Transport youngsters to ancient Japan without a Delorean on standby. Silk Road Story Time, a free fest, lets little ones craft Samurai helmets, listen to swashbuckling tales, and feast on snacks that bridge the Pacific. While the anklebiters are dressing up as silkroad traders, camel herders, and monks, here’s a little small talk for you and the other parents, nannies, and personal assistants.
Did you know that Asia’s silk empire was nearly broken by a couple of monks who smuggled some worms? True story. From Dr. Patrick Hunt of Stanford University’s work, Late Roman Silk: Smuggling and Espionage in the 6th Century CE:
“Industrial espionage – especially for luxury goods – has been around for millennia and an event in the mid-6th century CE is an apt illustration if we can adequately reconstruct it from the Late Roman / Early Byzantine historian Procopius. A delegation of eastern orthodox monks under Justinian broke two monopolies in the East – China on silk production and Persia on the silk trade routes to the West – by smuggling silkworms to the West, ensuring new Western silk production. This change made silk more accessible and less prohibitively expensive in the West by installing Constantinople (Byzantium) as a new source for silk, which removed the middlemen in the cost equation.
Understanding the background of the silk trade informs the dramatic change brought about around 552-563 CE. Silk was perhaps the most desirable luxury good in the ancient world after gold, although there have been many times when silk was equal in value to gold or more valuable. While the imperial city of Constantinople was the single largest consumer of silk and other precious goods like spices and gems – including lapis lazuli, emeralds, and especially pearls – it was also the most important entrepôt for all luxury goods flowing to the West from its superb location on the junction between two continents (Europe and Asia) and its position roughly commanding trade in the eastern Mediterranean world.”
Talk amongst yourselves…
Pacific Asia Museum: September 7, pacificasiamuseum.org.