The Ancient Chinese Silk Route – Conduit of Culture

Small Beginnings

Arguably the most significant trade route of ancient Chinese civilisation, the Silk Road, or Silk Route as it is sometimes known, was named in the mid-19th century by German scholar, Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen. However, the route itself was in use since around the 2nd Century BC. Its original purpose had been political rather than economic and a court official from the Han Empire was sent westwards on a diplomatic mission, becoming the first traveller along what would become the most important east-west link ever. It was to be decades before his return, and when he did, the goods and information he’d gathered on his journey would spark the desire for trade.

Corridor of cultural exchange

Over time, the route became a conduit for the exchange of information and goods – it was to people of the time as the Internet is to us today; a means of linkage between diverse and geographically isolated civilisations.

What’s in a name anyway?

“The Silk Road [http://www.oasisoverland.co.uk/truck_expeditions/middle_east/china_exploratory/index.html]” is a bit of a misnomer. Firstly, it was not really a single road. Rather, it was a wandering network of trails linking the Far East to Europe, Persia and Northern Africa. Secondly, silk was but one of a considerable number of valuable commodities traded along the route.

Exchanging ideas and ideologies

Scientific and technological innovations, such as gunpowder, ceramics, the magnetic compass, the printing press and mathematics, transferred along the Silk Road to the West. The religion of Buddhism reached China from India, and was later to play an important role in the evolution of Chinese culture. Of course, Buddhism was not to be the only religion to travel this road. The cultural effects of the rise of Islam can still be seen in many of the areas along the route. Art and language too came to be exchanged.

Silk by Sea

In the late 15th century, the discovery of a sea route from Europe to Asia made the Silk Road less popular as a trade route. Sea travel presented a new opportunity to trade at lower cost, with fewer dangers. These sea routes are sometimes considered as part of the greater “Silk Route”.

The Silk Route Today

After what could perhaps be called an extended hibernation period, the Silk Route is once again growing in importance. The construction of modern roads and railways, the discovery of oil reserves and the industrialisation of surrounding areas has led to the reopening of parts of this route to some extent.

The historical significance of the route is well-appreciated by modern-day travellers. To walk in the footsteps of the likes of Marco Polo, to see first-hand the landscapes traversed by explorers centuries ago; it is surely a fantastic experience of cultural enrichment.

The potential that this area holds as a tourist destination is not lost on the authorities. Neither is its archaeological relevance.

Preserving the Past

Chinese authorities are doing their best to protect and restore many of the most important archaeological sites. The Dunhuang Research Institute has been examining and restoring the Mogao grottos and an extensive preservation project is currently underway. Excavations are undertaken all over, with significant finds relatively frequent.

One such find has been produced at the Astana tombs site, where the dead from the city of Gaochang were buried. The murals, clothing and other artefacts discovered, have provided significant insight into life along the old Silk Road.
There is much to see and learn from around the Taklimakan Desert; damaged grottos and ruined cities rich in their histories.

Unique People

Archaeology is not the only draw card though. Many visitors are attracted by the minority peoples – there are about thirteen different groupings in the region; the Han Chinese, the Tibetans and Mongolians in the east, and the Tajik, Kazakhs and Uzbeks in the west.

Then there’s the lure of cities such as Kashgar, where the Sunday market maintains much of the old Silk Road spirit. People various nationalities selling everything from spice and ornaments to camels and carpets.

It is the kind of place that adventure travellers dream about. Rich in history and cultural legacy, surrounded by imposing geography, peopled by diverse minorities and relatively untouched by mainstream tourist machinations.

The Silk Route Legacy Lives On

From its founding during the early days of the Han Dynasty, the Silk Road has had an important role in international trade and politics, extending over three continents and leaving its mark on civilisations around the globe. It has had periods of boom and decline and it has been always come back to boom again. I would venture to suggest that the story of the Silk Road is far from over…

Golfing Orlando

Orlando’s incredible weather and beautiful landscaping has made this city one of the hottest spots to golf. Championship courses designed by golf professionals with serene settings and challenging course play are some of the reasons golfing Orlando is so popular.

Championship Courses

Central Florida is home to many champion designed golf courses. Professional golfers have a unique insight of the game, golf challenges and what makes great links. It makes perfect sense to have these professionals design the courses everyone wants to play. These championship courses often feature lush amenities and elegant resorts turning a round of golf into a golf vacation.

The newest professionally designed courses shooting par in Orlando are at The Reunion Resort and Club of Orlando. These courses have been designed by some of the best golfers ever! Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson have each designed an 18-hole course making instant classics of this resort’s 54 holes. Both Palmer’s Legacy and Watson’s Independence courses are currently open, while Nicklaus’ Tradition course is set to open in late 2005.

Arnold Palmer’s Legacy is a breath taking golfing experience with an inspired landscape of natural preserve woods, water and palm trees. You’ll have to play wise and use the course’s wide fairways and well placed bunkers to come out on top of this one.

The Independence is five-time British Open winner Tom Watson’s first-ever designed course. Watson has used his 25 years of golf experience to create an amazingly inviting and challenging round of golf. Demanding yet satisfying, this course will command your best game.

Professionally designed courses and ultra posh amenities make staying at The Reunion Resort and Club of Orlando a luxurious choice for an Orlando golf vacation.

Champions Gate Golf Resort is the home of Greg Norman’s International and National golf courses. These 36-holes are guaranteed to test you and your game. David Leadbetter, instructor to the pros, has also chosen to open his headquarters for David Leadbetter Golf Academies at Champions Gate. The 4 Diamond luxury Omni Resort at Champions Gate opened in September of 2004 providing on-site accommodations sure to please even the most discriminating traveler.

Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill offers golfers the rare opportunity to play one of the world’s most highly acclaimed layouts. The course is also is the site of the Bay Hill Invitational, a popular PGA Tour® event hosted by Arnold Palmer himself.

Orlando’s Grand Cypress Golf Resort consists of one 18-hole course and three 9-hole courses that can be combined to form several distinctively different 18-hole rounds. All of the Grand Cypress courses have been designed by famed golfer, Jack Nicklaus. The ability to switch up courses gives Grand Cypress extended playability with each round challenging different abilities.

The Magical World of Golfing

Walt Disney World® Resorts is a great place to golf in Orlando with six courses including PGA TOUR® courses for you to choose from. Disney’s magic is not lost as these courses feature pristine greens, hazardous obstacles and breathtaking landscaping. Add GPS enabled golf carts and you have cutting edge golf at its best.

Eagle Pines is a popular Disney course with rolling fairways and hazardous surrounding wetlands. This par 72 course has received a 4 ½ out of 5 star rating from Golf Digest. This Pete Dye design runs 6,772 yards and boasts many water hazards.

Serene surroundings and incredible landscaping make Osprey Ridge a Disney favorite and one of Florida’s finest. Thomas Fazio architected this curvy Disney course with a USGA rating of 74.4 and 7,101 yards of play.

Famed golf designer Joe Lee worked his magic when creating the Lake Buena Vista course. Teeing off next to boats and canals in a South Carolina inspired setting makes, this course’s links worth playing through.

The most challenging course however, might be the pairing of Disney’s Palm and Magnolia courses with both courses hosting rounds of the PGA TOUR® FUNAI Classic each year. The Palm is both challenging and astatically rewarding. One of the toughest courses Disney has to offer, the Palm is a great course for the intermediate to advanced player. The Magnolia is home to the final rounds of the PGA TOUR® FUNAI Classic, this course means business. Immaculately manicured links, elevated trees, and spacious greens make even the water hazards tranquil. Championship golf at it’s finest.

Although many of Disney’s courses are designed for accomplished players, families can also get in on the action with Disney’s Oak Trail walking nine-hole course. Walk the course with your family as you all enjoy a day outside and a great golfing experience.

Traditional Courses

Highlands Reserve Golf Club offers challenging yet affordable golfing with amazing scenery and spacious Scottish inspired greens. A Floridian favorite, Highlands Reserves is traditional golfing at its finest. Stay at the Regal Palms Resort at Highlands Reserve and make a vacation out of golfing Highlands Reserve.

Rosen Shingle Creek Golf Course is a David Harman designed par 72 championship golf course with swelling fairways and interconnected waterways. Shingle Creek Golf Club is located along the historic Shingle Creek and is bordered by dense oaks and pines. Located near Orlando’s airport, the Orange County Convention Center, SeaWorld® and International Drive hotels, this course’s own Shingle Creek Resort is scheduled to open Fall 2006.

You don’t have to look far in Orlando to find great golfing. Luxurious golf resorts make golfing Orlando a vacation in its own. Lush surroundings, challenging course play and immaculate courses are every golfers dream and Orlando’s courses offer all of the above.

The FCC Moves to Update Telecom Regulations

For many years we relied on the fax machine for moving documents quickly between locations. In recent years, the fax machine has become a bit of a dinosaur. With email and scanning, we rarely send a fax these days. It served its purpose but its time has come and gone.

Apparently, the FCC believes that the legacy regulations for the telecom industry have become a bit antiquated as well. The FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, has said that outdated rules may be suspended. The FCC creates regulation to promote a healthy competitive marketplace. And, they don’t feel like the old regulations from the 70’s and 80’s are still doing their job. So, the FCC is moving to update telecom regulations – and that will affect pricing!

To connect to the internet and provide services that require broadband, wireless operators, rural providers and competitive local exchange carriers or wireline companies have had to lease special access lines from the big incumbent carriers. The wholesale rates have been subject to governance by the Local Regulatory Commission. And, while this arrangement has made it possible to expand services rapidly, it now appears to be creating a bottle neck.

Of course, there is argument amongst the telecom companies that are most affected by this change to the competitive landscape. The companies that own the lines that are counting on lease rates remaining at their current level say that the pricing needs to continue to be regulated to preserve the necessary capital to continue to build out the infrastructure and telecom network.

On the other side of the argument, some companies feel like their “hands are tied”. They can’t be competitive with the rates that have been set by regulation that is over a decade old.

Wireless competitors are the primary drivers of this movement. It is much easier to increase bandwidth wirelessly than it is to put fiber in the ground or air. At some point, all data moves from the wireless network to the fiber that criss-crosses the country, but wireless is also quickly becoming a reasonable alternative for providing big bandwidth right to the door of a business. The limitations imposed by the legacy copper that is in just about every structure are becoming a non-issue.

In typical government fashion, things don’t move too quickly. The FCC has determined that it doesn’t have enough data to make an informed decision. So, they are in the process of collecting that data now. And, once they have the data, it must then be evaluated. When the decision is finally made, it is sure to shake things up. We’ll be watching!