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Abstract: During the Mongol-Yuan dynasty, many tourists travelled along the Silk Road, among whom we acquired detailed records of 15 tourists for restoring their journeys. The journeys of these tourists are of great significance for studies of varied routes of the Silk Road in different periods of the Mongol-Yuan dynasty. Here, we first extracted from the records major sites they traveled, and then restored their routes by a combined use of modern findings, historical and modern maps, Google Earth satellite images and so on. The journeys of the 15 tourists, from the earliest Yelu Chucai (1218) to the latest Marignolli (1353), had a time span of more than a century. We chronologically categorized the total 673 sites and 64 sections into 20 groups of travel points and 20 groups of travel routes respectively to form this dataset.
Keywords: Mongol-Yuan dynasty; tourists; the Silk Road; travel site; travel route; GIS
|Chinese title||蒙元时期丝绸之路旅行家行程 GIS 数据集|
|English title||A GIS dataset of tourist routes along the Silk Road in the Mongol-Yuan dynasty|
|Data corresponding author||Zhang Ping (email@example.com)|
|Data authors||Cheng Jun; Zhang Ping|
|Time range||1218 – 1353|
|Geographical scope||Geographical scope: 4°58'51.13"N – 24°45'2.75"N, 27°8'38.07"E – 111°9'34.73"E; specific areas include: China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Indian, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, and Egypt.|
|Spatial resolution||5000 m||Data volume||17.6MB|
|Data format||ESRI Shapefile|
|Data service system||<http://www.sciencedb.cn/dataSet/handle/622>|
|Sources of funding||Major projects of the National Social Science Fund (14ZDB031)|
|Dataset composition||This dataset consists of information on 20 groups of travel sites and travel routes.|
The Mongol-Yuan dynasty (1206 – 1368) was the period when the Silk Road most prospered. The establishment of an Mongol empire across Eurasia promoted frequent exchanges between East and West. During the Mongol-Yuan dynasty, many figures traveled to and fro along the Silk Road for purposes of political power, religious communication, commercial activities and cultural exploration. As their travel shared a common ground that urged them to record what they saw and heard, they are collectively referred to as tourists in this study. No less than 30 tourists were known to have traveled on the Silk Road during the Mongol-Yuan dynasty, of whom 15 had their itineraries recorded in detail. A study of their itineraries not only helps clarify the direction of the Silk Road at that time, but a comparison of their routes chosen at different time periods also sheds light on the temporal-spatial changes of the Silk Road. When coupled with historical events, these findings can be used to reveal the influence of historical processes on the evolution of the Silk Road.
Existing scholarships on tourist routes in the Mongol-Yuan dynasty largely focus on textual research of the itineraries,1 whereas there is a lack of comprehensive research, and even less are GIS-aided itinerary analyses. Generally speaking, tourists’ record of the Silk Road in this period is based on their real-life experience which embodies an intuitionistic description of their travel routes along the Silk Road. We first extracted major sites which these tourists passed through, then determined the latitude and longitude of each site, used Google Earth to locate the places and converted them into point data. Assisted by historical maps such as Mongolia Landscape Atlas2 and Jingshidadian Atlas, we drew tourist routes and vectorized them to form line data. This dataset consists of point data and line data, both of which are arranged chronologically according to the travel time of the tourists, and the tourist routes are displayed on a digital map. The toponymic and route data presented here allow users to analyze the spatial-temporal evolution of the Silk Road in the 13 – 14th century.
2.1 Data sources
The source of this dataset falls into two categories: one for travel sites and routes, which was used to construct point data and show the tourists’ itineraries, and the other for corresponding toponym in modern times, which was used to determine the exact location of the itinerary sites.
Firstly, travel node and route data. They were mainly derived from historical records, including travel notes, anthologies, and letters, with references annotated for each geographical name or route. Representative sources include The Travels of Marco Polo, The Travels of Ibn Battouta, and A Mongol-Yuan Envoys’ Journey to the West.
Secondly, toponymic data in modern times. These were mainly extracted from modern electronic maps (e.g., Google Map, Autonavi Map), including the country, province, city, town, and specific location where the sites are located today.
2.2 Collection and processing methods
This dataset consists of point data and line data, and its geographical coverage is limited to regions along the Silk Road.
Point data were extracted from documentary records. By referring to archaeological materials and other research results,3 most of the travel sites were accurately located and correlated to a specific town and site of modern times. To the utmost of the authors’ capability, we paid field visits to a few places in the case when visits were deemed necessary. Once the specific location of the sites were identified, we used Google Earth to locate their current position, by referring to the positioning theory as per “GIS technology and the study of Silk Road restoration over 2000 years”.4 Take Beshbaliq as an example: existing scholarship shows that the place was located in the present-day Pochengzi ruins, Beiting town, Gimosar, Changji, Xinjiang.5 Through field visits (Figure 1) and satellite imagery, we confirmed the specific location of the site (Figure 2). After the places were located, KML data were formed, which were then edited in ArcGIS and exported into 20 groups of point data.
Based on documentary records, we referred to the Silk Road restoration methods to restore line data, as delineated in “Research on the GIS-aided restoration of Linzhou Passage in the early Northern Song dynasty”.6 Based on the point data collated, routes were drawn on Google Earth by referring to field investigation findings, historical and modern maps, satellite images, and other research results.7,8 Take the Guazhou-to-Shazhou section as an example. Through field investigations (Figure 3), the authors got to know that this section extends along the northern foot of the mountain range, and crosses the desert and oasis. We referred to the route direction as recorded in Mongolia Landscape Atlas (Figure 4), as well as on-site investigation data, based on which a route consisting of several sections was drawn against the background of Google Earth satellite image (Figure 5). The data were edited and categorized into 20 KML files according to the tourists’ itinerary, which were further edited in ArcGIS and exported into 20 groups of line data.
After the arrangement of point data and line data, the data files were named after the start time of the itineraries recorded. Shapefiles of point data were designated by the “points” suffix, while those of line data were designated by the “lines” suffix. All the data were grouped into 19 periods, of which two tourists set off in 1260 and were thus marked by "-1" and "-2" in the respective file names as a way to distinguish. The main process of data generation is shown in Figure 6.
2.3 Data classification
The point data and line data were classified according to national standards and their specificity.
2.3.1 Point data classification
Based on the place division rules stipulated by National Standards (GB/T 18521-2001), the places were classified into two major categories: natural geographical entity and human geographical entity. Considering historical information carried by the geographical names, they were further divided into nine sub-categories: town, village, site, pass, country/region, mount, water body, desert and grassland (Table 1).
According to statistics, there were 673 valid geographical entities recorded by the tourists in the Mongol-Yuan dynasty, of which most of the human geographical entities were urban places (536 urban places), and most of the natural geographical entities were water bodies (51 water bodies). As Table 2 shows, cities and water bodies account for a significant part of the tourists’ itinerary.
|Data name||Town||Vill-age||Site||Pass||Country & Region||Mount||Water Body||Desert||Grassland||Total|
2.3.2 Line data classification
The line data carries information such as the time, mileage, tourist, and so on, of a travel route. In order to better reflect communication across regions, we classified the routes into the four categories according to the tourists’ itineraries: Europe-Asia, Africa-Asia, Asia and Europe (Table 3).
According to the statistics, there were 64 routes taken by the tourists, among which Euro-Asian routes (14 routes) accounted for the majority of transcontinental travel, while intra-continental travel were dominated by Asian routes (41 routes). This indicates that tourists along the Silk Road during the Mongol-Yuan dynasty were mainly for inter-Asian and Eurasian travels (Table 4).
|Data name||Begin time||End time||Tourist||Europe to Asia||Africa to Asia||Asia||Europe||Total|
|1246lines||1246.01||1246.12||Jean de Plan Carpin||1||1|
|1253 lines||1253.05||1255.08||William of Rubruk||3||3|
|1276lines||1276.01||1278.12||Rabban Sauma& Marco||5||5|
|1318lines||1318.01||1318.12||Odoric de Pordenone||1||1|
3.1 Database design
Our design of the attribute table acknowledged the differences between point data and line data. Attributes of the point data were based on original records, which recorded name, class, year, country, code, county/town in present time, and so on. Year designates the time when the tourist first arrived at the site during the journey. If the tourist passed through a place more than once, it was marked as passing through without annotation. The attribute table of the point data is shown in Table 5.
|Name||Chinese name of the point|
|Year||Time when the tourist first arrived|
|Name _E||English name of the point|
|Country||Country in which the place is located|
|Province||Province in which the place is located|
|City||City in which the place is located|
|County||County in which the place is located|
|Town||Town in which the place is located|
|Site||Specific location (village, site, water body, etc.)|
|Tourist||Name of the tourist|
|Class||Type of the location|
|Code||Code of the point|
Attribute table of the line data was named after the starting year of each route. Usually, a route was based on a 1 – 3 year itinerary, but certain routes might contain several uncontiguous sections within a year for itinerary ambiguity. The attribute table of the line data recorded name, begin time, end time and so on. The direction of each route was determined by the starting and ending locations, which could be inferred from corresponding point data. The attribute table of the line data is shown in Table 6.
3.2 Data display
This dataset includes 20 sets of point data and 20 sets of line data. To obtain the site and route data of a designated period, users can open corresponding point data and line data shapefiles named after the same number. Due to spatial constraints, we show the tourist routes in the following four travel periods here: 1218, 1254, 1271, and 1331 (Figure 7).
For more than 600 years since the Mongol-Yuan dynasty, there has been basically no mapping data for the Silk Road. Particularly, the directions of the Silk Road in this period and the cities and towns alongside are far from systematically recorded. Relative to official documentation, tourists’ itinerary more truthfully reflects the use of the Silk Road, which constitute indispensable material in the study of the road. For site location, we referred to research findings at home and abroad, through which most of the sites have been located to a specific site, village, and town. Travel routes were drawn and restored by reference to a combined use of research findings, historical and modern maps, and satellite image, and are thus reasonable and accurate. The total 673 points and 64 lines were classified into 20 sets of point data and 20 sets of line data to form this dataset.
This dataset contains standard shapefiles, which can be read and written by mainstream GIS software, As the data adopts the WGS-84 coordinate system, conversion will be necessary if users adopt a different coordinate system. The dataset, derived from detailed itineraries of 15 tourists, contains 20 sets of point data and 20 sets of line data chronologically arranged based on the tourists’ itinerary. This study exhibits a convenient way to restore the data of tourist routes, which has achieved a high level of accuracy in site location and route restoration. This dataset provides data basis for studying the directions of the Silk Road and its temporal-spatial evolution in the Mongol-Yuan period. The point data and line data can be extracted for further processing according to users’ specific demands.
Li GB. Research on Travel Notes of Ibn Battouta from Morocco to China. Beijing: China Ocean Press, 2009.
Zhang P.GIS Technology and the study of Silk Road Restoration in 2000 years. Trends of Recent Researches on the History of China 2(2017): 57 – 61.
Yue L & Zhang P. Research on the GIS-aided restoration of Linzhou Passage in the early Northern Song dynasty. Journal of Yunnan University (Social Sciences Edition) 16(2017): 55 – 62.
1. Chen J & Zhang P. A GIS dataset of tourist routes along the Silk Road in the Mongol-Yuan dynasty, Science Data Bank. DOI: 10.11922/sciencedb.622
How to cite this article
Chen J & Zhang P. A GIS dataset of tourist routes along the Silk Road in the Mongol-Yuan dynasty. China Scientific Data 3(2018). DOI: 10.11922/csdata.2018.0017.zh