September – The Silk Road

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Exhibition on the Silk Route

This month, in the Hermitage in Amsterdam (a branch from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg in Russia), I visited the special exhibition on the ancient Silk Road.

Not actually a road
The Silk Route, or Silk Road, is not actually a road but it’s a name used in general for a number of ancient trade routes and roads that linked China to Central Asia on one side, and the Mediterranean and the Middle East at the other side.

The name ‘Silk Road’ was introduced by Ferdinand von Richthofen, a German geographer, and that’s why people often think that silk was the only think being traded from East to West, but this is not true.

Luxury goods
Besides silk a lot of other goods were being traded:
– from East to West traveled jade, musk, fur, ceramics and lacquerware amongst other things
– from West to East traveled gold, wool, linen and glass amongst other things

The biggest trade network
The Silk Route was the biggest trade network until the fifteenth century.
Interesting is that besides merchants and traders also nomads, soldiers, monks and pilgrims traveled from China to
the Mediterranean Sea. This was clearly expressed in the fact that not only goods traveled back and forth.


Not only goods
Here’s a list of things other than luxury goods that traveled along the Silk Roads:

  • ideas on money
  • taxes and administration
  • diseases (such a the black plague)
  • knowledge
  • philosophies
  • art
  • religions

Spread of Buddhism
This period has been of great importance for spreading the Buddhist Philosophy, especially Mahayana Buddhism to China, Korea and Japan.

> I will offer a series of lectures (in Nov. 2014) on how Buddhism and Buddhist Art spread out from India to other countries, as well as the development of Buddhist styles in the many Asian countries.

Silk – not so beautiful as you think

silkworms-boiled-aliveTalking about silk: did you know that silkworms are boiled alive? They pay such high and horrible price for our ‘beautiful’ silk clothes.

It takes about 1.000 silkworms to make one single silk blouse….

I was very shocked to learn this through the exhibition and I think still many people are unaware of this.
…Imagine yourself being thrown in a pan of boiling water and dying this hellish death… and be then aware that it takes 1.000 cruel deaths to make just one single blouse. Isn’t that sad?

Peace Silk (Cruelty-Free Silk)
Should you still want to wear silk after knowing this, please consider buying clothes made from Peace Silk (also known by the name of Cruelty-Free Silk). Peace Silk allows the silkworm to emerge from their cocoons to live out their full life cycle, which is very important in the Buddhist Philosophy.

> In the Inspiration section you can find more information on animal care and vegetarianism