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Journal of Contemporary China, 24 91 , — Tsui, K. Wan Ed.
Tubilewicz, C. Internationalisation of the Chinese subnational state and capital: The case of Yunnan and the Greater Mekong subregion. Even an agreement on the name of the road has not yet been reached. Some employ the traditional name, Shuyandu Dao road between Sichuan and India , and others Shubu Zhilu the road of Shu cloth , and still others do not give a specific name.
Many works were case studies that provided details but failed to draw a comprehensive picture. A few macrostudies, however, were based on Chinese sources—mainly Han texts—and could not escape from the accusation of Sino-centricism. I would like to further this critique. Previous studies indeed lack a global view and thus downplay the global significance of the Southwest Silk Road.
A global perspective of the SSR will give rise to many questions, such as: What kind of relationship had existed among the three Silk Roads? How did they function together temporally and spatially? Did they become a network linked so closely that they brought the Eurasian supercontinent into a world system? If so, when and how? If not, why not? Janice Stargardt's study on medieval Burma and Sun Laichen's research have established excellent cases in terms of interactions between the overland route and the Maritime Silk Road, each with their own specific time frames.
I intend to supplement Chinese scholarship with non-Chinese resources to draw a more comprehensive picture of the SSR. First, I will present geographic and historical maps of the road, which is expected to fill in the gap of the pre—mid-nineteenth-century international trade that is less known to some scholars. This chapter to some extent adds new dimensions to our existing understanding of East-West communications as I attempt to demonstrate Yunnan's many connections with neighboring peoples as well as its significance in world history.
Although diverse and harsh, Yunnan topography creates favorable and special environmental factors to build a cornerstone for its civilized societies. Among mountains and rivers are hundreds of small fertile basins and valleys that are called bazi. Their size varies from a couple of square kilometers to several hundred square kilometers. Held by mountains and in many cases nurtured by rivers, they are endowed with flat and fertile soils, thanks to the alluvial accumulation from rivers and rains.
Even though they only constitute six percent of Yunnan territory, bazi are the key to its economy and culture. The Dian Lake dianchi region and the Erhai Region are two of the largest bazi and have cultivated the most developed agriculture. It is in such ecological conditions that the two large modern-day cities, Dali and Kunming, have developed into urban centers of Yunnan.
Furthermore, bazi facilitated connections and interactions among local peoples. Relatively short distances between those bazi made transportation and commercial activities plausible. Indeed, bazi functioned as inns for merchants, providing food and housing. Bazi were also providers of commercial goods, and consumers of foreign products. If we examine maps carefully, we find that cross-regional trade routes are chained with strings of bazi. Finally, bazi in Yunnan differ by altitude, landscape, and climate, which to a certain extent accounts for the diversity of local ethnic groups.
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In a word, bazi symbolize the dynamic and diverse Yunnan society. When we examine mainland Southeast Asia, we find that its major rivers the Mekong, Red [or Hong], Salween, and Irrawaddy rivers nurturing fertile lands all originated on the Tibet Plateau and passed through Yunnan. If we broaden our view, other major rivers such as the Yangzi, the Pearl zhu , and the Brahmaputra share the same origin, either passing through the Yunnan Plateau or winding around its edges.
Although most rivers in Yunnan are not navigable, 13 and overland roads were so crucial for communication with neighbors, Charles Higham points out that these rivers "have historically provided passages for the movement of people, goods, and ideas. Paleolithic and Neolithic discoveries reveal that Yunnan began to cultivate its own cultures during its interactions with neighboring areas. Scholars of China have used and, indeed, abused, archaeological findings in Yunnan to reconstruct Chinese national history. They have used hominid fossils unearthed in Yunnan to suggest the "likelihood that the Asian continent constitutes a locus for the origin of man.
As archaeology has been a source for nationalist expression in present-day China, these scholars have come to conclude that the "Chinese of the recent day are the descendants of the region's Paleolithic inhabitants. These customs have been found from the Pacific to Madagascar. All of these probably resulted from prehistorical migrations of which scholars know very little. Some peoples in Yunnan today are the descendents of the Di and Qiang who lived in Northwest China and later moved southward.
They named it the Ethnic Corridor minzu zoulang and argued that a full understanding of early migration through this pass would shed light on many myths of ethnicity, language, and ritual around Yunnan. Tong Enzheng points out that many cultural features in Southeast Asia might have come from Sichuan, having passed through Yunnan. Bronze drums, for instance, seem to have spread from Yunnan into Southeast Asia, because those unearthed in Yunnan were dated earlier than their Southeast Asian counterparts.
Tibet, for instance, has been interacting with Yunnan since very early times. In fact, the Tubo Empire once established a tributary relationship with the Nanzhao Kingdom, and ethnic people such as the Naxi in northwest Yunnan have been heavily influenced by Tibetan culture. Furthermore, the Indian world had great influence on Yunnan as well, directly and indirectly.
The most revealing cases include Buddhist influences and the cowry monetary system that will be discussed later. While bronze artifacts in the Shang and Zhou dynasties in the Central Plain have impressed the world, scholars have been puzzled by the source of their bronze, since no large copper sites existed in North China. Arnold Toynbee implies that the metal was from the south, since "the nearest sources of tin and copper to the Yellow River basin are Malaya and Yunnan.
The Yue people lived south of the Yangzi River and spread as far as Indochina. Some inhabitants in Yunnan belonged to the Baiyue. Archeological findings have affirmed common cultural features that have been discussed by Ling Chunsheng and other scholars, which are also supported with linguistic evidence. Nanzhao Yeshi The wild history of Nanzhao compiled by Ni He, a Ming scholar, records a tenacious local legend that not only suggests their intimate ties with all the neighbors but also suggests local concepts of the world.
Yunnan: Market Profile
He had eight brothers, among whom, the eldest was the ancestor of the sixteen states in ancient India ; the second, the ancestor of Tubo Tibet ; the third, the ancestor of the Han people China ; the fourth, the ancestor of the Eastern Barbarians dongman , probably referring to ethnic peoples in modern Guizhou ; the fifth, namely, himself, the ancestor of the Mengshezhao later Nanzhao ; the sixth, the ancestor of the Lion Kingdom Shiziguo, referring to Ceylon ; the seventh, the ancestor of Jiaozhi North Vietnam ; the eighth, the ancestor of the Baizi Kingdom a local kingdom replaced by Nanzhao ; and the ninth, the ancestor of the Baiyi the Tai people.
Such a concept of the world must have been based on the frequent interactions enabled by the Southwest Silk Road. Indeed, it constituted a land bridge between China and Southeast Asia, and beyond, but, unlike the North Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road, the lack of textual and archaeological evidence challenges scholars to provide a comprehensive picture of the SSR, especially during its early period.
On hearing Zhang Qian's report, Emperor Wu dispatched four envoys to look for the route. They failed to find the route, but they did return with some knowledge about the indigenous population around Yunnan. These earliest records by Sima Qian leave us with invaluable as well as rather obscure information on the Southwest Silk Road. Because of its enormous significance, scholars sometimes identify this branch as the SSR. However, other roads also contributed to the formation and function of the SSR.
Because the main articles traded along this road were tea and horses, it was named Dianzang Chama Gudao ancient road of tea and horses between Yunnan and Tibet. It started from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan and a symbol of the developed Shu culture that was no less significant than the Shang culture. Guanghan, a city less than one hundred kilometers from Chengdu, was the site of the well-known Sanxingdui relics that had cultivated a sophisticated bronze culture, which might have exerted great influence on Southeast Asia.
The route actually utilized part of the Yuan River Hong River. Indeed southern Yunnan, Upper Burma, and Laos, cannot be divided either geographically, culturally, or ethnically. Though we lack early Chinese documents, tribute missions of small states in mainland Southeast Asia were by no means rare after the Tang. Since these routes can be seen as extensions of the Chuan-Dian-Burma-India road , I would discuss them together. Obviously Yunnan functioned as a nucleus of these overland interactions.
Before we turn to the connection between Yunnan and Tibet, let us first examine Chinese sources of the Tang period that illustrate the dynamics of the three southward routes crisscrossing Yunnan. Their records of miles and days were fairly close, which revealed that people of that time were familiar with the route. Although his books are currently missing, Xin Tang Shu New history of the Tang Dynasty , edited in the tenth century, fortunately kept a record of the seven routes he discerned that linked China with the "barbarians" of four directions.
The sixth linked Annam with India Tianzhu. This route started from Tonkin, via Yunnan, through Prome, to Magahda. After arriving at Dali, the routes joined together, and extended to Burma and India. This western route was about 3, li , compared with 5, li of the southern route. The southern route seemed too roundabout, but it was important, because it not only linked Yunnan and Burma but also connected the Maritime Silk Road with the SSR, which explained why merchants bothered to take this longer and winding way. Indeed, one of the shortcomings of present research concerns the section connecting Burma, Assam, and the Indian states.
These parallel south-north ranges are natural communication barriers. Fortunately, many passes exist, presumably fully utilized by peoples on both sides, however local peoples left us without any early documents. Modern and contemporary descriptions, nonetheless, may help us trace the routes of earlier times. Three routes lead from Assam to Bengal: one by water and the other two by land.
The Brahmaputra River was an excellent waterway for the movement of vessels. Of the two land routes, one was from Tezpur Darang district of Assam to Lakhnauti the capital of Bengal Sultans through the districts of Kamrupa and Goalpara, in the north of Brahmaputra; the second route was in the south of the Brahmaputra River. When crossing the river, it joined the first path. The second path seems to be favored by merchants who were interested in sea-trade, since it connected with the river ports of Bengal.
Moreover, Lakhnauti had the advantage of a line of connection with Tibet via Kamrupa. Likewise, there also was a route from Kashmir to China Yunnan via Koh-i-kara-chal Kumaon Mountains , Patkai Hills, and the upper districts of Burma, which was joined by a passage from Lakhnauti. Furthermore, Nisar points out that some portions of the three routes Lakhnauti-Tezpur, Lakhnauti-Tibet and Lakhnauti-China were probably common.
The Yunnan-Guizhou plateau is indeed an extension of Tibetan Plateau so that northwestern Yunnan naturally connects to Tibet. During the Ming Dynasty, Yunnan exported tea to Tibet, which began the climax of this route. Likewise, the Sichuan tea could be shipped through Yunnan, too. These routes are exactly what Deyell notices: "A separate apparently well-traveled and renowned route led from the region of the Upper Yangtse-Mekong-Shalween rivers through Tibet. Passes led through Bhutan and Nepal into Kamarupa and Hindustan respectively.
Fan Chuo also noticed this southern route. Still, this way was much longer. Communications between India and Yunnan had quite often taken the northwestern branch since the eighth century, which was a result of the close relationship between Yunnan and Tibet. In fact, the Tibetan Tubo Empire once controlled northwestern Yunnan, where many local states accepted Tibetan suzerainty in the seventh and eighth century. Despite the introduction of maps, it should not be forgotten that the four sections emerged at different times.
The sections functioned variously, and their sub-branches changed courses historically. In the following parts of the chapter, I will examine the four sections one by one to reveal the details of the historical changes that took place. Because of its significance, scholars often focus their discussions on this main path, examining it in order to discover the origins of the SSR as a whole. So he reported on this possibility to Emperor Wu, 51 who then dispatched his envoys to explore the way to India.
All of them failed, with one having been stopped by the Kunming people in Yunnan. They believed that the road was in use as late as the second century BCE. Could the date have been pushed back earlier?
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The majority of scholars in China support the argument that the road emerged as early as the fourth century BCE. One piece of evidence they cited was what Ji Xianlin, a most famous scholar of Sino-Indian cultural relationships, discussed the word cinapattas in Arthasastra , a Sanskrit work of around the fourth century BCE.
Cinapatta was translated by Ji into "bunches of Chinese silk," implying that Chinese silk was known to Indians at that time. It is possible that the silk went through the SSR, but considering the threat posed to silk by its jungles, I doubt this speculation. These cowries were from the Pacific and Indian oceans, especially from the Maldives. They may have been shipped to Burma first and then arrived in Yunnan in the same way, but it is more likely that they went first to Bengal by sea, and then were brought to Yunnan through overland routes, since navigation between the Maldives and Burma was harder than that between Bengal and the Maldives.
If so, the route could be traced back to the mid-first millennium BCE. Could the date be earlier still? It is possible. The shells, like what was unearthed in Yunnan, belong to the Cypraeetitris , Monetaria annulus , and Monetaria moneta species and, although they may have come from the southeast coastal areas via the Yangzi River, it is more likely that they arrived via the SSR, considering again the overwhelming challenge of navigating from South China Sea or the Indian Ocean to South or Southeast China.
If they did indeed follow the SSR, the spread of bronze drums suggests that the road is dated to the late second millennium BCE. Xia Nai in noticed that a decorated carnelian bead shihua rouhong shisuizhu around the third or second century BCE in Shizhaishan Jinning County, where the capital of the Dian Kingdom was located was manmade. Such beads were also found in Xinjiang and Tibet. Made in India and Pakistan, they spread westward to Egypt and northward to Iran.
Xia pointed out that this decorated carnelian bead either could have been imported or made locally in Yunnan. Zhang Zengqi argues that both beads were imported on the grounds that many agates were uncovered with the beads, and if the beads were made locally, why were more, rather than just two, not unearthed?
This blue bead, never seen in inland China before, was different from local products in terms of design, color, and transparency. Hence it was suspected to have been imported. It is believed that these ambers came from Yunnan, since Yongchang was recorded to produce such beads. It now appears that Yongchang was just a transit station for beads from Burma.
One was a gold-and-silver belt hook inlaid with a winged tiger whose eyes were transparent yellow liuli beads youyihucuojinyindaigou. This kind of belt ornament never appeared in China until the third century, about four hundred years later. The other was a bronze button with gold-plated sculpture liujin fudiao tongshi kou. Standing on the sculpture were two animals that were suspected to be lions. However, lions are not indigenous to China, and the first lion was reportedly presented by Parthia in the first century. Scholars question why bamboo canes, which were cheap products, were taken several thousand miles away; South India had its own bamboo and cloth.
Xia Nai and others also contest the existence of the SSR because the hardship brought by climate and topography, as well as the heterogeneity and enmity among local tribes and states would have made the route a most difficult one to follow 63 As a result, these scholars either denied the existence of the SSR in Zhang Qian's time or sought alternative passages. Arthasastra , which was composed in the reign of Chandragupta Maurya late fourth century BCE , reads, "My teacher says that, of the land-routes that which leads to the Himalayas is better than that which leads to the South.
Not so, says Kautilya, for with the exception of blankets, skins, and horses, other articles of merchandise, such as conch-shells, diamonds, precious stones, pearls and gold are available in plenty in the South. One of those routes leading to the Himalayas probably went through Upper Burma to Yunnan, on the grounds that blankets, skins, and horses were famous local products in Yunnan.
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However, Tibet was known for these products, too. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea , written by a Greek of the mid-first century, says, "After the region Chryse under the very north, the sea outside ending in a land called This , there is a great inland city called Thinae, from which raw silk and silk yarn and silk cloth are brought on foot through Bactria to Barygaza.
His interpretation may be correct since many famous Malay products such as gold, tortoise-shells, and pearls are mentioned by the Greek record, and the geographical descriptions of the neighborhood are basically accurate. If so, the road from coastal mainland Southeastern Asia via Upper Burma and Yunnan leading to inland China might have been utilized before, even long before, the arrival of the Greeks. In Science and Civilization in China , Needham offers a summary of his theory: "The Greek kingdoms in Bactria during the first half of the second century BCE used a cupro-nickel coinage, so far as is at present known the oldest in the world.
Tarn, in his Greeks in Bactria and India, clearly already believed that Bactrian nickel came from China. Schuyler van R. Cammann, for example, constructs his argument by pointing out that in the third century BCE, Yongchang "was a wild and barbarous area. After all, bronze metallurgy in Yunnan was much advanced in the middle of the first millennium BCE. Additionally, since there were no other sources of paktong at the time, where else, other than Yunnan, could it have come from? Cammann highlights the alloy theory's flaw: If paktong traveled through the SSR, why were nickel alloys not found in other sites in India?
Another conspicuous problem is that no paktong items earlier than the Ming period — have even been found in Yunnan. Nevertheless, it is difficult to ascertain when sporadic exchanges turned into a regular trade unless supplied with further evidence, leaving the chance for future archaeological findings.
Assuming the existence of the SSR at that time, we should not exaggerate the scale of trade. I can therefore appreciate Harald Bockman's cautious approach regarding Yunnan trade during the Han times BCE— CE , concluding, "There is still too scant evidence for proclaiming it a 'Southern Silk Road,'" for there are "very few archaeological indicators" of the volumes and goods of the trade. The Han envoy waited over a year, as the Kunming people blocked their way westward so that none of them were able to reach India.
Some argued that it was located in present-day Tengyue in southern Yunnan; some stated that it was Piaoyue panyue or hanyue , an ancient state located in Burma; other insisted that it was Kamarupa in Assam. Many tributes to that time have been recorded: In 94 CE, Moyan, the king of Dunrenyi, located outside Yongchang Prefecture, sent a tributary envoy with rhinoceros and elephants; in 97 CE, Yongyoudiao, the king of Sham, and other barbarians, out of the frontiers, presented treasures.
In CE, the Jiaoyaozhong, with over 3, people out of the frontiers, subjected themselves to the Han Empire by presenting elephant tusks and oxen. In CE, Yongyoudiao sent a tributary mission again that included musicians and acrobats. The latter was said to have the magical power that enabled them to spit fire, decompose their bodies, and switch heads between horse and oxen.
They called themselves Haixiren people west of the sea. The astonishing contrast lies in the decades of chaos in Central Asia after the collapse of the Western Han; at the same time the contrast reveals the increasing significance of the SSR. Probably suffering from the blockades in the north, peoples in the west had to turn to alternatives, and the SSR seemed to be the shortcut.
Interestingly, the author of Periplus of the Erythraean Sea might have noticed or might have taken the same route in the mid-first century, just a little earlier than the time of these tributes. If we doubt whether the SSR was open in the time of Zhang Qian, the above Chinese and Western sources together have shown that the route was prosperous at least around the mid-first century.
The History of the Eastern Han Dynasty clearly states that Haixi was Daqin haixi ji daqin ye , and that the Sham connected Daqin southwestward shanguo xi'nan tong daqin. Indeed, it was said that "Yongchang produces exotic goods" Yonchang chu yiwu. Both HYGZ and HHS present the list of "exotic" articles, including copper, tin, lead, gold, silver, jade, precious stones, liuli , cowries, pearls, ribbons, elephants, water buffalos, cattle, ivory, peacock, cottons, and so on.
When the king of Ailao submitted his kingdom to the Eastern Han in 69 CE, it is recorded that the Ailao Kingdom had a population of over half a million. The Han court then set up a Yongchang Prefecture, administrating the Ailao area and six counties from the Yizhou Prefecture. One source reads, "Yonchang Prefecture [has] eight cities, , households, and 1,, people. The above statistics may have been exaggerated; nevertheless, other sources still affirm that Yongchang was one of the most populous areas in Southwest China, and it continues to be so.
One source stated that a Buddhist pilgrim around the fourth century took this route to India. Six or eight kingdoms in the Dali area, including Nanzhao, emerged, and Nanzhao became the first unified kingdom around Yunnan. A number of towns flourished in the Nanzhao and Dali periods. Likewise, many regimes thrived in mainland Southeast Asia in the early medieval period by which I mean the eighth to mid-thirteenth centuries.
Harvey points out that "the Chinese described Burma in the ninth century as containing eighteen states and nine walled towns all of which were dependent on the Pyu. Their chief town was Prome but traditions of them survive as far north as the Kabaw valley. Because of the frequent trade and tributary missions, the Chinese noticed increasing internal interactions within mainland Southeast Asia. These missions may have been the key source for updated knowledge of Southeast Asia for the Chinese. It was certainly not a coincidence that Jia Dan's books on Sino-foreign communications were presented only seven years after the establishment of the Tang-Nanzhao alliance.
First, the emergence of a series of towns and states were not only nurtured by the Maritime Silk Road but also by overland trade and communications. To put it simply, commerce through the interplay between the SSR and the Maritime Silk Road was the logical reason for urbanization. Second, communications around Yunnan the Nanzhao and Dali kingdoms were so frequent that the Chinese, through direct or indirect contacts, greatly improved their knowledge of mainland Southeast Asia, as revealed in Fan Chuo's Man Shu.
The shortage of Chinese sources resulted from the intentional decision of the Song Dynasty — to reduce and control communications with Dali when Song China was struggling to keep the northern neighbors from invading. Although the Song blocked trade between Sichuan and Yunnan, commercial links between Yunnan and Guangxi developed because the Song needed horses from Dali. Moreover, there was no reason to doubt the trade between Dali and Southeast Asia, considering the prosperity of the Maritime Silk Road. Some texts reflected that Dali kept close relations with states in mainland Southeast Asia.
For example, in , Dali and Pagan paid tributes in the Song court.
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The fame of Yongchang lasted many centuries, and the trade probably grew even more prosperous in the Nanzhao and Dali periods. Merchants and merchandise in Yongchang indeed were not only from southern coastal areas but also from Annam. This was noticed by Zhang Jianzhi, a Tang minister, as he insightfully stated that Yongchang communicated with Daqin to the west, and to the south, with Jiaozhi, a region that is in modern-day North Vietnam.
The similarities between bronzes and other cultural artifacts and suggest strong historical ties between Yunnan and Vietnam. The prince's trip from Shu to Vietnam might have passed Yunnan. Though the story was recorded quite late, some Vietnamese scholars believed it to be reliable. Upon hearing of the rebellion in Yizhou Yunnan , Ma Yuan suggested that his army move to Yunnan, giving a detailed description of his route. Another Chinese source traced this relationship back a decade earlier. In the late Western Han, around the first century, when Wen Qi was assigned as governor of Yizhou Prefecture, Gongsun Shu occupied the Shu area and claimed independence.
Gongsun asked for Wen Qi's submission but was refused. However, the above three prefectures were taken by the Shu, and Liu could not return back. Seven years later the Wu army of , soldiers took it back. Because of its location, Jiaozhi now as Jiaozhou became the major port city of the Maritime Silk Road before the Tang Dynasty, when navigation technology developed so much that ships preferred to arrive in Guangzhou. Commercial items included rhinoceros, elephants, pearls, horses, silver, copper, silks, cloths, jade, precious stones, spices, tortoise shell, and so on. Hence international trade partially explains why the Shu and the Wu both tried to control Jiaozhi.
Nanzhao exchanged its horses for Vietnamese salt. A couple of skirmishes between Nanzhao and Annam resulted from the unfair trade that the governor of Annam forced on the Nanzhao merchants. The hostility, of course, had negative effects on communication, but private trade never seemed to have stopped. Indeed, because of strict Tang isolation of the Sichuan frontier passes for a period of time, and because of Tubo's control of its southeastern frontiers, the Yunnan-Vietnam communication was rather regular, which can be accounted for by Yi-mou-xun's envoy to Chang'an.
Unable to tolerate Tubo's extraction, Yi-mou-xun, the king of Nanzhao, sent three envoys to Chang'an to seek an alliance with Tang China. One envoy took the way through Annam, which implied that the Yunnan-Annam connection was thought to be a regular line of communication. In addition, Guangzhou gradually took the place of Jiaozhou in the Nanhai trade. However, trade through Guangxi prospered during the Dali-Song period, as this frontier area neighbored both the Dali Kingdom and Annam that sought to trade with the Song.
Moreover, Qinzhou and Lianzhou, the two port cities of Guangxi, also attracted the sea trade. Silk, cloths, salt, tea, and even Confucian books and Buddhist sutras from China were exchanged for oxen, elephants, sheep, chicks, gold, silver, weapons, armor, and various herbs from Yunnan. Furthermore, Dali gained access to the sea products through these markets.
Markets were set up by the Song state in Qinzhou, a major port city, and in Yongpingzhai, designed for merchants with diverse sea goods from Annam. Three branches from Yunnan leading to Yongzhou through Guizhou northern, southern, and middle , were all detailed in Zhou Qufei's Lingwai Daida of the thirteenth century. From Dali it led to Burma and India, or northeastward to Tibet. From Yongzhou, the route went southward, either to Annam or Qinzhou, a port city in Guangxi. From Qinzhou merchants could sail to Guangzhou or other ports along the southeastern coast, or to Southeast Asia.
If they took the northeastward overland routes from Yongzhou, merchants were heading for Jiangnan, the center of the Southern Song, and the richest area in the world at the time. The former could be seen as an extension of the Yunnan-Burma-India communication link. Fan Chuo recorded that this route first led south, crossed the Gaoligong Mountains, entered Upper Burma, and turned northwestward to Zayu, Tibet. Nanzhao dehuabei , an inscription of stone tablet installed by the Nanzhao king that reviewed the triangle relationship among Nanzhao, Tang, and Tibet, recorded that a tributary mission was sent to Tibet after Nanzhao's victory over the Tang army.
It is said that the sixty-person mission presented Tibet with many treasures. As a reward, a Tibetan minister was dispatched to Nanzhao with gold hats, gold horde, gold belts, silk, shells, blanket, horses, sables, silver items, and other local articles. Tea, in the Tibetan language, is pronounced as "ja," the same as that in Japanese, both from ancient Chinese pronunciation. Until the coming of the eighth century, the Tibetan people did not drink tea, even though the king and nobles had tea from China, but not from Yunnan. Neither can we know whether it took place in the Song time when the tea-horse trade in Sichuan was prosperous and later monopolized by the state.
At that time the Mu clan had risen and dominated the border area between Tibet and Yunnan. Later labeled the Naxi nationality, the Mus, like their predecessors, indeed had close relations with the Tibetan people. In , the tea-horse trade market was set up in Beishengzhou Yongsheng , officially recognizing the existing trade.
Thanks to the tea-horse trade, many towns prospered; one of these was Lijiang, which had for a long time been the bridge between Yunnan and Tibet. Since Sichuan, Yunnan, and Tibet bordered each other, tea from Sichuan sometimes was shipped first to Yunnan, and then transferred to Tibet; or tea from Yunnan was shipped via Sichuan to Tibet. At first sight, these transfers were unnecessary, but economic supplement and interdependence in the discussed areas made those transactions dynamic and meaningful.
One should bear in mind that present administrative boundaries meant nothing to the local peoples at the time. While Tibet consumed the bulk of the tea, a certain amount was sold in Nepal, India, and China proper, too. In fact, the first-class tea produced in Yunnan was for Chinese markets. The Puer tea won a high reputation in Beijing, and was on the list of tributary items presented to the imperial court.
Yunnan tea, as a major export, was also shipped into Southeast Asia. Nonetheless, a look at the communications after the Yuan period will show the historical continuity and development of transactions along the route. However, the Mongols did not stop in Yunnan. They expanded southward into other Southeast Asian states.
In order to serve the military conquest and subsequent political control, the Mongols imposed the jam postal zhanchi system along the main roads. The former owned 2, horses, and thirty oxen, while the latter had twenty-four ships. All the expenses for the postal stations were provided by local governments.
There were around eighty yizhan in Yunnan through the Ming period, sometimes up to ninety. Hence many xunjiansi were found, along with postal stations yizhan and bao , in the same location. There were nineteen postal stations yizhan , twenty bao , and fifty-four military stations junzhan. On the frontier areas where there were no postal stations, pu instead were stationed. Altogether there were over four hundred pu.
The obvious trend is that over time the postal infrastructure became more comprehensive and systematic, reaching into mountainous areas where ethnic peoples dominated. As a result, a large part of the SSR was incorporated into the official transportation system. First of all, military campaigns and political administration must have accompanied massive material shipping. Furthermore, when the power struggle was over, official interactions between China and Southeast Asia made full use of these roads and services.
Chinese documents in this period were filled with records of tributary missions, which is why some roads were named tributary roads gongdao. As is well known, tributary missions functioned as forms of material exchanges as well as political and cultural interactions. Finally, public management of transportation institutions did not exclude private merchants; rather it benefited private commerce, and as Yu Yingshi points out, "the profit-seeking merchants never failed to use public facilities to serve their private ends. Ho Ping-Ti, the prominent scholar of Chinese history, has argued that this road during the Ming period and perhaps throughout Chinese history was no less important than the Northern Silk Road, as corn and sweet potatoes arrived in China in the end of the sixteenth century firstly through this road.
The expanding European world system had already greatly transformed trade there. Eventually the French advanced in the colonial rivalry. In , the Dianyue Yunnan-Annam Railway was completed. This railway extended kilometers, connecting Kunming with Hanoi, resuming the heyday of the Yunnan-Jiaozhi trade. A large amount of minerals, especially tin, was exported from Yunnan into French Indochina, which served as the foundation of Yunnan economy during the early twentieth century. For example, when the Yunnan-Tibet connection was blocked due to the turmoil of the revolution, Yunnan tea was first shipped to Burma and then to Tibet.
The nationalist government retreated to Southwest China in When the Japanese blocked all coastal communications, the SSR contributed greatly to international connections. Before the Japanese occupation of Vietnam in , the Dianyue Railway was China's only access to the sea while the Yunnan-Burma railway and highway were under discussion. The construction of the Yunnan-Burma Railway began in , but was never finished, for many reasons.
It was put into use in September , but this ended in May , when the Japanese occupied Burma. Consequently, the Sino-Indian Highway was on the agenda. Its construction moved forward when the war in Burma favored the Allies. January saw its completion. But the most well-known form of transportation may be the Hump Airline that started from Assam, went through valleys of the Himalayas and the Hengduan Mountains, and landed in Yunnan. The airline took over the responsibility of the Yunnan-Burma Highway when the latter was blocked.
In , the most difficult part of the war, for China, began. Though the Hump Airline brought a lot of materials, it was unable to meet demands. With no access to Burma after , the Yunnan-Tibet-India connection was the only international passage in Southwest China. Private merchants felt quite patriotic when taking this opportunity to expand their business. Thousands of horses were utilized. International politics had reinstituted the golden age of traditional transportation. Yunnan would have provided a wonderland and a promising prospect for hundreds of Jewish refugees in Shanghai.
In , a proposal was raised to move , desperate Jewish people to the remote frontier province, but considered utopian, it was not put into effect. Taking advantage of its strategic location and its historical closeness with the southern regions, Yunnan is developing a highway connecting China, Southeast Asia, and beyond, attracting internal and international attention once again. While the governments attempt to resume their ancient communications, nongovernmental organizations such as international human traffic groups have begun to utilize this road.
Some illegal Fujianese immigrants left their southeast coastal homes, went to Yunnan, crossed the border, entered Burma or Thailand, and transferred to some place in Latin America before their arrival in the United States. Traffic of women for prostitution in Thailand follows these routes as well.
Diverse materials circulated on the trade routes, including shell, jade, precious stones, elephants, elephant tusks, horses, lumber, cloth, herbs, spices, salt, tea, gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, cotton, and opium, just to list some of the most familiar products. While discussion of all of the items are beyond the scope of the chapter, the following section will examine the horse trade as a means to examine the dynamics of the SSR.
By looking at existing Chinese and non-Chinese scholarship, I seek to illustrate how trade along the SSR indeed shaped local societies. Horses entered Yunnan with prehistoric migration from Central Asian grasslands. Horses were also used in wars and for transportation. During the early Western Han horses were reportedly exported to Sichuan. For example, Nanzhao presented horses as tributary items to the Tang court.
He concluded that the further northwest, the better the horses. Southern horses, according to his evaluation, were not as durable as northeastern ones. However, he admitted that the best southern horses surpassed northern horses, and were worth several dozen taels of gold.
Yunnan, south of the Yangzi River, was an important exception, thanks to its unique geography. No wonder southern kingdoms were eager to get access to Yunnan horses. Among them, the Wei was relatively powerful, so there was an alliance between the two southern kingdoms. Nevertheless, conflicts between Shu and Wu occasionally took place. One place of contention was Jiaozhou northern Vietnam.
The control of Jiaozhou was crucial to the Wu Kingdom, because it would not only bring back the incredible profit of the Nanhai trade but also allow access to the horses from Nanzhong Yunnan through the Yunnan-Vietnam Road. Furthermore, Jiaozhou was the springboard to Yunnan. The Shu also wanted to take over Jiaozhou, but the situation did not favor it.
Yong Kai, the local chieftain who controlled Nanzhong, communicated with Shi Xie, who headed Jiaozhi and sided with the Wu. Therefore, the immediate task of the Shu was not to take over Jiaozhi but Nanzhong, as it did later. Gongsun however, betrayed his promise, killed the envoys, and presented their heads to the Wei.
It is recorded that several hundred horses each year were presented to the Wu.