Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo

In the background of this picture, a light brown brick building is seen with ten pointed arched openings, one taller than the others on the right. Tall trees with long trunks are in front of the building. A tan, pebbled walkway is seen on the right surrounding a square pool of water with a small sprayer in the middle. To the left, green grass is bordered by yellow flowers with small lanterns at the corners. A bench is seen on the path and a sign with Iranian writing attached to a tree is located in the left forefront.
Figure 12.1 A Caravansary. Along the Silk Roads, caravansaries were vital outposts where merchants traveling between Turkey and China could stay and meet other traders to exchange goods, commodities, and ideas. The Shah Abbasi caravansary shown here is now a national heritage site in Nishapur, in modern Iran. (credit: modification of work “Abbasi caravanserai of Nishapur” by Sonia Sevilla/Wikimedia Commons, CC0 1.0)

The early Middle Ages was a time of increased connections across continents. This period was marked by the continued development of the maritime networks centered on the Indian Ocean, and of the Silk Roads—a series of trade routes linking China and parts of central Asia, India, and the Middle East. A globally connected medieval world was emerging, one united by long-distance trade networks and enhanced by the exchange of ideas. An important element of this system was the caravansary, an inn funded by the state or wealthy individuals where travelers could spend the night and store their goods securely (Figure 12.1). In addition to providing shelter, caravansaries were a place for merchants to meet other traders to exchange goods as well as share and spread Islamic ideas and traditions.

A timeline with events from the chapter is shown. 320: Gupta period begins. 320-360: Ezna rules Aksum. 604: First Japanese constitution written. 609: Grand Canal completed under Yang Di. 612: Sui invasion of Korea fails. 618: Li Yuan founds Tang dynasty. 751: Battle of the Talas River. 868: Diamond sutra created; a gray and black page is shown with Asian script on the left and an image of a figure sitting at an altar surrounded by people and designs on the right. 1000: The Tale of Genji written; a richly colorful image of people in decorated long robes worshiping at an altar filled with gold objects is shown. 1274: First Mongol invasion of Japan fails; an image of five soldiers on the left shooting arrows and a rider on a black horse on the right is shown. 1330: Delhi Sultanate reaches greatest extent.
Figure 12.2 Timeline: India, the Indian Ocean Basin, and East Asia. (credit “868”: modification of work “Jingangjing” by British Library/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain; credit “1000”: modification of work “Scenes from the three chapters of The tale of Genji [Genji monogatari]” by Art Gallery of South Australia/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain; credit “1274”: modification of work “Mōko Shūrai Ekotoba 2” by Unknown/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
Order a print copy

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Mar 25, 2024 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.