Map of Piri Reis, found at the TopKapi Palace in Istanbul, included much knowledge transmitted on the Silk Road
& early Maritime Routes.
China Report - Map Yuan Dynasty Mongol Empire in Time 1206 AD - 1294 AD
A Schematic Map of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan (TeMuJin) and descendants through its several stages of conquest in its short but Impressive Existance in History. Timeline depicts the Mongol Conquest starting in the Year 1206 AD, when Genghis Khan first united the Mongol-Turkic Tribes of Mongolia and Lake BayKal becoming Great Khan. The Timeline continues through the year 1219 AD, the year 1223 AD taking Transoxiania, 1227 AD, 1237 AD when the Northern Jin Dynasty of China was annihilated, 1259 AD conquering ancient China above the Jiangste River and 1279 AD when all of China was taken and the Yuan Dynasty Established under the Kublai Khan. Last is the Year 1294 AD when the
Mongol Empire reached its largest geographical size and Zenith, 22% of world land area, but through lack of central leadership and over-expansion fragmented into 4 large parts, then imploded upon itself.
AD 906-1279: The Silk Road of the Sung Dynasty and the Mongol Empire.
February 2, 1106 AD: While all of civilized Europe lingers in the Dark Ages, and Mohammedans rule much of the Silk Road,a small observatory in Belgium (The Netherlands) discovers a newly emerging star which is visible by daylight (Source: Chronica ; Published: 1111), according to The Belgian historian Sigebertus Gemblacensis "in the third and ninth hours, about a cubit from the sun".
At the same Chinese astronomers of the Song Dynasty and astronomers in Korea and Japan observe the distant object and start recording its trajectory as it brightens and passes along the sky above the earth. As it will turn out, it is one of the most impressive comet passings humanity has ever witnessed. What we know identify as C/1066 V1 would turn out to be a highly unusual sun grazing comet, which due to its close passing of the suns surface became immensily bright, with an enormously elongated tale taking up a 60 degrees angle of the sky, before it was spectacularly observed to break up in parts before making its seemingly final exit.
This object, across the globe registered as the celestial event of the year if not decades, became as the Great Comet of 1106 AD.
As the Chinese Song Dynasty recorded the event; in the reign of Hwuy Tsung, the 5th year of the epoch of Tsung Ning, the 1st moon [February], day Woo Seuh (Feb. 10th), a broomstar (comet) appeared in the west. It was like a great Pei Kow. The luminous envelope was scattered. It appeared like a broken-up star. It was 60 [degrees] in length and was 3 [degrees] in breadth. Its direction was to the north-east. It passed S.D. Kwei (southern Andromeda/northern Pisces). It passed S.D. Lew (Southern Aries), Wei (Pegasus), Maou, and Peih (Taurus). It then entered into the clouds and was no more seen
(The Chinese texts Wen hsien t'ung k'ao (1308), Sung shih (Dated: 1345), and Hsü Thung Chien Kang Mu (Dated: 1476 of the Ming Dynasty) said the comet was seen in the west on February 10 and measured about 60° long and 3° wide. The tail was pointing obliquely towards the northeast.).
Although at the time, no such thing as the recurrence (return) of a comet had been conceived of, the Great Comet of 1106, now broken up, would continue its oblong trajectory around the sun and thus was set to return in another time.
(Today it is known that the broken parts of the 1106 AD Comet returned to the inner solar system to be seen by earths inhabitants as the Great Comet of 1843, the Great Comet of 1882, Comet Pereyra, Comet Ikeya–Seki and C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy), as well as over 3000 small sungrazing comets observed by the SOHO space telescope).
1206 AD: Mongolian tribes unify and begin to conquer Asia under the rule of Genghis Khan.
1207 AD and 1210 AD : The first Mongolian Invasions against Western Xia (Xi Xia) and Uygur-Turks.
1219: Having been offended by the neighboring Kwarezmian Empire (خوارزمشاهیان
By 1220 A.D. the Mongolian Armies capture Samarkand (Uzbek: Samarqand, Persian: سمرقند) (Today in Uzbekistan), the Capital of the Kwarezmian Empire while Bukhara (Uzbek: Buxoro; Tajik: Бухоро; Persian: بخارا) and Urganj (Konye-Urgench (Turkmen: Köneürgenç; Russian: Куня Ургенч, Kunya Urgench – from Persian Kohna Gorgānj کهنه گرگانج), also known as Kunya-Urgench, Old Urgench or Urganj)(Today: in northern Turkmenistan) are also attacked. After the fall of these cities the Khwarezmid Empire no longer exists in the east (Central Asia). Its territories fall under Mongol Rule laying the foundations for what will later become the Timurid Empire ((1370 A.D. - 1507 A.D.) In Persia and Central Asia. By 1231 A.D. the Mongols eliminate the last vestiges of the former Kwarezmian Dynasty and Empire by capturing and wrecking Tabriz south of the Caucasus Mountains in north-western Persia (Today: Iran).
1220 AD: Genghis Khan captures Khotan, part of what is known as the Western Xia Empire or Xi Xia (Tangut).
1222 AD: a spectacular reappearance (apparition) of the comet of Halley passes unusually near to earth making its appearance bright and clear, even in the daytime sky. According to some historic legends, the celestial sign created by the bright jets of the passing comet point the rising Mongol Khan Genghis to conquest in the west (as seen from Mongolia) thus pointing his way to Europe. (However, the timing seems off)
1226 AD: The City of Khara-Koto, Capital of the Western Xia (Tangut) Dynasty falls to the Mongol Armies of Genghis Khan.
1245 AD - 1247 AD John of Pian de Carpine, becomes the First of the three famed European Travelers of the Time to travel Eastwards along the trade roads of Central Asia, ending up at the Mongol Capital Karakoram and Ulaanbataar in Mongolia.
1253 AD - 1255 AD William of Rubruck travels from West to East along the Silk Road to Karakoram in Mongolia.
1260 AD - The Mongol Tribes capture North China and although battles rage on in the South the Yüan Dynasty is established (Mongolian). The First Emperor of this Dynasty is the Mongolian Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan.
The Mongol Rulers give high importance to trade on Silk Road pathways, the communications lines of their Empire.
1268 AD: The Cilicia earthquake occurred northeast of the city of Adana. Measuring an estimated 7.0 on the Richter scale the event killed over 60,000 people in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia in southern Asia Minor (Turkey).
1271 AD : Pope Gregory meets the Polo Brothers in Jerusalem after their first Journey to Cathay (China).
1272 AD : Marco Polo joins on a papal diplomatic mission to the Court of the Kublai Khan at Khanbalik (Beijing) in Cathay, the Far East. The Route in China leads through Kashgar, south around the Taklamakan Desert via Dunhuang into the Hexi Corridor. On his way Marco Polo visits the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang and the Big Buddha Temple of Zhangye (and alledgedly Jiuquan) which are later recorded in his book. Khanbalik is reached in 1274 AD, when Marco Polo meets the Yuan Emperor Kublai Khan at the Court.
1293/1294 AD : Marco Polo and the Brothers are finally allowed to leave the Service of the Kublai Khan, finally arriving back through the fast emerging Maritime Silk Road to Venice. Later Marco Polo will write his memoirs of the travels, his book "Il Millione" while stuck in a Jail.
1312 - 1341 AD: Reign of Uzbeg, Officially Sultan Mohammed Öz Beg (Reign: 1312 - 1341 AD) of the Ulus of Jochi (Зүчийн улс), better known internationally as The Golden Horde (1240s–1502). During which was the longest reigning period of the territory of the Golden Horde at its peak included most of Eastern Europe from the Urals to the Danube River, and extended east deep into Siberia. In the south, the Golden Horde's lands bordered on the Black Sea, the Caucasus Mountains, and the territories of the Mongol dynasty known as the Ilkhanate.
It was during this Reign Period that the Golden Hore adoptem Islam as State Religion, with as result the subsequent conversion to Islam of most of the peoples within these territories, albeit against considerable opposition from Shamanists and Buddhist, who were eliminated over time. From Öz Beg onwards, the khans of the Golden Horde were all Muslim.
1328 or 1329 AD: The Arch-Bishop of Khanbaliq (Beijing), John of Montecorvino (Life: (1247–1328) dies in Khanbaliq. After his death, his (Roman Catholic) mission in China lived on for some 40 more years until the advent of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD) when Khanbaliq was destroyed to make way for the city of Beijing.
712 AD: Kuteybeh Ibn Muslim conquers west Turkestan including Khotan; probable destruction of Buddhist temples at Khotan.
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.
906 AD: Fall of T’ang Dynasty; rise of Five Dynasties (AD 907-960).
2) The Mastering of Silk Cultivation and weaving by European Craftsmen in Italy, spawning a rapidly developing and expanding silk production and industry in Europe itself. In the 13Th Century this knowledge and Wisdom spreads across Europe from Italy to Germany, France, Spain and Britain. By home production of Silk the international demand for Chinese Silks is lowered.
1644 AD - 1860 AD: The Qing Dynasty Interbellum - Regaining the West.
Asia Report - Maps - Distribution Islamic Faith Asia, Africa , Europe
- Click Map to view Full Version and further Information on Locations.
The End of the Silk Road comes due to a number of factors, among which: 1) the emergence of faster more efficient Trans-Oceanic Routes for Trade, especially facilitated by the transcultural nature of the Mongol Empire and the integration of China into World Culture during the 12Th Century.
15th century AD: Most of Central Asia converted to Islam.
The Landbound Silk Road trading paths become obsolete due to the advent of international shipping during the "European Age of Maritime Discovery". The Maritime Silk Road sees unprecedented traffic and trade.
Late T’ang-Ming Dynasties:
8th century AD: Islamic conversions begin to spread in Central Asia.
1602 AD: Jesuit Missionary Bento De Gois (Life: 1562 AD - 1607 AD) sets out from Goa in India on a top secret mission with the aim of finding out whether or not the Nation named Cathay by Marco Polo is the same nation as China, which by then has been reached by Spanish and Portuguese Ships by overseas route. A secondary reason for the Mission, explaining much of its secrecy, is the intention of contacting the mythical Christian Monks of the Far East, as seem to reported in the writings of Marco Polo the Venetian.
After a 3 year long overland journey, during which the Missionary was disguised as an Armenian Tradesman, De Gois reached the far western end of the Great Wall of China. His arrival had proved that the land of Cathay described by Marco Polo did in fact exist. It was also proven that this was the same Nation already reached by sea-born Traders and a Christian Mission including the now famous Matteo Ricci, which had traveled to Macau and knew it as China.
The Route traveled up to that point had been from Goa to Agra in India, then via the City of Lahore to Peshawar both in current day Pakistan, over the Hindu Kush and through Afghanistan to current day Kabul from where he was to pass over the Tian Shan Mountains and end up in Kashgar (Kashi), today the westernmost City in China. Kashgar at the time however had fallen out of Chinese Control and was not part of Chinese Territory, thus the mission had to move further West to reach Chinese Civilization. From KashgarBento de Gois headed to Yarkant where he waited for a while for the arrival of a large Trade Caravan, which he had heard was to travel further eastward and into Cathay. By joining the Caravan De Gois had chosen to travel along the Northern Route around the Taklamakan Desert which led him through Aksu to Turpan, and then via Hami (Kumul) to the re-unification of the Northern and Southern Routes at the Oasis Town of Dunhuang. From Dunhuang it was only a short desert journey to the missions' primary destination, the Great Wall of China at JiaYuGuan.
Having traveled the treacherous path of the Silk Road to the Chinese Western Border De Gois was unable to travel further on to his secondary goal, the Imperial Court at Beijing.
Just some miles between the Magnificent Westernmost Gate under Heaven, the Jiayuguan Fortress, the Jesuit made a dire mistake which ultimately ended the Mission.
At Jiuquan/Suzhou, the administrative center of this far western district, De Gois inquired rather publicly whether the Nation he had just arrived in was China, Cathay or both. In so doing, he encountered a Trading Mission which had come from Beijing and was traveling West. De Gois got the answers he was searching for from this trading party, and, among things, learned that one of the Beijing Traders was personally befriended with Father Matteo Ricci, who had taken up residence in the Imperial Capital working for the Court.
The entire story however exposed De Gois as a Jesuit, a Christian and a Western Traveler. His fellow travelers in the trading caravan would not respond kindly to this revelation. After being heckled and ridiculed, the fake merchant was robbed and stripped of most of his belongings. Having been thus humiliated, not much thereafter he found himself left stuck in Suzhou (now Jiuquan) as no one would take him further along.
Although De Gois managed to sent a notice of his dire situation by use of Beijing Trader as messenger to the Jesuit Mission now active in far Southern China and the leading Jesuit Matteo Ricci in Peking (1601 AD), communications were to say the least slow. The message arrived after one whole year.
Although the Jesuits in Beijing received his message and swiftly responded by dispatching a 1 servant rescue party to Benito De Gois. When the servant sent found De Góis at Jiuquan the tough old Jesuit traveler was already at the point of death. He expired in 1607 AD at Jiuquan, far away from any Christian Monks, Rome or the Peking Court.
1607 AD: Return of Halley's Comet. On the 21st of September Chinese astronomers are the first to catch sight of a faint broomstar towing a tail of some 3 degrees in length. It was followed in Europe as well, among things by Johannes Kepler. In China the object was tracked until October 12 of that year, after which it joined with the sun not to be observed again (as we know today, the comet did not collide with the sun but disappeared behind it to journey to the outer solar system and return again in 1682 AD).
1610 AD: Death of father Matteo Ricci in Beijing. Having aroused great respect during his carreer in the great Capital City of Beijing, Matteo Ricci is allowed a great funeral ceremony. His body will be interned in a cemetery in the Haidian District in western Beijing until this cemetery is cleared to make way for a party school in the Cultural Revolution Era of the 20th century. The southern Cathedral, Nan Tang, first founded by father Matteo Ricci stands to this day just inside the now demolished Xuanwu Gate (Xuanwu Men).
In hindsight, the arrival of Matteo Ricci and his eventual succesful travel to the Capital Beijing may taken as a milestone, his arrival announcing the final downfall of the ancient landbound silk road. Although the land bound silk road physically remained and its routes still used, its former rich trades were eclipsed by the faster and usually cheaper modes of transportation by sea.
1582 AD: In the year 1582 AD a small Jesuit Mission was sent by Sea from Goa (India), in an attempt to reach the Chinese Court. This Mission first reached Macau a small islands just off the coast of south China, after which the Inner Lands of Guangdong Province were reached the next year. As this route of entry into China is not part of the land-bound Silk Road, the appearance of the first Jesuit Mission exemplifies the growing importance of the Maritime Trade Routes of the Era.
Whereas originally the Maritime Trade Routes had been scouted by Chinese Treasure Fleets heading westward, the Chinese Sea Power had evaporated in the early 15Th Century, and within 80 years European Ships- Portuguese and Dutch would follow their trail back to the Chinese Motherland.
1661 AD: The Jesuits Grueber and D'Orville travel from Beijing via the overland Silk Route to Agra in India.
The early 15Th Century sees a renewed Rising of China under the remarkably ambitious Leadership of Ming Emperor Zhu Di (Yongle Reign), on who's orders the entire Nation embarks on a modernization and internationalization drive, the world has never before seen.
First arise the new Capital and Imperial City of Beijing, to which a renovated and longer Grand Canal is connected to feed the Population of this City.
While the City is being constructed, a large fleet of ships -among which the so-called treasure ships, the largest wooden sea-going vessels in world history- sails from Chinese Ports to explore world seas. On 7 still renowned maritime journeys they navigate the Asian oceans and slands, the Indian ocean, Africa and the middle East and as is speculate possibly beyond to Antarctica and Australia. The fleet is joined by allied Korean and Japanese Ships, diplomatic missions bring other smaller Nations into Tribute to the Chinese Crown and the First transoceanic trade routes are established ultimately leading to the birth of the
In 1421 AD the new City of Beijing was inaugurated in front of an international audience of rulers from a variety of Nations with whom relations had been established. The Chinese Emperor could claim to be the Central and Most Powerful leader of the Eastern World, however while its culture flourished to a historic highpoint, the nation strained under the weight of the financial and social costs.
1424 AD: Death of Emperor Zhu Di (Yongle). Soon afterwards, an Imperial Decree orders the halting of all Maritime Missions, leaving the unprecedented Chinese Treasure Fleet to rot away. The ships never return to see there-after. Gradually, during the reign of subsequent Ming Emperors all international travel is forbidden. China locks itself way behind its Great Wall.
1453 AD: Not pursued by the Ming Dynasty Armies who have abandoned their strategy of forward defense, the Mongolian Tribes now re-united under the banner of The Northern Yuan Dynasty return to the borders of China and resettle the strategic Ordos Desert (today part of Inner-Mongolia AR).
1456 AD: The passing of a comet is witnessed along the byroads of the silk road in Kashmir and depicted in great detail by Śrīvara, a Sanskrit poet and biographer to the Sultans of Kashmir. He read the apparition as a cometary portent of doom foreshadowing the imminent fall of Sultan Zayn al-Abidin (AD 1418/1420–1470). No other records of this passing are known to date. (Many centuries later it is identified that it was an apparition of Halley's Comet).
1471-1472 AD: During the reign period of Zhu Jianshen , The XianZong Emperor, New Mongol Raids occur along the border of Ming Dynasty China, raising eye-brows at court in Beijing. As they do so, a very bright comet appears in the skies. First observed on December 25 of 1571, the comet and its tales were visible throughout January and February, last being observed passing the sun on 11 March there after not be seen again. Judging from obersvations and the high speed of travel of 1 degree per hour in the sky in late february, this was probably the closest approach any observed comet has made to the earth (within 10 million kilometers). The heavenly sign occurring together with renewed Mongol Raids is an event that eventually will trigger the rebuilding of The Great Wall of China in western China, Ningxia AR and Shaanxi Province.
1473 AD: A Ming Army stationed at Yinchuan (Ningxia Hui AR) seizes opportunity and launches a raid against the Mongol Base camp in the Ordos Desert, annihilating families and there-after the returning Mongol Army. Immediatly there-after Chinese laborers start the construction of the Ming Dynasty Era Great Wall of China along the southern rim of the Ordos Desert and around the Ningxia plain.
1493 AD: Construction of the Tomb of Bibi Jawindi (Urdu: مقبرہ بی بی جیوندی) in the ancient city of Uch (Urdu: اوچ شریف; "Noble Uch")(Today Uch Sharif, Punjab Province, Pakistan). It will stand to this day as one of the most ornate historic monuments of that city.
1499 AD: By the year 1499 AD Portuguese Captain Vasco da Gama has made use of trade routes established by the Ming Tribute Fleet under Admiral Zheng He to find its way from the African East Coast directly across the Indian Ocean to India.
10 September 1509: A shallow Earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale strikes the Marmara Sea coast and the city of Istanbul, formerly Constantinople on the Bosporus in Asia Minor (Today in Turkey). On that day and in the 45 subsequent days of aftershocks to rock the regions, a Minaret of the Hagia Sophia Mosque, over a 1000 houses and 109 mosques are destroyed in the city of Istanbul, while claiming countless lives (reportedly some 10 thousand) across the region. The event is later dubbed The Lesser Judgment Day" (Turkish: Küçük Kıyamet or Kıyamet-i Suğra) by contemporary writers and is known today as the 1509 Istanbul Earthquake.
1531: As recorded at Ming Dynasty Observatories at Beijing and Purple Mountain at Nanjing, in the 6th month of the 10th year of the Jiajing Reign period of the Ming Dynasty (Shizong Emperor), a bright "broom star", a comet, appears in the heavens above the earth. For the 34 days it is visible bright as a star and with a blue and white tail ("over one Chi long"), its trajectory is tracked by Chinese astronomers and other observers around the globe some making use of the first mechanical measuring devices. As an event of significant importance to the worldly affairs of the Emperor, the "Son of Heaven", the heavenly appearance is registered in the annals of the Shizong Emperor (Ming Shizong Shilu) to be preserved for posterity. As humanity will find later, (in 1705) through the works of (Sir) Edmund Halley (Life: 1656 - 1742) who used this Chinese Observation as his first know date of appearance, it is one of passes of the object today known as Halley's Comet (Comet of Halley ; Scientifical name: 1P/Halley).
1532 AD: Yet another Comet appears in the heavens but a year after the spectacular passing of Halleys Comet. Two Chinese text record the passing mentioning a first catch of a glimpse of the incoming comet on 2 September 1532 AD. Not much later, the object is observed in Korea and then Japan. Although with but a short tail span of some 10 degrees it is extraordinarily bright in appearance. The object, which remains visible until the second half of December will be registered as object C/1532 R1.
Link: Satellite Image with Schematic of the Location and path of the Great Wall of China during the Ming Dynasty. Passes on the Great Wall included.
Maritime Silk Road. At the same time new initiatives are made by the Ming Court to stimulate trade along the landbound Silk Road.
Apart from the Construction of the lavish new Imperial Palace and City, the Grand Canal and the Treasure Fleet (leading to widespread deforestation, among places in Vietnam, Yunnan and Sichuan), large scale repairs and reinforcements were undertaken on the Great Wall of China. This last project intended to fulfill the vow of the Ming never to see the Mongols return to Rule China.
YouTube Video: Yang guan - Sun Gate; China's Sun Gate Revives (2013).
9th-10th c.: Silk Road traffic and Khotan both decline as Buddism 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) (today in western China's Gansu Province) 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.
21 August 1042 A.D.: A very heavy earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale strikes the Silk Road City of Tabriz (--) (today situated in Iranian Azerbaidjan), for some the suspected location of the Biblical Garden of Eden. It is the largest earthquake of the millennium. Some 40 people lose their lives.
View of the leaning Small (or Lesser) Goose Pagoda (Xioyan Ta) in the southern district of Xian City in the year 2003. Still clearly visible is the crumpled top and its missing 3 top layers. Today one can climb 13 stories to the top platform.
The quake causes heavy damage to the Lesser Goose Pagoda (Chaoyan Ta) in the former Han and Tang Dynasty Capital of Chang'An (Now Xi'An) and reduced its height by three stories, to its current of thriteen stories and causing it to lean perceptibly ever since. More than 97 counties in the Chinese Provinces of Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Gansu, Hebei, Shandong, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu and Anhui were affected by the massive jolt, with slight damage to buildings in the far away cities of Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai.
But briefly after the devastating earthquake to strike the main civilization centers of north-central China rearing its people and civilization, an unusually large and bright comet (C/1556 D1) (as we know know an object measuring about half the size of earths moon) appears in the night sky above the Chinese Capital, the Silk Road and all Capitals of the world. By February the first reports of its sighting are logged. As it gained in brightness, it became visible to the naked eye by daylight, thus, together with the stunning earthquake, appearing to many as an supernatural sign from the Heavens. As word of their appearance is transmitted through civilizations along the silk road, they are taken are most ominous signals of impending doom.
In China the twin sign of the earthquake followed by a comet was taken as the sign of the impending death of the Emperor or even the fall of the Dynasty and Civilization. At the observatory at the University of Leiden in The Netherlands, Cornelius (or Cornelio) Gemma (28 February 1535 – 12 October 1578), physician, astronomer and astrologer (and professor of medicine at Catholic University of Leuven) observed the comets appearance and described its head to have been as large in appearance as the (visible) planet Jupiter while its color resembled that of the planet Mars. In France, when the Emperor for the first time caught sight of the blazing celestial object in the sky he reportedly stood aghast, according to his own words taking the whole as a heavenly sign to retire from his Reign as Charles the Fifth Holy Emperor (of France). While passing to within 15 million kilometers from earth, the gargantuan comet appeared brighter in the night sky than 1st magnitude stars while remaining visible to the naked eye in the daytime sky for some 12 days (although it was tracked by Astronomers until as late as April 22).
On the 5th of March, as the Comet made its track across the sky above, a heavy earthquake struck the city of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) causing heavy damage to the city and erasing life in surrounding coastal villages through subsequent tsunamis. Although this earthquake was not the heaviest ever experienced in Istanbul, nevertheless, the resulting damage to the Great Hagia Sophia Mosque (formerly the Church of the Patriarch of Constantinople), the city walls, gates and large parts of the city quarters appearing in conjunction with the large comet in the sky made it a widely reported event.
Interestingly, The Portuguese Dominican friar Gaspar da Cruz, who traveled the emerging maritime routes between Europe and far East Asia visited Guangzhou (Canton) later in 1556, heard about the deadly Shaanxi earthquake in China. He transmitted the news via Church channels to Rome and later also wrote extensively about it in the last chapter of his book, A Treatise of China (Published in 1569). He viewed the earthquake in connection with the appearance of the comet and combined the two as signs of an impending day of heavenly reckoning, possibly a punishment for people's sins, as well as perhaps the sign of the birth of the Antichrist to the earth.
After its fiery appearance had cast a spell on many among the worlds population, the bright celestial object slowly faded,
Depiction of the 1556 Comet D1 passing in the sky over the city of Istanbul while the earthquake strikes on March 5 of the year 1556. This is wood cut print originating in Germany where word of the catastrophe which befell Istanbul was widely noted. In Europe, in time, far fewer would hear of the massive quake which killed nearly a million people in China.
last being observed on 22 April while passing through the northern portion of the constellation of Pisces at an angle of some 30 degrees to the sun, subsequently not to be seen or otherwise detected by humanity since. To this day, no comet or other body has been identified within the solar system to match the 1556 AD Comet, thus one day it could reappear again.
23 January, 1556: A major earthquake strikes in Central North-Western China in the Wei River (渭河) valley along the border between current day Shaanxi and Gansu Provinces. Also known as 1556 Shaanxi earthquake or Huaxian earthquake (华县大地震) or Jiajing Earthquake (嘉靖大地震) after the Jiajing Emperor and according Reign Period (27 May 1521 – 23 January 1567) of the time, it is the deadliest earthquake on record in world history, which according to current day estimates killed around 830 thousand people. Huaxian, a small hill town in the 20th century made famous by other silk road travelers, was wiped off the map with reportedly not a single building standing (even centuries later, in the 1930s most houses would be cave dwellings). Nearby towns of Weinan and Huayin suffered similar fates. Many inhabitants of traditional loess cave dwellings, the traditional homes of many on the loess plateaux of the Yellow River were buried alive never to be heard of again.
Around 20 July 1402 AD: The Battle of Ankara (at the time better know as Angora or Ancira) was fought at the Çubuk plain near Ankara (Current day Capital of Turkey) in Asia Minor, between the forces of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I and Timur, ruler of the Timurid (Persian) Empire. The battle was a major victory for Timur, and the Ottoman Sultan was captured to die only months later in Prison. The loss of soldiers, allies as well as the Sultan himself, led to a period of crisis and an 11 year civil war within the Ottoman Empire (the Ottoman Interregnum). However, the Timurid Empire went into terminal decline following (Emir) Timur's death just three years after the battle, while the Ottoman Empire made a full recovery, and continued to increase in power for another two to three centuries.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Ankara, Timurid Armies take and sack the city of Sivas (Latin and Greek: Sebastia, Sebastea, Sebasteia, Sebaste, Σεβάστεια, Σεβαστή; Armenian: Սեբաստիա)(in current day Central Turkey) from the Ottomans (Thus evicting the Christian Knights Hospitalers).
Between 1402 AD and 1405 AD: Due to verbal hostilities, the closure of the Silk Road due the incessant warring and realistic military estimations, as one of the first acts of the consolidating Ming Dynasty in China, the Jiayuguan Fortress, westernmost gate of the Great Wall of China and according segments of the Great Wall in the west of China were strengthened as a means of defense against an expected Timurid invasion.
18 February 1405: On his way to an invasion of Ming Dynasty Era, China through its western territories, the great conquerer and Emir of Persia and Central Asia, Timur (Persian: تیمور Temūr, Chagatai: Temür)(Persian: تيمور لنگ Temūr(-i) Lang, "Timur the Lame"), dies in the field near the the Syr River (Syr Daria) in territories which in the current day are part of Kazakhstan.
But a month prior, in December of 1404, Timur began military campaigns against Ming China and detained a Ming envoy. On the way to leading his armies into yet another war of Conquest, the attempt to restore the rule of China (Cathay Khanate) to the Mongol Ancestry, he suffered illness while encamped on the farther side of the Syr Daria and died at Farab in southern Kazakhstan near the border with Uzbekistan on February 17, 1405, before ever reaching the Chinese border. His death also marked the termination of the military threat against China. Timur was buried with full honors at the Gur-e-Amir, which is his mausoleum. today one of the main historic landmarks of the city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan.
After the Death of Amir Temur (Tamerlane) the Ming Court in Beijing dispatched envoys such as Fu An and after difficult negotiations, the remaining entourage were released grandson om Amir Temur, Khalil Sultan.
Armies of the ever expanding Timurid (Persian) Empire ((Persian: تیموریان), self-designated as Gurkani (Persian: گورکانیان, Gūrkāniyān)) ravaged southern Russia and the Ukraine (1395-96), and subsequently attacked and invaded India (1398 AD) among things laying waste to the city of Delhi.
In 1400 AD: Timur, himself a Persianized Muslim, launched a total war against Christian Armenia and (Christian) Georgia with the apparent goal of the total destruction of these states. Although, Timur is held to have generally had good relationship with the Christian Church of Rome (Roman Catholics), no such respect was held for the Armenian Christian Orthodox Church. The inhabitants of whole regions were massacred. Of the surviving population, more than 60,000 of the local people were captured as slaves, and many districts were left depopulated for decades to come.
In 1400–01 AD: Although in prior years of the last decade of the 14th century, the newly arisen Ottoman Empire and Timurid Empire had avoided going to war about their considerable differences and allegiances, at the end of the 14th century this delicate balance came to an end. Having been affronted by the Ottoman Emperor, Timur declared war on the Ottomans, subsequently attacking parts of Syria from the Mamluks who were in alliance with the Ottoman Empire.
Having taken victory in the initial battles, Timurid Armies then pressed into Asia Minor on the way to Europe where the Ottomans had recently conquered substantial territories and their peoples.
During his invasion of Syria, the Timurid Armies notoriously sacked Aleppo and Damascus, not only ruining these important Silk Road cities, as a result of the Timurid Conquests and brutal massacres, the traditional trans-Eurasian trades along what has been dubbed the Silk Road essentially ground to a halt. The silk road, which but a century earlier had been wide open during the Era of the Great Mongolian Empire, was shut down by his greatest descendant, Timur the Lame, by the year 1400 AD. As much as the transcontinental trade routes had flourished again during the period identified in China with the (Mongol) Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD - 1368 AD), only some 100 years later it would be closed again for centuries to come.
As for the Timurid Conquests and the foundations of his Empire; in the case of Damascus and Aleppo, and many other cities, after doing battle, quite usually the inhabitants were massacred wholesale. However, among those exempt fro the slaughter were such usuful peoples as scribes and scholars, and also artisans, the best of who were deported to the glorious Timurid Capital City of Samarkand (Today in central western Uzbekistan), which for these reason flourished for a century on the products of their minds and creativity. As silk road travelers will find, many of the great artistic creations and buildings of this era survive to this day as the great monuments of the city of Samarkand, all of which are National and International Cultural heritage.
On his way to rebuild the lost Empire of his ancestral In-Laws, the family of Genghis Khan, Timur invaded Baghdad in June 1401. Again, in acts reminiscent of the war campaigns of late Genghis Khan and his descendants, after the capture of the city, 20,000 of its citizens were brutally massacred. As historic tales have it, in case of the city of Baghdad, Timur ordered that every soldier should return with at least two severed human heads to show him. As an illustration of the extreme scale of the massacre, historic accounts state that when the Timurid soldiers ran out of (enemy) men to kill, many warriors killed prisoners captured earlier in the campaign, and when they ran out of prisoners to kill, many resorted to beheading their own wives. In 1402 history more or less repeated when Baghdad was again attacked and sacked.
China Report - Map Yuan Dynasty Mongol Empire in Time 1300 AD - 1405 AD
A Schematic Map of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan (TeMuJin) and descendants through its several stages of conquest in its short but Impressive Existance in History. Timeline depicts the Mongol Conquest starting in the Year 1206 AD, when Genghis Khan first united the Mongol-Turkic Tribes of Mongolia and Lake BayKal becoming Great Khan. The Timeline continous through the year 1219 AD, the year 1223 AD taking Transoxiania, 1227 AD, 1237 AD when the Northern Jin Dynasty of China was annihilated, 1259 AD conquering ancient China above the Jiangste River and 1279 AD when all of China was taken and the Yuan Dynasty Eastablished under the Kublai Khan. Last is the Year 1294 AD when the Mongol Empire reached its largest geographical size and Zenith, 22% of world land area, but through lack of central leadership and over-expansion fragmented into 4 large parts, then imploded upon itself.
1329: As a replacement for the deceased Arch-Bishop of Khanbalik, Pope John the 12Th ordains the Franciscan Monk Nicolas, who then sets of to Travel to the Far West and take up office in Khanbaliq. Not much is heard of him afterwards. Records hold it that Arch-Bishop Nicolas reached the town of Almalik, which is located due South of Lake Balkash in current day Kazakhstan. He never reached China however and probably died in 1329 AD.
1334 AD : Moroccan Traveler Ibn Battuta (complete: Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Al Lawati Al Tanji Ibn Battuta) travels in East-Asia, South-East Asia and China. Although Battuta does not travel by the land route of the Silk Road into China due to the detail of his recorded observations, he is considered one of the International Explorers to first reveal and transmit the wonders of China to the West, in fact outdoing his near contemporary, Marco Polo the Venetian.
On his travels Ibn Battuta visited Vietnam before entering the Yuan Dynasty Empire of China through the Pacific Port City of Quanzhou (Zaitun), today located in Fujian Province. From Quanzhou -dubbed the city of donkeys- in the Book of his Travel accounts, Ibn Battuta followed the course of the Grand Canal through Hangzhou (Zhejiang Province) which, according to the accounts of Ibn Battuta, was the largest city in the world at that time. As described in the Book "The Journey" (or A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling - تحفة النظار في غرائب الأمصار وعجائب الأسفاit ر ) took him three days to walk across the city. From Hangzhou, the journey led to Beijing (although there is some discussion on whether Battuta really reached Beijing, in his book he complements the City for its cleanliness).
1336 AD: Having never welcomed Monk Nicolas at Khanbaliq, in the year 1336, a group called the Christian Alanes who form an Imperial Guard in China send a message to Rome urging the Pope to name a substitute for the deceased Arch-Bishop of Khanbaliq John the Montecorvino. The message is received through a Genuese Merchant Andalo of Savignon,
who, according to written records, had traveled to Europe on behalf of the Mongol Emperor Toghon Temur (1333 AD - 1368 AD). A copy of a translation of the letter from the Chinese Emperor in Latin survives revealing further that Andolo de Savignon was but one person in a 15 member delegation sent from Khanbaliq (Beijing). In the letter the Khan asked for western horses and a counter delegation.
March 28, 1339 AD: A Papal delegation including the newly ordained third Arch-Bishop of Khanbaliq leaves from Naples in Italy on mission to Khanbaliq in North-China. Traveling through Almalik in Kazakhstan they hear of the murder of Bishop Nicolas and 6 other Priest by a band of fanatical Muslims 10 years earlier. The mission stayed at Almalik for nearly a year in order to restore the local Monastery established by the 1329 AD Mission Of Bishop Nicolas. After leaving Almalik in 1341 AD, the Papal Mission reaches Hami in current day Xinjiang-Uygur AR of China where they stay to convert the local population which consists mainly of Buddhists. The mission finally reaches the Chinese Court on August 29Th of the year 1342 AD where they are received by Emperor Toghon Temur in person, probably at the Shangdu Summer residence. The Emperor receives the one horse that survived the long journey.
Oddly, the new Bishop, one Nicolas Bonet, a Theologian from Paris in France, returns from Khanbaliq to Europe while the other Priest of the Mission remain in the East. Thus, Khanbaliq remains without its Bishop and is left with the the Legate John of Marignolli as leader of the Papal Mission.
The Europeans are very impressed with the Chinese Culture, science and administration.
1362 AD: Mongolian Empire begins to decline. In 1368 AD China is finally lost to the crumbling Mongol Empire.
1368 AD: Ming Dynasty forces drive the last loyalist troops of the Yuan Dynasty and Mongol Tribes out of Chinese Territory via the JiaYuGuan Pass. The Ming Dynasty is officially established under the Hong Wu Emperor. In 1372 AD, the JiaYu Pass and Last Gate in the West on the Silk Road sees the beginning of the construction of JiaYuGuan Fortress, a citadel only completed by 1539 AD. Although the Silk Road is protected the Chinese Nation is overwhelmed by a dictatorial Dynasty that decrees an isolationist policy. Eventually the Ming will wind up closing land route to west, ending large scale operations on the Chinese Silk Road.
1372 AD: The City of Khara-Koto (in Inner-Mongolia AR), former Capital of Western Xia (Tangut Empire), now turned base of remaining Yuan Dynasty troops plotting to reinvade China is layed siege to by a Chinese Army. After a siege during which the Hei River is diverted away from the City and a desperate last Battle, the city is abandoned.
1378 AD: passing of a comet many centuries later identified as having been the Comet of Halley is recorded in the Annales Mediolanenses as well as in East Asian sources.
1380 AD: Timurid Empire armies take Herat (Persian: هرات, Herât; Pashto: هرات; Ancient Greek: Ἀλεξάνδρεια ἡ ἐν Ἀρίοις, Alexándreia hē en Aríois; Latin: Alexandria Ariorum (Today a city in western Afghanistan), dealing the death blow to the Kurt Dynasty (Ghurid ; also
Gates and Walls of the famous Jiayuguan Fortress, which represented the westernmost border of China during the years of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD). During the subsequent Manchu Dynasty, China and then Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet were vanquished and subsequently administered under one rule.
known as the Kartids)(1244 - 1381 AD) who were former vassals of the Mongol Empire.