Nicholas Kristof has a gush piece about China in today’s NYT.
Quote: “Kaifeng, an ancient city along the mud-clogged Yellow River, was by
far the most important place in the world in [the year A.D.] 1000.”
That is highly debatable, though I suppose it depends on what you mean by
“important.” Culturally speaking, and in hindsight, Constantinople and
Baghdad are surely better candidates, so far as the preservation &
transmission of knowledge from the ancient Mediterranean civilizations is
concerned. It is on that knowledge the most of the modern world –
including modern China — is built.
Even just in the context of A.D. 1000, commerically and culturally, I think
Baghdad has a better claim. As the western terminus of the Silk Route, it
was where all civilizations — Chinese, Indian, Moslem, Christian — met,
and a short run to the sea port at Antioch, whence trade routes went direct
to Venice, Constantinople, Cairo and Cordova.
It’s salutary to be reminded of the ephemeral nature of all terrestrial
forms of supremacy, but I think Kristof has his facts on this one