Architecture on the Silk Road

Architecture on the Silk Road

How cultures influence culture

The Silk Road was a widely traveled set of routes throughout the Eastern Hemisphere. It allowed many people from many different empires and lands the opportunity to trade commodities, cultures, and religion. Many things were influenced by the people who traveled on the Silk Road. One aspect in particular, architecture, was greatly influenced by the trade of commodities and ideas throughout the Silk Road. Many Islamic lands are adorned with beautiful and majestic mosques, palaces, and tombs that stretch high into the sky. Each has a semblance of cultural influence from near and distant lands. Three in particular: The Taj Mahal, a tomb for an emperor’s wife in Agra, India, The Tomb of Tamerlane in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and the Ulugh Beg Madrasa, located in Bukaha, Are all decorated with characteristics from the influence of the Silk Road.

After Islam entered India, many of the people who inhabited the subcontinent converted to the religion. It’s rulers were no exception. One ruler in particular, Shah Jahan, commissioned the Taj Mahal to be built as a tomb for his late wife, whom he loved dearly. Some elements of the complex show heavily influence of Islamic trends in architecture and culture. It also shows bits and pieces of different cultures from all around Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Taj Mahal was constructed with Red sandstone was brought from Fatehpur Sikri, jasper from Punjab, jade and crystal from China, turquoise from Tibet, lapis lazuli and sapphires from Sri Lanka, with coal and carnelian from Arabia and diamonds from Panna.

The central dome of the Taj Mahal stands at a great height of 240 feet. It is surrounded by four smaller domes, or minarets, which Muslims climb to signal the call to prayer for their congregations. In accordance with Islamic tradition, verses from the Quran were inscribed in calligraphy on the arched entrances to the mausoleum, in addition to numerous other sections of the complex. This display of wealth and grandeur was generally not accepted as an Islamic religious depiction of sorrow. Islam requires that their believers trust in the will of God, and overt displays of mausoleums for the dead is generally thought to be an infringement of this belief.

There is also a hadith, or religious tradition, which states the prophet Mohammed’s disapproval for any “ostentatious” building because it assumes too much of a man’s wealth. The tension became a matter of debate at an Indian court, because as humans they also valued the political and symbolic power of grand architecture. Some have suggested that the Taj Mahal is exempt from this religious requirement due to the archways that are present in the structure. Therefore the tomb isn’t technically a building, as there are no doors but simply entranceways.

Cultural practices in use by the Taj Mahal can also be attributed to Islamic influence. When a body is enshrined in the tomb, it enters with the head facing north so that the body can be turned westward to face Mecca. The west side of the building also contains the mihrab, a niche to face Mecca. The other three sides of the building are open to accommodate the hadith explained above. You are to enter on the south side of the building, by the feet of the buried person.

The Tomb of Tamerlane also shows significant Islamic influence its architectural structure. Tamerlane was a Mongol ruler, also known as Timur, who led a series of conquests between Anatolia and India. After amassing great wealth, he had an opulent capital in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Although he was a brutal leader, his dynasty, which ran from 1405-1507, genuinely patronized Islamic, Persian, and Turkish art and culture.

Timur used his riches he obtained from the conquest of the Golden Horde in northern Asia to construct many Islamic style buildings throughout his realm. His tomb would be the grandest of all. Constructed in the usual mosque form of the time period, it is covered by an ornate dome. His sarcophagus lays underneath the ground of an octagonal shaped room. There are many kufic inscriptions throughout the building, which displays inlays of jasper. Stained glass windows allow light to filter through. Timur is buried next to his son and high priest, keeping with the Islamic tradition of being buried with family members as well as important aids.

When Soviet archaeologist Michael Gerasimov went to visit the tomb to see what he could find, he discovered a skeleton shrouded in Timur’s favorite color, blue. This color can also been seen throughout the tombs structure, as well as in many other pieces of Islamic architecture and art. They are also usually aligned with blue tiles throughout. These blue and white tiles are usually attributed to the Chinese Ming dynasty, showing that Islamic architecture borrows techniques from different cultures. The Ming dynasty is known for his lots of blue and white porcelain. The floors of many mosques, including the tomb of Tamerlane, are covered with carpets of blue and gray material.

Cultural syncretism that can clearly be seen is in regards to the Ulugh Beg Madrasa. Located in Central Asia, the Iranian Muslim dynasty known as the Samanids incorporated many Buddhist traditions in the architecture of the madrasa. It contained a four archway plan leading into the building. It can be stated that the very idea of the madrasas themselves came from Buddhist teaching, because Islamic madrasas first appeared in Buddhist parts of the world.

Although it took longer, the same patterns can be seen further east in Asia. Aurel Stein, the legendary excavationist and explorer from the 20th Century, found a Turkish Muslim shrine in the Tarim Basin, which was thought to be the tomb of four different Islamic imams. Stein determined that it was actually a Buddhist monument.

The Ulugh Beg Madrasa is highly influenced by Timurid architecture, which was discussed earlier. Their development of techniques in the sizing and presentation of buildings made it so there was little to no distinction between a madrasa and a mosque, as many schools were contained inside of these monumental buildings which also held worshippers. The Ulugh Beg Madrasa contains a mosque as well as a lecture hall. It is said that Islamic architects did this to portray how important education, whether it be religious or secular, was to the Islamic people.

Islamic architecture was greatly influenced by aspects of the Silk Road. After the introduction of the Islamic religion to lands such as India and Samarkand, mosques and madrasas, or schools, were built to accommodate Muslim scholars and believers who were in these areas as a result of merchant trade. Tombs were also built to house the dead, like in the case of the Taj Mahal or the Tomb of Tamerlane, with strict and sometimes not so strict adherence to Islamic law. Elements of Tibetan art adorn the decorative aspects of mosques and madrasas all along the Silk Road. The most dramatic aspect of this cultural syncretism comes from the blue color used in the mosques and tombs, equating to the Muslim people’s affinity of Chinese porcelain. They wished for their buildings to display immense wealth to those who visited.

Cover Image Credit: You Tube

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.


To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.


I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.


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