Silk Road Narratives: A Collection of Historical Texts

Part of our Silk Road Seattle Project is to make available interesting historical sources which may be used in teaching and learning about the Silk Road. Here is an initial list of links to texts which have been digitized and posted on the web already.

Text/Author Time Period Description
Chinese accounts 91 BCE - 1643 CE Chinese Accounts of Rome, Byzantium and the Middle East.   Hirth tr. (1885), ed. by Dr. Jerome S. Arkenberg (Paul Halsall's East Asian History Sourcebook).
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea 60 CE A Greek account of the ancient maritime trade routes to India and East Africa
The Han Histories 206 BCE - 220 CE Some fascinating material about the nature of Chinese relations with the nomads, the development of the Inner Asian trade, and a Chinese perspective on the culture and geography of Inner Asia.
Hou Han shu 25-220 CE "The Western Regions according to the Hou Han Shu," a new translation with extensive annotations by John Hill. The Hou Han Shu, the official history of the Latter or Eastern Han Dynasty, 25-220 CE, was compiled in the fifth century by Fan Ye but is based on earlier records. (Last upated 8/7/2003)
Weilue 239-265 CE "The Peoples of the West" from the Weilue: A Chinese description of the West, including the Roman Empire (Da Qin), translated and annotated by Mr. John Hill (Cooktown, Australia)
The Kharosthi Documents from Chinese Turkestan
235-325 CE Documents discovered by Sir Aurel Stein, primarily at the Tarim Basin site of Niya
Ancient Sogdian Letters 313/14 CE The Sogdian Ancient Letters (nos. 1,2,3,5) translated by Prof. Nicholas Sims-Williams (University of London).
Faxian (Fa-Hsien) 399-414 Travels of a Chinese monk through Central Asia to India.
Xuanzang 629-645 Description of lands to the west of China by a Chinese Buddhist monk who traveled to India.
The Nestorian Stele 781 The Nestorian Christian monument discovered in the Tang capital, Chang'an. (From Paul Halsall's Internet History Sourcebooks Project, Fordham University)
The T'ang Shu 8-9th c. Chinese histories of the Uighurs. Translated by Prof. Colin Mackerras (Griffith University, Australia)
Benjamin of Tudela 1160-1173 Benjamin of Tudela travels from Spain into Middle East.
Ye-l Ch'u t'sai's account of Central Asia (Si Yu Lu)
1219-1224 A description of Central Asia from one of Chinghis Khan's Chinese officials who accompanied him on the conquest of Persia
Travels of Wu-ku-sun Chung tuan to Central Asia (Pei Shi Ki)
1219-1224 An account of Central Asia from a Kin Dynasty envoy to Chinghis Khan
Travels of Ch'ang Ch'un to Central Asia
1219-1224 A Taoist monk travels to Chinghis' court in Central Asia
John of Pian de Carpine 1245-1247 The earliest account of a Franciscan monk's travels to the Mongol court at Karakorum
William of Rubruck 1253-55 A Franciscan monk's travels to the Mongol court at Karakorum
Rabban Bar Sauma 1278-1313 Nestorian monk Rabban Bar Sauma's account of his mission to the west beginning in the late 1270s.
John Marignolli 1339-1353 Franciscan sent as papal legate to Yan (Mongol) Emperor of China
Francesco Balducci Pegolotti's Merchant Handbook 14th C. Important evidence regarding the Eurasian trade ca. 1340, during the period when the "Golden Horde" (the western part of the Mongol Empire) was at its height.
Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo 1402-1406 The travels of the Spanish ambassador Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo (d. 1412) to the court of Tamerlane.
Pero Tafur 1435-1439 Pero Tafur, a Spanish traveller to Constantinople, the Black Sea region and the Holy Land.
The Tarikh-i-Rashidi by Mirza Muhammad Haidar 1546-47 Part memoir, part history--an important account about the politics and culture of Central Eurasia from the 14th to mid-16th centuries.
Memoirs of Babur early 16th c. The memoirs offer a highly educated Central Asian Muslim's observations of the world in which he moved. Babar was the founder of the Mughal Empire.
Anthony Jenkinson 1557--60 The travels of an English merchant-diplomat from Moscow to Bukhara.
Richard Steel & John Crowther 1615-16 Journey from Mughal India through Persia.
Journey of Benedict Goës early 17th c. A unique record by a European of travel on the overland trade routes in inner Asia at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
Adam Olearius 1633-39 A German scholar's travels in Safavid Persia.
Jean Chardin 1660s-70s A French Hugenot merchant in Safavid Persia.