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Book Road and Japanese Missions to Sui and Tang Dynasties


Prof. WANG Yong


More than twenty years ago, I proposed the concept of ‘Book Road’, intending to make a breakthrough based on the conventional concept of ‘Silk Road’ and establish a fresh pattern of cultural exchange in East Asia.

The concept of ‘Silk Road’ was invented by Prussian scholar Ferdinand von Richthofen, defining a trade channel among China, Mesopotamia in Central Asia and India during Han dynasty. By the middle of 20th century, people attempted to add their own perspectives to this term, and artificially broadened the historical coverage of ‘Silk Road’.

As long as the world civilizations inherently differ from place to place, the formation of cultural exchange will not be identical. While westerners firmly believed that silk came from ‘Woollen Tree’, the ancient residents in Japanese archipelago had already produced silk themselves by breeding silkworm and planting mulberry.

Dating back to Sino-Japanese ancient history, there was no trace of silk trade with constantly manner and large quantity. Its impact was not even able to compare with ceramics business. However, the essential fact that fundamentally contributed to the progress of Japanese civilization was neither silk nor ceramics but books. This point has not been given sufficient attention by western scholars.