chapter  7
China and Iran
Pages 14

Sino-Iranian relations are as ancient as the Persian and Chinese civilizations. Their origins extend far back into the era of the Silk Road. The Parthians, the Sassanids of Persia, and the Han and Tang Chinese dynasties had built strong commercial and cultural ties. The Hans signed a commercial treaty with Persia in 100 BCE to organize their trade and customs relations, while the Tangs enhanced trade and strengthened their cultural ties with Persia. Since then, trade flourished between the two sides when Silk Road caravans travelled from China across the plains, mountains and valleys of Central Asia towards Persia and through Turkey to Europe’s ports. Silk Road merchandise of silk, species, textiles, horses and camels strengthened relations among world nations at that time and continued its role in promoting trade and cultural exchange well into the thirteenth century. The Arab conquest ended the Persian Empire in the year 651 after 17 years

of skirmishes and major wars between the two sides. In the first round of confrontation between Persia and the rising Arab power, Persia held its position and then began retreating. When Persia realized its imminent fall, it solicited the assistance of the Tang Dynasty. China was not in a position to prevent the demise of Persia, given the geographic distance between the two sides. Chinese armies would need six months to one year to assemble, crossing China westward towards Central Asia, then through northern Afghanistan, towards southern Persia and down to Iraq. Therefore the Persians, although militarily superior to Arab armies, were defeated because of the tenacity of the Muslim armies. Muslim Caliphs adopted the Persian style of administration, trade arrangements and irrigation systems. Persia was far more advanced than Arabia and other contemporary civilizations. The Umayyad and the Abbasids benefited significantly from Persian knowledge in civil engineering, urban planning and administration. Therefore, the administrative substance of the Islamic Empire was essentially Persian. The Islamic Empire also built upon the accomplishments of the conquered

peoples rather than the elimination of their civilizational accomplishments. Khurasan or Persia (which includes possessions from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan

and Central Asia down to Xinjiang) was incorporatedwithin the Islamic Empire, a previous possession of Persia. Islam stood at the borders of China and, with one exception, the Talas Battle, relations between the two sides remained peaceful. Chinese emperors welcomed Persians, Arabs andMuslimswho resided throughout China, especially in the city of Xian. Pirooz, the last Persian Crown Prince, resided in China along with his son Prince Narsieh and the royal family. They were granted high honours and adopted Chinese names. Pirooz and Narsieh became military commanders in the Tang Dynasty’s armies. The Persian community, along with the Arab and Muslim communities, prospered in China until 878 when they were victimized by the Han majority who were jealous of their prosperity. Some of the survivors left for East Asia. China and the Islamic Empire also fell prey first to the devastating Mongol campaigns, then to Western colonialism which lasted through the mid-twentieth century.

Political co-operation