HIST 12234 UM Hinduism and Buddhism in Context Sources Discussion

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Which of this week’s 3 sources provides the most “reliable” account of Mongol history? Why is this author/source more “reliable” than the other accounts you read? What examples do you see of judgement rather than describing? What descriptions do not seem factually based? What examples do you see of the authors interpreting Mongol behavior in a favorable light?

What is the Silk Road and why is it called the Silk Road? I'm glad you asked. This network of trade routes was named after the product most sought after by Europeans and Byzantines- silk, a textile made from the fibrous cocoon of the Mulberry silkworm. This textile was a luxury that signaled status and wealth and was a significant part of costuming for the elite of the medieval age; bishops, popes, and elites all wanted silk for clothing and other uses (like bedding and decorative purposes). European references go even as far back as the 1st century BCE in Roman writer Ovid's poem about an elite lady's hair (wherein her hair is compared to Chinese silk) and there are probably even older references. Silk was and is a highly desirable product. And until the late middle ages, you could only get it from China. Syrian merchants were finally successful in smuggling the live insects out of China and set up a smaller rival production center in the Middle East. 

So before that, how did they get large quantities of silk from China to Rome or Constantinople? Trade routes. 

When I have said infrastructure is important, here is one major way we can seen that put into action. It is easy to see the development of trade in the modern world in this phase of history; it was a phase built on the successive empires that went before it- the Persians, the Romans, the Dar el-Islam, Byzantium, the Chinese. When we study the Mongol empire that crossed he territories of all of these, it's easy to see why the vast expanse of Asia that they controlled was the perfect setting for trade and travel. 

Because of the particular times we are living in now, with public health at the forefront of everyone's mind, take a look at this short article about pandemics of the past that spread along the Silk Road, especially interesting for any of you in public health, nursing, and pre-pharmacology studies.  We will return to the Black Death in chapter 14 as well.

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nduism and Buddhism in context

In this class, we try to introduce students to many different aspects of society, not just the great battles and great deeds of long dead people. So many aspects of culture alive in the world today had origins in the very remote past. That fact is visible in the religious traditions of the world, many having origins more than 2000 years ago. We should not think of religious traditions as something static, or that the way people worship today is the same anyone did in 500 BCE. Religions are often shaped by their political environment over time, rising and falling with official patronage, suffering oppression or being uplifted. They react to influxes of newcomers, and adjust to changing circumstances. Religions with a deep history such as Hinduism and Buddhism show how resilient these traditions are and how they are able to weather social and political changes.

In chapter 3 of A History of World Societies (your textbook) the authors discuss these evolutions and the accompanying changes in society and state. These are complex histories, but you may already be familiar with some ideas as they have made their way into American culture. Ideas like Karma and reincarnation are essential Indian ideologies. Beware of just assuming you know what they really are though. The common American usage often strips away spiritual meanings of things when we use them in a slang setting. We might say "Karma's a bitch" when we pass by a reckless driver who's been pulled over on the freeway. Most assuredly this is not how an ancient Hindu would have used the term. Karma is a tally kept of good and bad deeds that determines how you are reborn or whether you escape the cycle of reincarnation. It is not an immediate act of "karmic justice". This notion of being accountable for your actions, however, is a pervasive aspect of both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Some examples of Sanskrit script


Hinduism is one of the oldest religions still practiced today. The knowledge of Sanskrit, the ancient language in which religious texts were written, was never lost and in fact it had a major influence on Hindi, one of the official languages of India today. About 15% of the world today is Hindu, practicing in many different cultural settings, but all sharing the same basic principles as discussed in the textbook.

In about 500 BCE Hinduism faced a transitional period. It had been the dominant religion of India for the previous 1000 years; some ancient Sanskrit texts have been dated to about 1500 BCE. But in this new era, new ideas arose, some more successful than others. Jainism and Buddhism will arise out of Hindu traditions and society, perhaps inspired by societal problems or the greater movements of people during the 6th and 5th centuries BCE. Both religions are still practiced today, but Buddhism had a much greater impact on the world stage.

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Reliable Source

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Which of this week’s 3 sources provides the most “reliable” account of Mongol history? Why is
this author/source more “reliable” than the other accounts you read? What examples do you see
of judgement rather than describing? What descriptions do not seem factually based? What
examples ...


Anonymous
Excellent resource! Really helped me get the gist of things.

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