A History of Travelers: Curriculum Suggestions


Follow-up Discussion Questions
(Use with individuals for enrichment, as the focus questions for a class discussion or as the topics to be discussed in a student jigsaw activity after each student has read one traveler segment.)
  1. Roughly, what is the period during which Buddhism was the dominant religion of the Silk Road?
  2. Roughly, what is the period during which Islam was the dominant religion of the Silk Road?
  3. Describe the kingdoms of Central Asia during the Buddhist period.
  4. Describe the kingdoms of Central Asia during the Islamic period.
  5. Through almost every travelers’ story, power in western China shifted between two groups. What were the two groups? What are the major differences between the two groups? What advantages did each group have in this struggle for power?
  6. Explain why the decline of the Silk Road made the oasis towns poor. What does traffic have to do with wealth?

Project Ideas

    A. Create lists of all the things which were exchanged across the Silk Road. Organize this list by things that moved West to East and things that moved East to West. Rank by value (guess). What is each item’s country of origin. Use this data to create a map of Silk Road trade.

    B. Research the movement of Buddhism from its place of origins to its current locations. Consider assigning an annotated timeline of Buddhism's transmission

    C. Research the movement of Islam from its place of origins to its current locations. Consider assigning an annotated timeline of Islam's transmission.

    D. Research Marco Polo. Compare his experience to those of other travelers. Why do many people know about Marco Polo but few know of his father who was the first European in China? Have students produce a Marco Polo presentation modelled on the form of the History of Travelers pages, including images, text and a map of his route.

    E. Find articles regarding destruction of the world’s largest statues of the Buddha by militant Muslims in February of 2001 at the Bamiyan cave temple complex in Afghanistan.For example, Hussain, Zahid. "Destroying the Past: The Taliban takes aim at Buddhist antiquities." Newsweek International, March 12, 2001.

    Xuanzang described this complex in this way: "On a declivity of a hill to the northeast of the capital was a standing image of Buddha made of stone, 140 or 150 feet high, of a brilliant golden color and resplendent with ornamentation of precious substances. To the east of it was a Buddhist monastery built by a former king of the country. East of this was a standing image of Sakyamuni Buddha above 100 feet high, made of bronze, the pieces of which had been cast separately and then welded together into one figure."

    1. What is the range of dates in which these statues could have been built?
    2. Destruction has been the fate of many of Central Asia’s greatest historical treasures. In light of this, is Aurel Stein’s theft of many of western China’s historical treasures justified?
    3. Research Taliban, the Muslim powerholders of Afghanistan, and try to understand why they destroyed the Buddhas.