Tamerlane lived in excessive magnificence and luxury at Samarcand; hither he had brought all his captives, who were expert in any kind of manufacture, especially in the silks of Damascus, and the sword cutlery of Turkey. To this city the Russians and Tartars brought leather, hides, furs, and cloth: silk goods, musk, pearls, precious stones, and rhubarb, were brought from China, or Cathay. Six months were occupied in bringing merchandize from Cambalu, the capital of Cathai, to Samarcand; two of these were spent in the deserts. Samarcand had also a trade with India, from which were received mace and other fine spices. Clavigo remarks, that such spices were never brought to Alexandria.
Schildeberger, a native of Munich, was taken prisoner by the Turks in 1394: he afterwards accompanied Tamerlane in his campaigns till the year 1406. During this period, and his subsequent connexion with other Tartar chiefs, he visited various parts of central Asia. But as he had not an opportunity of writing down at the time what he saw and learnt, his narrative is neither full, nor altogether to be depended upon for its accuracy. He was, besides, illiterate, And therefore it is often extremely difficult to ascertain, from his orthography, what places he actually means to name or describe. With all these drawbacks and imperfections, however, there are a few points on which he gives credible and curious information. He particularizes the silk of Strana, and of Schirevan; and adds, that from the last the raw silk is sent to Damascus, and there manufactured into the stuffs or damasks, for which it was already so celebrated. Fine silk was produced at Bursa, and exported to Venice and Lucca, for the manufacture of velvet. It ought to be mentioned, that he takes no notice of Saray and Astrakan, the latter of which was taken and destroyed by Tamerlane, in 1395. The wild asses in the mountainous deserts, and the dogs which were harnessed to sledges, are particularly mentioned by this traveller.
The interior parts of the north of Asia were visited, in 1420, by the ambassadors of the Emperor Tamerlane’s son; and their journey is described in the Book of the Wonders of the World, written by the Persian historian, Emir Khond, from which it was translated into Dutch by Witsen, in his Norden Oste Tartarye. Their route was through Samarcand to Cathay. On entering this country, we are informed of a circumstance strikingly characteristic of Chinese policy and suspicion. Cathayan secretaries took down, in writing, the names of the ambassadors, and the number of their suite. This was repeated at another place, the ambassadors being earnestly requested to state the exact number of their servants; and the merchants, who were with him, having been put down by him under the description of servants, were, on that account, obliged to perform the particular duties under which they were described. Among the presents made by the emperor to the ambassadors, tin is mentioned. Paper-money seems, at this period, to have given place to silver, which, however, from several circumstances mentioned, must have been very scarce.