Persia (now Iran), which was situated in West Asia, served as an important hub along the Silk Road and a source of important cultural exchanges. Persians learnt from Chinese culture and also promoted the development of ancient China through exchanges during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
Persian merchants made great contributions to the opening and the maintenance of the Silk Road with their abundant geographic knowledge, outstanding skills in navigating through deserts, and their ambitious spirit of hard work.
Their superior horses and treasures were brought to Chang’an (now Xian, Northwest China’s Shaanxi province) by Persian merchants, and the handicrafts of Chang’an, mainly silk, were sent to foreign countries.
Persian horses were popular at that time, and their images were memorialized in the carvings of the Tang Dynasty. The frequent exchanges with Persia and the import of superior horses partly led to the well-developed horse breeding industry and a strong cavalry during the Tang Dynasty.
After the Arab conquest of Persia, a large number of Persians escaped to Chang’an. The number of Persians who lived in Chang’an accounted for the largest foreigner population, and many Persians even stayed in Chang’an for generations.
Most of the Persians who lived in Chang’an dealt with businesses, including opening stores, selling jewelry and spices, as well as identifying jade. They lived in harmony with locals, promoting the prosperous economy, politics, and culture of the Tang Dynasty.
Several religions were also spread to Chang’an from Persia, which was a hub of religious culture. The introduction of Nestorianism, a school of Christianity, helped facilitate the cultural development of China. A stele, which was built in 781 and is now part of Xi’an Beilin Museum’s collection, records the canons of Nestorianism and the condition of its introduction in 635.
In addition, polo, a popular sports activity during the Tang Dynasty, originated from Persia, and it enriched Chinese recreational and sports activities.