Gateway to Maritime Silk Road NEWS


Gateway to Maritime Silk Road


Infographics: Exchanges between Chinese and Arab civilizations on Silk Road

BY :People's Daily Online

UPDATED :2024-01-08

Intellectual, cultural, and economic exchanges between China and Arab states date back more than 2,000 years. Through ancient Silk Road trading routes, China's porcelain, silk, tea, paper making and printing techniques were introduced to the Arab world, while Arabian astronomical knowledge, the Arabian calendar and Arabian medicine became widely known in China.

During the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.), a Chinese emissary named Gan Ying reached the "western seas" (i.e. the Persian Gulf) on his mission to the Roman Empire, leaving the first official record of Chinese envoys reaching the Gulf States. 

In 750 A.D., Arab navigator Abu Obeida sailed from Sohar Port to the Chinese city of Guangzhou. The legendary journey was later adapted to the well-known adventures of Sindbad in "One Thousand and One Nights" (also known as "Arabian Nights").

In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Chinese navigator Zheng He reached Jeddah and Medina on his oceangoing voyages, leaving behind many stories of friendship and exchange that are still widely shared today. 

The ruins of the al Serrian port, which was once one of the three major ports in the Red Sea, were found in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula. In 2016, China and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement on archaeological cooperation to facilitate the excavation of the ruins of the historical site.

During the joint Chinese-Saudi archaeological excavation, many porcelain wares from China were uncovered, providing precious physical data for research on the ancient Maritime Silk Road. The finds included celadon (sometimes known as "green-ware" for its distinctive jade color) made in East China's Longquan city, and bluish white porcelain made in Jingdezhen, the country’s porcelain capital during the Song and Yuan Dynasties (960-1368). The excavation also unearthed blue and white porcelain made in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911), providing valuable information on the history of the site. 

In 1998, the Belitung Shipwreck was found off Indonesia's Belitung Island after lying at the bottom of the sea for about 1,000 years.

The ship was an Arabian trading dhow that likely sailed between China and the Arab world during the 9th century A.D. The cultural relics found on the shipwreck represent the largest and most extensive collection of cultural relics of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) yet found overseas. The collection, which includes as many as 60,000 individual pieces of ceramics, provides strong evidence of trade and cultural exchanges between China and countries in the Middle East during the first half of the 9th century. 

"One Thousand and One Nights" (also known as "Arabian Nights") is a collection of Arabian folk tales that is widely known in China.

During the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Chinese navigator Wang Dayuan visited many Arab countries and wrote the famous book "A Brief Account of Islands" to describe the local conditions and customs of these countries.

In the 14th century, famous Moroccan scholar and explorer Ibn Battuta traveled to China, contributing to the communication between China and the Arab world. His book "The Riḥlah (Travels)" contains valuable accounts of China in the Yuan Dynasty.

Mohammad Abdul-Wali, who is praised as the "father of Yemeni fiction", described how Chinese foreign aid workers and the Yemeni people jointly built a road in Yemen during the 1950s in his short story "The Chinese Road."

UNESCO has identified Quanzhou city in Southeast China's Fujian province as the starting point of the ancient Maritime Silk Road in China. Because Quanzhou is covered with Indian coral trees, or Citong in Chinese, it has been dubbed the "City of Coral Trees".

As a global maritime trade center in the Song and Yuan Dynasties, Quanzhou’s Citong port was known as the "largest port in the East" and the "warehouse of the world". The port played an important role in the maritime trade between China and nearly 100 other countries, including many Arab states.

In June 2014, the first Chinese Arab Cities Forum was held in Quanzhou. In July 2021, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee placed the entry "Quanzhou: Emporium of the World in Song-Yuan China" on its World Heritage List. 

On March 1, 2020, Egypt lit up three famous historical sites with red and golden stars to resemble the Chinese national flag, expressing the Egyptian government and people's support for China in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The historical sites included the Saladin Citadel in Cairo, the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor and the Philae Temple Complex in Aswan. 

In 2017, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government invited a team from the Qingdao Saline-Alkali Tolerant Rice Research and Development Center to carry out a trial planting of rice in local deserts.

Under the leadership of China's "father of hybrid rice" Yuan Longping, the team of Chinese scientists overcame unfavorable local conditions through innovation to create technology for improving the soil of saline-alkali land. In 2018, the team achieved initial success in growing and harvesting rice in Dubai’s deserts, with the highest yield per mu (a unit of area that equals 667 square meters) exceeding 500 kilograms. This was the world's first successful rice planting experiment conducted in tropical desert conditions. 

Major construction and infrastructure projects undertaken by Chinese companies have been featured on the bank notes of some Arab states.

The Great Mosque of Algiers in Algeria, the Lusail Stadium in Qatar, the new headquarters of the Central Bank of Kuwait, as well as the Merowe Dam, Roseires Dam and the Upper Atbara Dams Complex in Sudan, are among the projects that have been featured on the bills. These projects have achieved economic and social benefits for the populations of their countries, and have become an integral part of the countries they are in. 

Editor: Annie