A Princess Life along the Silk Road

Susan Whitfield’s semi-fictionalized stories of about 10 selected people who once lived along the Silk Road gives us a clearer picture on how does the culture goes during its golden days of trading. China protected these ancient interconnected trade routes through all means. Such physical evidence of this protection they gave was the building of its Great Walls that then disallows intrusion of bandits within China’s proclaimed boundaries. This made the half part of the merchant’s journey half-safe.
So as to ensure that their commodities would reach their final destination, China made pacts to their neighbor states who could give them military assistance. To strengthen these pacts, beside of the China’s promise to pay their purchases with silk, its ruler’s gave some of their royal princesses as a tribute to the neighbor states majesty. Looking ahead… A Princess Life along the Silk Road Susan Whitfield’s Life along the Silk Road, a semi-fictionalized story of 10 selected people who once lived along the Silk Road gives us a clearer picture on how does the culture goes during its golden days of trading.
China protected these ancient interconnected trade routes through all means. Such physical evidence of this protection they gave was the building of its Great Walls that then disallows intrusion of bandits within China’s proclaimed boundaries. This made the half part of the merchant’s journey half-safe. So as to ensure that their commodities would reach their final destination, China made pacts to their neighbor states who could give them military assistance. To strengthen these pacts, beside of the China’s promise to pay their purchases with silk, its ruler’s gave some of their royal princesses as a tribute to the neighbor states’ majesty.

Basing on surviving scripts about some historical personages of China, Whitfield had retold the princesses’ experiences through Taihe and her Princess Tale. The journey of Taihe, an imperial princess started in the autumn of 821. Taihe was the sister of the Tang emperor by that time and daughter of its predecessor. Taihe needed to travel westward to meet and be wed with the Kaghan of the Uighur. Taihe was the fourth princess that been sent to their so-called “land of the nomads”. Taihe could not refuse since it became a tradition to their empire to send a “tribute” to the Kaghan or emperor of the Uighur.
She was not the original princess to be sent by that time, but due to the unexpected death of the former Kaghan, her elder sister Princess Yong’an had escaped her turn and rather made a decision to become a Daoist priestess. To honor the original agreement, Taihe replaced her to marry the next Kaghan. Though Taihe had never left her country before, she was denoted as very familiar with the many influence brought by neighbor states like of Uighur. She was a good horsewoman like any other palace ladies and she uses this skill in her playing of polo, an import from the western origin. On her journey, she was riding a Bactrian camel.
Female attendants of Taihe during their journey rode with Ferghana horses which are said to have mythical strength. These horses are few, that is why China still has to import cavalry ponies from Uighur. That is why Taihe was made as a tribute. During the journey, Taihe uses personal ornaments like her jade pins from Khotan, and decorations made of tortoiseshell from Vietnam and lapis lazuli from Badakhstan. She has her Buddhist rosary beads made of amber, probably coming either from the Baltic or northern Burma. She carried perfumes and breath freshener, many originating in India.
She was fond of playing the Kuchean music which she could continue to enjoy in Kaghan’s palace. By her time in China, western music was extremely popular and its tunes were adapted with Chinese lyrics. Before her journey, she was also thought with the whirling dance, which is usually performed by Sogdian girls. Though all of this are only influences, and she is very much unaware of how would be her life with the Uighurs, as she remembered the words by a Chinese princess sent to the west as a bride eight hundred years ago, “My family married me to a lost horizon… I wish I were a brown goose and could fly back home.
” As she continued her journey throughout the dessert, she could do nothing but to be dressed and be brought with food by her attendants. When they managed to passed an oasis they could then recharged their supplies that made their journey faster. At each known camp wherein they could build their tent, princess Taihe could then take a rest. After that they would again proceed with their travel but sometimes they were hampered by bad weather along the road. The lunar new year is approaching when then had reached the borders of the capital of the Uighur, Karabalghasun near the left bank of the Orkhon river.
It was deep winter by that time but it was more of warmth because of the glamorous welcome of the Uighurs to the princess. She was offered with wines, tea, and fruits served more delicate than in the Chinese court. But she noticed that the silverware used is only an imitation from those coming from Persia. But all in all, there were only few flaws and more of extravagance brought by the luxuries of the Uighur. She was first taught with Uighur traditions by the sent Uighur princesses. And then the journey delegation of Chinese ministers selected a suitable day of her wedding with the Kaghan.
She had first her Chinese dress influenced with a Turkic fashion at the beginning. As of the Chinese tradition, her hair was elaborately styled and the toes of her red embroidered slippers were curled up so that it could be seen peeping out below the robe. But she was requested to wear Uighur clothes in the ceremony. At the first part of the ceremony, she wore an ordinary Uighur dress and bow to the Kaghan at his tent. After that, she changed clothes with a Uighur exquisite dress, though it had many features contrast to the Chinese tradition. Then the ceremony proceeded as she and the Kaghan presented themselves with the Manichean clergy.
Finally, they had been legalized as husband and wife and princess Taihe was then entitled to be the khatun, queen of the Uighur. She did not only symbolize the alliance of China and the Uighur, her khatun position gave her a power in the Uighur court. But she felt mad when Tanim ibn Bahr, an envoy sent by the leader of the Arab forces in Transoxania had failed to mention her when his husband let him stop over in Uighur. Many other things then had happened after years had passed but it all ended with Taihe’s going back to China when the Uighur had a civil war.

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