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Silk Road, Cotton Road or.... Indo-Chinese Trade in Pre-European Times

Stephen F. Dale
Modern Asian Studies
Vol. 43, No. 1, Expanding Frontiers in South Asian and World History: Essays in Honour of John F. Richards (Jan., 2009), pp. 79-88
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20488072
Page Count: 10
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Silk Road, Cotton Road or.... Indo-Chinese Trade in Pre-European Times
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Abstract

India and China were the most important producers of textiles in the world prior to the industrial revolution. However, whereas the Western historiography usually discusses Indian cotton and Chinese silk in connection with European imports, or with their sales in the Indian Ocean and the Middle East, cotton and silk were also exchanged between India and China. Indeed, Indian cotton and Chinese silk were probably the principal manufactured goods exchanged between these civilizations. Although Indian records are fragmentary, especially when compared with the voluminous Chinese sources, Indian cotton goods are known to have reached the Indianized states in Xinjiang in the early Common Era (CE), and may have been produced there, in Khotan and the neighbouring states, by the time that indigenous silk production was known to exist in India in the fourth and fifth centuries CE. Yet, while in later centuries large amounts of cotton cloth were produced in China while indigenous centres of silk production developed in India, exchanges of the finest types of cotton and silk cloth continued, usually driven by cultural and social factors in each civilization.

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