View Full Version : Han Dynasty Silk Road

01-15-2007, 08:49 PM
Do we have anyone who knows the month in 6BC Princess Dowager Feng committed suicide? I have a character heading out along the Silk Road with a caravan because of it and it would help to know if he's going to encounter summer or winter weather.

Also, if anyone knows approximately how long the journey from Chang'an to Afghanistan usually took, that would be helpful, too.

Many thanks for any answers.

01-16-2007, 05:42 AM
I'll see what I can find about the month of her death, but it'll probably be in Chinese calendar terms, which might make things messy -- but hey, I love a Chinese challenge!

I'm going to focus on this question first -- if somebody wants to handle the travel-time one, "sui ni de bian!"

01-16-2007, 08:33 PM
Bardskye are you seriously walking the silk road??? That is super cool. I've ridden from Kashgar to Tashurgan stopping for 2 days in Lake Karakul - an absolutely brilliant trip. Xinjaing is amazing. And how cool is that Kashgar Sunday market??? Fantastic! You must be having an absolutely brilliant time (as long as you are staying away from the Han in Xinjaing... somehow none of them are nice that far west).

Your book sounds fantastic. Have you slotted characters in around Princess Dowager? I love these type of books! PM when it is done and getting published.

Good luck! Oooh and no - no idea what month and I'm not going to go googling for you, you can do that as well as I can. Have a great trip.

01-16-2007, 09:28 PM
Unfortunately I'm walking the Silk Road in imagination only, though I would kill for the chance to do it in person.

My WIP is the journey of the 3 Magi of Christian fame, so takes place in China, Persia and Judaea. It's turning into as much an adventure story as a straight historical.

ETA: Thanks, Smallthunder. I've been able to find out why she killed herself, even what she said just before, but not when. The working copy I've got set in the spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. Even just the season rather than the month would be helpful.

01-16-2007, 09:54 PM
The few hundred km of silk road we rode was seriously steep, windy and fascinating. The mountains are massive (7000+ feet) with passes over the 4000ft mark. I believe the current road follows the original un-tarred Silk Road so the people would have needed to navigate these roads with 1000ft cliffs over-hangings (and large boulders on the road where they have fallen from their great heights, often leaving large holes in the tar).

Today people are still living in huts made from mud or lawn-bricks (my word: lawn cut into foot-square blocks and stacked on top of each other forming walls etc) and getting about on donkey carts. I'd imagine large sections are still much as life was thousands of years ago - in CiXi's day. CiXi is a fascinating character…

It is very Muslim in Xingjian, not sure where the divide is for that or what it would have been in the 6th century.

I've been to Xian which is the start of the Silk Road but just slotted in some of the usual touristy rubbish between work (I was lecturing there). I probably have nothing interesting to add about that area that would be differnet to what you would find on millions of travel sites on the net.

The research on this must be arrrrrrrrhhhh. Have you been along sections you have your characters travel through? Can you really research all this stuff in books and on the net without actually going there? I've traveled extensively (usually on my mountain bike) though China so might be able to answer questions on some places. I’ve also got thousands of photos (happy snaps, nothing professional) of some pretty remote places if you want a look (I guess these are regularly available on all sorts of travel websites thou).

ETA: The road was windy in the strong wind blowing sense of the word, it was a little windy in the bendy sense but not remarkably so.

01-17-2007, 12:43 AM
Nope, never had the pleasure of leaving North America, though I've been to all four corners of the continent.

The research so far has been fascinating. And you're right, pictures and books can't compete with the real thing. Fortunately, though, as far as mountains go, I've got the Canadian Rockies on my doorstep. They're not a bad stand-in for the Himalayas. The other aspects of living on the trail haven't changed a whole lot if you leave the RVs behind and go out with just what you can carry on your back.

As long as I keep the story centered on the characters, I think I can get away with it.

The Muslim influence apparently started influencing the whole trail a few years after my target years, though I expect there was at least some before. I figure my traders/caravan people are like merchants anywhere, anytime. Religion wouldn't be a big deal as long as you bought something.

The Persian section of the WIP I'm leaving for my co-writer as that's her area of fascination.

01-17-2007, 01:30 AM
If you're writing about 6BC then forget about Islam. Mohammed did not receive his revelation until 610AD

01-17-2007, 02:32 AM
Thanks, Waylander. I hadn't got into that area yet (I was going to fob it off on the co-writer.) I did see a mention that neither Islam nor Buddhism were factors for the time and area. I'll ask the co-writer to look into the pre-Islamic religions for her areas, then.

01-17-2007, 07:01 AM
The Summer Palace does have images of Buddha and Buddha temples... much of these were damaged as part of the cultural revolution (freeing the people from religion) but the ones up high (too high to damage easily) are still intact.

But of course these could have easily been added after CiXi's day.

I think I remember reading she had a little mini train set up in one of the palaces for her and her friends to ride out and have tea parties on. I believe this was the only train system she set up in the country... I honestly do marvel at her marble boat she built instead of a navy! Fascinating women!!!

I didn't know the Muslim influence was after that time. Check out Confucianism too - huge tablets of Confucian’s teaching are on display in Xian and I think he did spend a lot of time there. I haven't bothered studying his whereabouts and journeys but I'd assume you need to find out what religion influences were important at the time of your tale. I've just finished reading the early Courtney novels by Wilber Smith (1600 - 1800, no where near as early as yours) and I love all those religious references and old-ways-of-doing-things descriptions in his books.

01-17-2007, 07:47 AM
Do we have anyone who knows the month in 6BC Princess Dowager Feng committed suicide? I have a character heading out along the Silk Road with a caravan because of it and it would help to know if he's going to encounter summer or winter weather.I've never seen a month given (that doesn't mean it's not out there). However, her suicide followed a series of investigations and back-and-forths with Imperial authorities, which all seemed to have begun in 6 BC. So I would suggest winter is out, as the investigators would have had to travel. Probably, late summer/early fall is the right time frame, imo.

01-17-2007, 06:09 PM
Fascinating question and thread. Love this stuff.

01-18-2007, 07:58 PM
Wow, this was a tough one. But I found the answer in 汉书 卷十一 哀帝纪第十一

That is, in Han Shu (The Han Book) by Ban Gu. vol. 11, it says Feng Yuan and her younger brother committed suicide in Winter. See line 47 in the text.


http://www.workgroup.cn/GuoXueDetail.aspx?4377 (http://www.workgroup.cn/GuoXueDetail.aspx?4377)

01-18-2007, 08:48 PM
:Hail: Wow, you are just the best! Wish I could give you more than 1 rep point at a time for helping. If it ever makes publication I'll be asking for your name so you can be properly thanked.

Here's another really simple question to make sure I have it right: Feng is the family name and Yuan the personal name, right?

01-18-2007, 11:38 PM
Yup -- in Chinese, the surname comes first, then the given name.

Good luck with your book -- I can't directly commit myself to your other question, about time/distance, but I will keep it in mind.