Caravan - The Story of Middle East

Caravan: the story of the Middle East.

Opium was carried as well, typically by smaller, surreptitious, caravans, usually in winter since in the hot weather opium would be too easily detected by the smell. More exotic loads could include jade from Khotan , [12] elk antlers prized in Chinese medicine , or even dead bodies of the Shanxi caravan men and traders, who happened to die while in Xinjiang. In the latter case, the bodies had been first "temporarily" buried in Gucheng in light-weight coffins, and when, after three or so years in the grave the flesh had been mostly " consumed away ", the merchant guild sent the bodies to the east by a special caravan.

Due to the special nature of the load, higher freight rate was charged for such "dead passengers". According to Lattimore's diary, caravan travel in Inner Mongolia did not always follow a regular schedule.


Retrieved 18 February Books by Carleton S. According to Owen Lattimore, who spent five months in crossing the northern edge of China from Hohhot to Gucheng , via Inner Mongolia with a camel caravan, demand for caravan trade was only increased by the arrival of foreign steamships into Chinese ports and the construction of the first railways in eastern China, as they improved access to the world market for such products of western China as wool. Thanks for telling us about the problem. The service ended when the train line was extended to Alice Springs in ; that train is called " the Ghan ", a shortened version of "Afghan Express", and its logo is camel and rider, in honor of the "Afghan cameleers" who pioneered the route.

Caravans traveled or camped at any time of day or night, depending on weather, local conditions, and the need for rest. On occasions several days were spent in a camp without going forward, due to bad weather. Smaller caravans owned by Mongols of the Alashan the westernmost Inner Mongolia and manned by Han Chinese from Zhenfan , were able to make longer marches and, thus, cover longer distances faster than the typical Han Chinese or Hui caravans, because the Mongols were able to always use "fresh" camels picked from their large herd for just a single journey , every man was provided with a camel to ride, and loads were much lighter than in the "standard" caravans rarely exceeding pounds These caravans would typically travel by day, from sunrise to sunset.

It was necessary for camels to spend at least two months between long journeys to recuperate, and the best time for that recuperation was in June—July, when camels shed their hair and the grazing is best. Vice versa, one could leave Hohhot in the spring, spend the summer grazing season in Xinjiang, and come back in the late fall of the same year. Either way, it would be possible for the caravan people and their best camels to make a full round trip within a year.

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However, such perfect scheduling was not always possible, and it was often the case that a caravan sent out from Hohhot in August would end up staying on the other end of the route until and through the next grazing season, coming back to Hohhot about a year and a half after its departure. On almost every journey quite a few camels in each caravan would be lost. On a particularly exhausting section of the trip, an animal already worn out by many weeks of walking, or accidentally poisoned by eating a poisonous plant, would kneel down and not rise anymore.

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Since killing a camel was considered bad karma by the caravan people, the hopeless animal—whose death, if it was owned by an individual camel-puller, would be a huge material loss for its owner—was simply left behind to die, "thrown on the Gobi" as the camel men would say. Since camels moult in the summer, camel owners received additional income from collecting several pounds of hair their animals dropped during the summer grazing and shedding season ; in northern China, the camel hair trade started around the s.

Later, caravan men learned the art of knitting and crocheting from the defeated White Russians in exile in Xinjiang after the Russian Civil War and the items they had made were transported to eastern China by camel caravan. Although the hair shed by the camels or picked from them was of course considered the property of the camel owners, caravan workers were entitled to make use of some hair for making knitwear for themselves mostly socks or for sale.

Lattimore in observed camel-pullers "knitting on the march; if they ran out of yarn , they would reach back to the first camel of the file they were leading, pluck a handful of hair from the neck, and roll it in their palms into the beginning of a length of yarn; a weight was attached to this, and given a twist to start it spinning, and the man went on feeding wool into the thread until he had spun enough yarn to continue his knitting". He provides an English-language translation after every line.

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The song is extremely repetitive "Another camel is approaching" , rendering the translation largely redundant, "a whole caravan of camels is approaching". It was later shortened and translated into English under the title Big Tiger and Christian ; it concerns the adventures of two boys who cross the Gobi Desert.

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Caravan: The Story of the Middle East

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