When Asia was the World

Gordon, Stewart
Date published: 
October 2007

While European intellectual, cultural, and commercial life stagnated during the early medieval period, Asia flourished as the wellspring of science, philosophy, and religion. Linked together by a web of religious, commercial, and intellectual connections, the different regions of Asia's vast civilization, from Arabia to China, hummed with commerce, international diplomacy and the brisk exchange of ideas. Stewart Gordon has fashioned a fascinating and unique look at Asia from 700 to 1500 AD, a time when Asia was the world, by describing the personal journeys of Asia's many travellers - the merchants who traded spices along the Silk Road, the apothecaries who exchanged medicine and knowledge from China to the Middle East, and the philosophers and holy men who crossed continents to explore and exchange ideas, books, science and culture. Arranged chronologically, each chapter focuses on an actual memoir from a traveller of the time - Chinese, Arab, Jewish, Mongol and Portuguese - entrepreneurs who interacted with and moved through this world. Their dramatic first hand observations are woven into a sophisticated new narrative of the period and region.