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The Road well traveled: Silk Road

The World's First Information Superhighway that influenced trade, culture and livelihoods of people living in three different continents

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The Old Silk Route, Wikimedia Common

By Pashchiema Bhatia

The Silk Route or the Silk Road, which extends to more than 6,500 kms, is a network of ancient trade routes connecting Asia, Africa and Europe which also became central to cultural interactions. But from where did it derive this name? From 2nd Century BC, this route was majorly used to transport Chinese Silk to Europe through Central Asia. Although, there were many trade routes connected to the main Silk Route which existed in much earlier times and traded in various commodities ranging from salt. But the greatest contribution of Silk Route to world history was beyond trading few entities. It facilitated the exchange of ideas, art and science between Asia, Africa and Europe. The South West Silk Route is one of the most ancient parts of the route connecting the Yunan Province of China to Tibet and finally to India but interestingly silk was not the major entity traded in this part of the route- It was horses and tea.

Contribution of Silk Route

Macro Polo, a Venetian merchant traveller, travelled through the silk route and witnessed the opulence of the Chinese civilization. The bubonic plague (the ‘Black Death’) also travelled through this route. Buddhism from India extended to the world and Greek art from Europe procured into India through Silk Route. New sciences like Algebra were brought up when the Arabs acquired the understanding of mathematics from India and China. Gradually, new cities and empires started emerging along the route and it enhanced the exchange of ideas and culture to great extent which re-shaped the world history. Also, it is not just about trade and cultural exchange. Many times, India and China had to send troops to Central Asia to fight military alliances.

History

The political centres of Mongol Empire, the largest continental Empire, looped around the Silk Road but soon after the Empire was fragmented, the political, cultural and economic unity was affected. After the disappearance of Silk Route, the Europeans had to visit the prosperous Chinese Empire through alternate routes, especially by sea route. Direct trade connection with Asia would result in tremendous profits and hence finally a direct ocean route from Europe to the East was opened by the excursions of Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama in 1499 through Atlantic and Indian oceans. The assets of the ancient Silk Road are now scattered around museums of various countries.

In the end of the Nineteen century, the interest to renew the Silk Road arose when various countries started to explore the region. The “New Silk Route” is sometimes referred to the “Eurasian Land Bridge” railway route. In 2013, the President of China Xi Jinping introduced a plan of establishing a New Silk Road from China to Europe and the project was named as ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR), which includes land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road.

The Silk Road on the sides of Indus river, Wikimedia Commons
The Silk Road on the sides of Indus river, Wikimedia Commons

The Present Day

The route had fallen into disuse but eventually after a long period of hibernation, the importance of Silk Road is increasing again. The project seems to be put high on the China development priority list. Many places are opening up for tourists to visit. However, the authorities do not allow the visitors to wander wherever they like. Also, there are traces of ruined cities but there is still much to see. In 2014, the Chang’an-Tianshan corridor of the Silk Route was titled as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The initiatives would help to improve the business environment of the region and contribute to greater connectivity. Also, China is ready to expand its investment in India. The OBOR project might not only re-shape the continental geography but also the regional politics and security.

Pashchiema is an intern at NewsGram and a student of journalism and mass communication. Twitter: @pashchiema5

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New Research Suggests Modern Apples Evolved from Kazakhstan 10,000 years ago

The birth of the modern apples ultimately led to 7,500 varieties of the fruit

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Silk Road
Modern Day Apples evolved from Kazakhstan. Wikimedia
  • The latest research suggests that the modern apples originated from Kazakhstan
  • The study was carried out by researchers from Boyce Thompson Institute in the United States
  • It was the genetic exchange from traders who used the Silk Road that the modern apples emerged in Kazakhstan

US, August 17, 2017: A new study suggests that the modern apples that are so crisp, yet so juicy, actually originated from Kazakhstan 10,000 years ago.

The study by researchers at Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) in the US reveal that during the back and forth traveling by traders on the Silk Road, the genetic exchange occurred that led to the emergence of modern day apples in Kazakhstan’s mountainous regions. Malus Domestica is the scientific name for our modern domesticated apples.

The Silk Road connected the East to the West. Hence, it led to an exposure of knowledge and ideas. Researchers hypothesize that this exchange of ideas resulted in the birth of the tasty Malus Domestica.

Lead Author of the study and Professor at Boyce Thompson Institute, Zhangjun Fei, explains his team’s study which is published in the journal Nature Communications.

ALSO READ: Fruits responsible for larger Brain size in Primates: Researchers

To carry out the study, the team of researchers sequenced 117 different apples and compared their genomes. These included the wild species extracted from Europe, North America, Central and East Asia.

The birth of the modern apples ultimately led to 7,500 varieties of the fruit. Interestingly, the quality of the fruit changed as from region to region as it first traveled from the East to the West. When the apples returned to go back to the west, the dropped seeds on the way helped the growth of trees in wild places.

M Sylvestris was dominant in the Apple’s growth. It’s ancestor, M Sieversii is found predominantly in Kazakhstan.

Our modern day apples have well-balanced sugar and higher organic acid contents. Hence, it is no wonder now that Apple is one of the favorite fruits for many people.

– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394


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China’s Internet Censors Block ‘Winnie the Pooh’ Images on Social Media

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US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping as he arrives for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit banquet in Beijing, Nov. 10, 2014. RFA
  • The image in question showed the Disney version of Pooh and Tigger alongside a photograph of Xi and former U.S. President Barack Obama
  • The meme wouldn’t be the first time ruling Chinese Communist Party has moved to crack down on any satire targeting the president
  • Cadres are also banned from posting about government business to either official and personal social media accounts without authorization

China, July 18, 2017: China’s internet censors appeared on Monday to have banned social media tweets containing a reference to Winnie the Pooh, after a satirical image drawing parallels between the cuddly bear and President Xi Jinping circulated online.

The image in question showed the Disney version of Pooh and Tigger alongside a photograph of Xi and former U.S. President Barack Obama during their “shirtsleeves summit” in June 2013.

“This photo has already been banned on Tencent,” user @Fantasy326_ tweeted on the Twitter-like platform Sina Weibo on Friday. “It won’t send, no matter how you use screenshots.”

ALSO READ: Gay Men Dating in Cartoons Banned in Kenya: Is India Standing on the same Pedestal?

User @cha_mi said keywords linked to “Winnie the Pooh” had also been banned on Sina, but “Winnie the Pooh was banned” remained a top search query and hashtag on the platform on Friday.

Commentators appeared to have no doubts over the cause of the ban, however.

“Winnie the Pooh has been banned from the Chinese internet because President Xi Jinping has been compared to him on a number of occasions,” user@ñzan commented. “It is now a banned word.”

“The number of sensitive words in China just keeps on multiplying and becoming more diverse.”

The Financial Times said posts including the Chinese name of Winnie the Pooh were censored on Sina Weibo over the weekend, while a collection of animated gifs featuring the bear were removed from social messaging app WeChat.

The meme wouldn’t be the first time ruling Chinese Communist Party has moved to crack down on any satire targeting the president.

Kwon Pyong, an ethnic Korean from the northeastern province of Jilin, stood trial on Feb. 15 for subversion after he wore a T-shirt emblazoned with satirical nicknames for President Xi Jinping, including “Xitler.”

19th Party Congress

Commentators said censors are clamping down on any whiff of online dissent ahead of the 19th Party Congress later in the year, during which Xi will be looking to cement his status as a “core” party leader for the next five years of government.

Veteran media commentator Zhu Xinxin said Xi seems far more concerned about eradicating the slightest whiff of dissent or criticism than previous generations of leaders.

“There is no humor here, just an obsession with preserving a totally idealized version of the highest-ranking leaders,” Zhu said. “This sort of dictatorial culture elevates national leaders to the status of gods.”

But Zhu said Xi’s sensitivity seems to be a symptom of his fear that he hasn’t yet won an ongoing power struggle in the corridors of Zhongnanhai.

“He is terrified of that things might get out of hand, and that it could be open season for satirizing various party leaders,” he said. “That’s why nobody is allowed to say anything to undermine his power and authority.”

Xi’s administration has stepped up a campaign against dissenting opinions both online and in the country’s tightly controlled state media in recent months, warning officials in January to stay on message when using the social media app WeChat.

Party and government officials have been warned not to use the internet, social media, radio, television, newspapers, books, lectures, forums, reports, seminars and other means “to make off-message comments about central government policy and undermine party unity.”

Cadres are also banned from posting about government business to either official and personal social media accounts without authorization.

The new code of conduct banning “off-message” statements was likely approved by the last plenary session of the 18th Party Congress last October, which was held behind closed doors, political observers said.

That meeting also formally endorsed President Xi Jinping as a “core” leader of the ruling party at the current plenum, potentially putting him on a par with former paramount leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, whose authority must never be challenged. (RFA)


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Kuwait aims to revive the Silk Road trade route by pumping millions into ‘silk city’

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A visitor walks past the statues of the characters from the Chinese novel 'Journey to the West' Thursday March 15, 2007 in Lanzhou, China. Lanzhou was an important town along with the ancient Silk Road connecting China and Europe. VOA

Kuwait City, March 11, 2017: Kuwait is aiming to revive the silk road trade route by pumping millions into ‘silk city’. Thus, Kuwait is building one of the world’s longest causeways to its remote north.

Kuwait aims at reinvigorating the ancient silk road route establishing a major free trade zone linking the Gulf to central Asia and Europe, to inject life in uninhabited Subbiya region. The region has been chosen as the location for Silk City.

The 36-kilometre bridge, will cut the driving time between Kuwait City and Subbiya to 20-25 minutes from 90 minutes now.

Investment in the Silk City project is anticipated to top USD 100 billion, and a 5,000-megawatt power plant has already been constructed in Subbiya.

Practitioner Regulation Agency began investigating him for “falsely holding himself out as a registered medical practitioner”.

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The Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah Causeway, named after the emir who died in January 2006. At a cost of 904 million dinars (USD 3.0 billion), it is one of the largest infrastructure ventures in the region, mentioned PTI.

It is already nearly three-quarters completed. Inspite of the sharp drop in oil income which made up 95 percent of public revenues, the emirate has pledged to keep spending on capital projects almost intact.

“The causeway project is a strategic link connecting Kuwait City to the northern region,” stated Ahmad al-Hassan, assistant undersecretary for road engineering at the public
works ministry.

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Kuwait boasts a USD 600-billion sovereign wealth fund, and is in the middle of a five-year development plan stipulating investments worth USD 115 billion.

He also stated that in order to the fully integrate residential Silk City, other economic ventures are in the pipeline for Subbiya and its surroundings. A large container port is also under construction on nearby Kuwait’s largest island Bubiyan.

Finishing the causeway and harbour projects will pave the way for transforming the area into a commercial and investment hub with a free trade zone planned on five small
islands nearby.

– prepared by Sabhyata Badhwar of NewsGram. Twitter: @SabbyDarkhorse