May 2, 675 BCE. I am very excited to begin my journey. My uncle was very kind to allow me to accompany him in his travel. Naturally, his reasoning for it was not to simply keep me entertained. Even though I am an orphan he does not feel obliged to do me any favors. I know that he considers the possibility of me becoming his apprentice in trading and eventually succeed him in his business. I do not mind such a possibility because I think that it is a lot of fun to constantly meet new people, bargain and sell goods. My uncle is very rich. He is a merchant and he also grows and sells frankincense.
May 3, 675. I found out the route we are going to take for our journey (fig. 1). From our home town of Marbat, Oman we are first going to Muscat in order to purchase all of the goods that we plan to later sell in China. Ah! Our destination is a large Chinese city, Xian. My uncle said it is a very big and very crowded city and that people who live there look very different from us.
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May 4, 675. It is unbelievable. The trip is going to take us a complete year. Tomorrow we start out for Muscat. As soon as we will have bought all of the commodities and goods at Muscat, we will cross the Gulf of Oman and reach Bam, located in the southeast region of Iran.
June 5, 675. Phew! I have spent a whole week bargaining and purchasing all kinds of goods with my uncle. We have stayed in Muscat for nearly a week and I saw so many people whom I have never seen in my life. Uncle has got twelve camels and he wants to fully load them all. Thus, we are going to spend a few more days more here, until our ship arrives. We already bought ivory, pearl, musical instruments, and figurines made of ebony. My uncle also has some pretty things made out of gold and silver. They are very expensive and he does not like it when I am even looking at them. Today we bought incredible cotton textiles. They are very smooth and look very pretty. My uncle is looking to buy fragrant perfumes. He says they smell like heaven (Oman, n.d.).
June 7, 675. My uncle has sold loads of the frankincense that he cultivates (fig. 2). He loaded all of his dromedaries with it and sold almost a half of his supply here. The price was very good. It seems like people from all over Asia come to buy frankincense from my uncle. It is a very respected and expensive commodity. Allegedly, it can cure indigestion and chest coughs, it is very fragrant and used in various religious rituals and it can even clean ones teeth (The story of Frankincense, n.d.)! I have sneaked a lump of frankincense and smell it sometimes.
June 10, 675. My uncle says that our ship arrives tomorrow. I almost cannot wait. Today I saw the maps of the starry sky. My uncle was talking to a dark-skinned bearded old man who was wearing white clothes. The man said that he is an astronomer from India and offered some maps for my uncle to buy (fig. 3). Uncle said that he could sell them at a profit, because the Chinese are not very good at astronomy and they learn about the sky and the stars mainly from Indian astronomical works (UNESCO II, N.d.).
June 12, 675. Yesterday we had been loading the ship with our products for the whole day, so now I am tired as a dog.
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June 13, 675. There is not much for me to do on the ship, so all of the merchants talk and discuss their matters. I have just heard my uncle talking to a group of men about the prophet Muhammad. These men seem to come from Africa and they have never heard of the prophet before. I find it funny, because my uncle talks about him all the time and I know everything about Muhammads life. He was a very wise man and I want to be like him. I know that in China people do not know about Muhammad as well.
July 23, 675. In the morning we arrived at Bam. It is a small city, but many merchants arrive here. Some go to the south in the direction of the Mediteranean Sea while others, like us, move in the Asian direction.
July 24, 675. I found out more details about our trip. Tomorrow we join a group of merchants and together we go on dromedary camels through Afhanistan to Shahrisabz. We arrive in China from its western region of Xinjiang. In order to reach Xian, which is in the heart of the country, we must pass through several Chinese cities. First, we enter Kashgar and from there we go in direction of Dunhuang. Thus, we go around the Tibetan Plateau and move along the western border of China in order to reach Xian in the middle of the empire (UNESCO I, N.d.).
October 3, 675. Shahrisabz is a very small town. A really magnificent city is Samarkand, which is located 80 kilometers to the north.
November 10, 675. We have arrived in Kashgar and here we can buy silk. The Chinese people know a secret of producing the finest and most exquisite silk. It is so thin that even body contours can be seen through it. Only emperors and kings can afford to buy it for themselves and their mistresses as well as concubines.
January 21, 676. Last night we have arrived in Dunhuang. In the meantime I have learned that one of the Chinese peoples religions is Buddhism. Tomorrow my uncles friend is taking us to see Buddhist caves (UNESCO I, N.d.).
April 30, 676. We finally arrived in Xian. It is a major trading hub and people from all over Africa, Asia, and Europe come here in order to buy various goods that cannot be bought elsewhere. Most merchants travel such a long way to buy silk first of all.
May 3, 676. My uncle was invited to see how locals work with raw materials for silk. Obviously the Chinese people guard the secret of producing silk very thoroughly, but it is not a problem to see the silkworms that make the materials that are later transformed into exquisite textiles (fig. 4). Silkworms make tiny silk cocoons around themselves which are then somehow transformed into soft and smooth fabrics (fig. 5). Silkworms are nasty. Yuck, I do not like to even think of them. But their little cocoons are fine (Travel China Guide I, n.d.).
May 4, 676. Today, my uncle bought many rolls of paper, which is produced here in Xian. It is rather expensive and my uncle said that it is just a matter of time until it will be possible to buy paper in our home country (Travel China Guide II, n.d.). Until then, the Chinese people protect their technology of producing paper and people from other countries have to come here to buy it.
May 6, 676. The Chinese are great people. There are so many interesting aspects of China and its people. Last night we flew little wooden toys called kites (fig. 6). They are very light and can fly in the wind. We held them by a string and they soared high up in the sky made in the form of dragons (Adhikari, 2014).