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The SILK ROAD or SILK ROUTE was an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction originally through regions of Eurasia
Eurasia
connecting the East and West and stretching from the Korean peninsula and Japan to the Mediterranean
Mediterranean
Sea. The Silk
Silk
Road concept refers to both the terrestrial and the maritime routes connecting Asia and Europe. The overland Steppe route stretching through the Eurasian steppe is considered the ancestor to the Silk
Silk
Road(s).

While the term is of modern coinage, the Silk
Silk
Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk (and horses) carried out along its length, beginning during the Han dynasty
Han dynasty
(207 BCE – 220 CE). The Han dynasty expanded Central Asian sections of the trade routes around 114 BCE, largely through missions and explorations of the Chinese imperial envoy, Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian
. The Chinese took great interest in the safety of their trade products and extended the Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China
to ensure the protection of the trade route.

Trade
Trade
on the Silk
Silk
Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, the Goguryeo kingdom (Korea), Japan, the Indian subcontinent , Persia
Persia
, Europe
Europe
, the Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa
and Arabia
Arabia
, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations. Though silk was certainly the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, syncretic philosophies, and various technologies. Diseases, most notably plague , also spread along the Silk
Silk
Routes. In addition to economic trade, the Silk
Silk
Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network.

The main traders during antiquity included the Chinese , Arabs , Indians , Somalis , Syrians
Syrians
, Persians , Greeks
Greeks
, Romans , Georgians , Armenians
Armenians
, Bactrians , Turkmens , and (from the 5th to the 8th century) the Sogdians .

In June 2014, UNESCO
UNESCO
designated the Chang\'an-Tianshan corridor of the Silk
Silk
Road as a World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
. The Indian portion is on the tentative site list.

CONTENTS

* 1 Name

* 2 History

* 2.1 Precursors

* 2.1.1 Chinese and Central Asian contacts * 2.1.2 Persian Royal Road
Royal Road
* 2.1.3 Hellenistic era

* 2.2 Chinese exploration of Central Asia
Central Asia
* 2.3 Roman Empire
Roman Empire
* 2.4 Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
* 2.5 Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
reopens the route * 2.6 Medieval * 2.7 Islamic era and the Silk
Silk
Road * 2.8 Mongol age * 2.9 Decline and disintegration * 2.10 New Silk
Silk
Road

* 3 Routes

* 3.1 Northern route * 3.2 Southern route * 3.3 Southwestern route

* 4 Cultural exchanges

* 4.1 Transmission of Christianity * 4.2 Transmission of Buddhism
Buddhism
* 4.3 Transmission of art

* 5 Commemoration * 6 Gallery * 7 See also * 8 Notes * 9 References * 10 Sources * 11 Further reading * 12 External links

NAME

Woven silk textile from Tomb No. 1 at Mawangdui
Mawangdui
, Changsha , Hunan
Hunan
province, China, dated to the Western Han Era , 2nd century BCE

The Silk
Silk
Road derives its name from the lucrative Eurasian silk and horse trade, a major reason for the connection of trade routes into an extensive transcontinental network. The German terms _Seidenstraße_ and _Seidenstraßen_ ("the Silk
Silk
Road(s)") were coined by Ferdinand von Richthofen , who made seven expeditions to China
China
from 1868 to 1872. The term Silk
Silk
Route is also used. Although the term was coined in the 19th century, it did not gain widespread acceptance in academia or popularity among the public until the 20th century. The first book entitled _The Silk
Silk
Road_ was by Swedish geographer Sven Hedin in 1938. The fall of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
and ' Iron Curtain ' in 1989 led to a surge of public and academic interest in Silk
Silk
Road sites and studies in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

Use of the term ' Silk
Silk
Road' is not without its detractors. For instance, Warwick Ball contends that the maritime spice trade with India
India
and Arabia
Arabia
was far more consequential for the economy of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
than the silk trade with China
China
, which at sea was conducted mostly through India
India
and on land was handled by numerous intermediaries such as the Sogdians . Going as far as to call the whole thing a "myth" of modern academia, Ball argues that there was no coherent overland trade system and no free movement of goods from East Asia to the West until the period of the Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
. He notes that traditional authors discussing East-West trade such as Marco Polo and Edward Gibbon never labelled any route as a silk one in particular.

HISTORY

PRECURSORS

Chinese And Central Asian Contacts

Central Eurasia
Eurasia
has been known from ancient times for its horse riding and horse breeding communities, and the overland Steppe Route across the northern steppes of Central Eurasia
Eurasia
was in use long before that of the Silk
Silk
Road. Archeological sites such as the Berel burial ground in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
, confirmed that the nomadic Arimaspians were not only breeding horses for trade but also great craftsmen able to propagate exquisite art pieces along the Silk
Silk
Road. From the 2nd millennium BCE, nephrite jade was being traded from mines in the region of Yarkand and Khotan
Khotan
to China
China
. Significantly, these mines were not very far from the lapis lazuli and spinel ("Balas Ruby") mines in Badakhshan
Badakhshan
, and, although separated by the formidable Pamir Mountains , routes across them were apparently in use from very early times. Chinese jade and steatite plaques, in the Scythian
Scythian
-style animal art of the steppes. 4th–3rd century BCE. British Museum
British Museum
.

Some remnants of what was probably Chinese silk dating from 1070 BCE have been found in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
. The Great Oasis cities of Central Asia played a crucial role in the effective functioning of the Silk Road trade. The originating source seems sufficiently reliable, but silk degrades very rapidly, so it cannot be verified whether it was cultivated silk (which would almost certainly have come from China) or a type of "wild silk ", which might have come from the Mediterranean region or the Middle East
Middle East
.

Following contacts between Metropolitan China
China
and nomadic western border territories in the 8th century BCE, gold was introduced from Central Asia, and Chinese jade carvers began to make imitation designs of the steppes, adopting the Scythian
Scythian
-style animal art of the steppes (depictions of animals locked in combat). This style is particularly reflected in the rectangular belt plaques made of gold and bronze, with other versions in jade and steatite . The tomb of a Scythian prince near Stuttgart
Stuttgart
, Germany
Germany
, dated to the 6th century BCE, was excavated and found to have not only Greek bronzes but also Chinese silks. Similar animal-shaped pieces of art and wrestler motifs on belts have been found in Scythian
Scythian
grave sites stretching from the Black Sea
Black Sea
region all the way to Warring States era archaeological sites in Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia
(at Aluchaideng) and Shaanxi
Shaanxi
(at Keshengzhuang) in China.

The expansion of Scythian
Scythian
cultures, stretching from the Hungarian plain and the Carpathian Mountains
Carpathian Mountains
to the Chinese Kansu Corridor, and linking the Middle East
Middle East
with Northern India
India
and the Punjab , undoubtedly played an important role in the development of the Silk Road. Scythians accompanied the Assyrian Esarhaddon on his invasion of Egypt
Egypt
, and their distinctive triangular arrowheads have been found as far south as Aswan
Aswan
. These nomadic peoples were dependent upon neighbouring settled populations for a number of important technologies, and in addition to raiding vulnerable settlements for these commodities, they also encouraged long-distance merchants as a source of income through the enforced payment of tariffs. Soghdian Scythian
Scythian
merchants played a vital role in later periods in the development of the Silk
Silk
Road.

Persian Royal Road

Achaemenid Persian Empire at its greatest extent, showing the Royal Road
Royal Road
.

By the time of Herodotus
Herodotus
(c. 475 BCE), the Royal Road
Royal Road
of the Persian Empire ran some 2,857 km (1,775 mi) from the city of Susa
Susa
on the Karun (250 km (155 mi) east of the Tigris
Tigris
) to the port of Smyrna
Smyrna
(modern İzmir in Turkey
Turkey
) on the Aegean Sea . It was maintained and protected by the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
(c. 500–330 BCE) and had postal stations and relays at regular intervals. By having fresh horses and riders ready at each relay, royal couriers could carry messages the entire distance in nine days, while normal travellers took about three months.

Hellenistic Era

Probable Greek soldier with a Greek mythological centaur in the Sampul tapestry , woollen wall hanging, 3rd–2nd century BCE, Sampul, Urumqi
Urumqi
Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Museum, China.

The next major step in the development of the Silk
Silk
Road was the expansion of the Greek empire of Alexander the Great into Central Asia. In August 329 BCE, at the mouth of the Fergana Valley
Fergana Valley
in Tajikistan
Tajikistan
across the mountain pass from the modern Chinese province of Xinjiang
Xinjiang
, Alexander founded the city of Alexandria Eschate or " Alexandria
Alexandria
The Furthest". This later became a major staging point on the northern Silk
Silk
Route. See Dayuan (_Ta-yuan_; Chinese : 大宛; literarily "Great Ionians ").

The Greeks
Greeks
remained in Central Asia
Central Asia
for the next three centuries, first through the administration of the Seleucid Empire , and then with the establishment of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom (250 BCE-125 BCE) in Bactria
Bactria
(modern Afghanistan
Afghanistan
, Tajikistan
Tajikistan
, and Pakistan
Pakistan
) and the later Indo-Greek Kingdom (180 BCE – 10 CE) in modern Northern Pakistan
Pakistan
and Afghanistan
Afghanistan
. They continued to expand eastward, especially during the reign of Euthydemus (230–200 BCE), who extended his control beyond Alexandria Eschate to Sogdiana
Sogdiana
. There are indications that he may have led expeditions as far as Kashgar
Kashgar
in Chinese Turkestan , leading to the first known contacts between

The Hellenistic world and Classical Greek philosophy mixed with Eastern philosophies, leading to syncretisms such as Greco-Buddhism
Greco-Buddhism
.

CHINESE EXPLORATION OF CENTRAL ASIA

Main articles: Sino-Roman relations
Sino-Roman relations
, Sino-Indian relations , Han–Xiongnu War , and History of the Han Dynasty

With the Mediterranean
Mediterranean
linked to the Fergana Valley
Fergana Valley
, the next step was to open a route across the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
and the Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor
to China
China
Proper . This extension came around 130 BCE, with the embassies of the Han dynasty
Han dynasty
to Central Asia
Central Asia
following the reports of the ambassador Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian
(who was originally sent to obtain an alliance with the Yuezhi against the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
). Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian
visited directly the kingdom of Dayuan in Ferghana , the territories of the Yuezhi in Transoxiana , the Bactrian country of Daxia with its remnants of Greco-Bactrian rule, and Kangju
Kangju
. He also made reports on neighbouring countries that he did not visit, such as Anxi (Parthia), Tiaozhi ( Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
), Shendu (Pakistan) and the Wusun . Zhang Qian's report suggested the economic reason for Chinese expansion and wall-building westward, and trailblazed the silk road which is one of the most famous trade routes. After the defeat of the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
, however, Chinese armies established themselves in Central Asia, initiating the Silk
Silk
Route as a major avenue of international trade. Some say that the Chinese Emperor Wu became interested in developing commercial relationships with the sophisticated urban civilizations of Ferghana, Bactria, and the Parthian Empire : "The Son of Heaven on hearing all this reasoned thus: Ferghana ( Dayuan _"Great Ionians "_) and the possessions of Bactria
Bactria
( Ta-Hsia ) and Parthian Empire (Anxi ) are large countries, full of rare things, with a population living in fixed abodes and given to occupations somewhat identical with those of the Chinese people, but with weak armies, and placing great value on the rich produce of China" (_Hou Hanshu_, Later Han History ). Others say that Emperor Wu was mainly interested in fighting the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
and that major trade began only after the Chinese pacified the Hexi Corridor .

" China
China
snatched control of the Silk
Silk
Road from the Hsiung-nu ", when the Chinese general Cheng Ki "installed himself as protector of the Tarim at Wu-lei, situated between Kara Shahr and Kucha ." "China's control of the Silk
Silk
Road at the time of the later Han , by ensuring the freedom of transcontinental trade along the double chain of oases north and south of the Tarim, favoured the dissemination of Buddhism in the river basin, and with it Indian literature and Hellenistic art." A ceramic horse head and neck (broken from the body), from the Chinese Eastern Han dynasty
Han dynasty
(1st–2nd century CE) Bronze coin of Constantius II
Constantius II
(337–361), found in Karghalik , Xinjiang
Xinjiang
, China
China

The Chinese were also strongly attracted by the tall and powerful horses (named "Heavenly horses") in the possession of the Dayuan (literally the "Great Ionians", the Greek kingdoms of Central Asia
Central Asia
), which were of capital importance in fighting the nomadic Xiongnu. The Chinese subsequently sent numerous embassies, around ten every year, to these countries and as far as Seleucid
Seleucid
Syria. "Thus more embassies were dispatched to Anxi , Yancai , Lijian , Tiaozhi ( Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
), and Tianzhu ... As a rule, rather more than ten such missions went forward in the course of a year, and at the least five or six." (_Hou Hanshu_, Later Han History).These connections marked the beginning of the Silk
Silk
Road trade network that extended to the Roman Empire. The Chinese campaigned in Central Asia
Central Asia
on several occasions, and direct encounters between Han troops and Roman legionaries (probably captured or recruited as mercenaries by the Xiong Nu) are recorded, particularly in the 36 BCE battle of Sogdiana
Sogdiana
(Joseph Needham, Sidney Shapiro). It has been suggested that the Chinese crossbow was transmitted to the Roman world on such occasions, although the Greek gastraphetes provides an alternative origin. R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy suggest that in 36 BCE, a "Han expedition into central Asia, west of Jaxartes River, apparently encountered and defeated a contingent of Roman legionaries. The Romans may have been part of Antony 's army invading Parthia . Sogdiana
Sogdiana
(modern Bukhara
Bukhara
), east of the Oxus
Oxus
River, on the Polytimetus River, was apparently the most easterly penetration ever made by Roman forces in Asia. The margin of Chinese victory appears to have been their crossbows, whose bolts and darts seem easily to have penetrated Roman shields and armour." The Roman historian Florus also describes the visit of numerous envoys, which included _ Seres _(China), to the first Roman Emperor Augustus
Augustus
, who reigned between 27 BCE and 14 CE:

Even the rest of the nations of the world which were not subject to the imperial sway were sensible of its grandeur, and looked with reverence to the Roman people, the great conqueror of nations. Thus even Scythians and Sarmatians sent envoys to seek the friendship of Rome. Nay, the Seres came likewise, and the Indians who dwelt beneath the vertical sun, bringing presents of precious stones and pearls and elephants, but thinking all of less moment than the vastness of the journey which they had undertaken, and which they said had occupied four years. In truth it needed but to look at their complexion to see that they were people of another world than ours. —  Henry Yule , _Cathay and the Way Thither_ (1866)

The Han army regularly policed the trade route against nomadic bandit forces generally identified as Xiongnu. Han general Ban Chao led an army of 70,000 mounted infantry and light cavalry troops in the 1st century CE to secure the trade routes, reaching far west to the Tarim basin. Ban Chao expanded his conquests across the Pamirs
Pamirs
to the shores of the Caspian Sea and the borders of Parthia. It was from here that the Han general dispatched envoy Gan Ying to Daqin (Rome). The Silk Road essentially came into being from the 1st century BCE, following these efforts by China
China
to consolidate a road to the Western world and India
India
, both through direct settlements in the area of the Tarim Basin and diplomatic relations with the countries of the Dayuan, Parthians and Bactrians further west. The Silk
Silk
Roads were a "complex network of trade routes" that gave people the chance to exchange goods and culture.

A maritime Silk
Silk
Route opened up between Chinese-controlled Giao Chỉ (centred in modern Vietnam
Vietnam
, near Hanoi
Hanoi
), probably by the 1st century. It extended, via ports on the coasts of India
India
and Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
, all the way to Roman -controlled ports in Roman Egypt
Egypt
and the Nabataean territories on the northeastern coast of the Red Sea
Red Sea
. The earliest Roman glassware bowl found in China
China
was unearthed from a Western Han tomb in Guangzhou
Guangzhou
, dated to the early 1st century BCE, indicating that Roman commercial items were being imported through the South China
China
Sea . According to Chinese dynastic histories , it is from this region that the Roman embassies arrived in China, beginning in 166 CE during the reigns of Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius
and Emperor Huan of Han . Other Roman glasswares have been found in Eastern-Han-era tombs (25–220 CE) more further inland in Nanjing
Nanjing
and Luoyang
Luoyang
. P.O. Harper asserts that a 2nd or 3rd-century Roman gilt silver plate found in Jingyuan , Gansu
Gansu
, China
China
with a central image of the Greco-Roman god Dionysus resting on a feline creature, most likely came via Greater Iran (i.e. Sogdiana
Sogdiana
). Valerie Hansen (2012) believed that earliest Roman coins found in China
China
date to the 4th century, during Late Antiquity and the Dominate
Dominate
period, and come from the Byzantine Empire . However, Warwick Ball (2016) highlights the recent discovery of sixteen Principate -era Roman coins found in Xi\'an (formerly Chang\'an , one of the two Han capitals ) that were minted during the reigns of Roman emperors spanning from Tiberius
Tiberius
to Aurelian
Aurelian
(i.e. 1st to 3rd centuries AD). It is true that these coins were found in China, but they were deposited there in the twentieth century, not in ancient times, and therefore they do not shed light on historic contacts between China
China
and Rome. Roman golden medallions made during the reign of Antoninus Pius and quite possibly his successor Marcus Aurelius have been found at Óc Eo in southern Vietnam
Vietnam
, which was then part of the Kingdom of Funan bordering the Chinese province of Jiaozhi in northern Vietnam. Given the archaeological finds of Mediterranean
Mediterranean
artefacts made by Louis Malleret in the 1940s, Óc Eo may have been the same site as the port city of Kattigara described by Ptolemy
Ptolemy
in his _Geography _ (c. 150 CE), although Ferdinand von Richthofen had previously believed it was closer to Hanoi
Hanoi
.

ROMAN EMPIRE

Central Asia
Central Asia
during Roman times, with the first Silk
Silk
Road

Soon after the Roman conquest of Egypt
Egypt
in 30 BCE, regular communications and trade between China, Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
, India, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe
Europe
blossomed on an unprecedented scale. The eastern trade routes from the earlier Hellenistic powers and the Arabs that were part of the Silk
Silk
Road were inherited by the Roman Empire. With control of these trade routes, citizens of the Roman Empire would receive new luxuries and greater prosperity for the Empire as a whole. The Roman-style glassware discovered in the archeological sites of Gyeongju , capital of the Silla
Silla
kingdom (Korea) showed that Roman artifacts were traded as far as the Korean peninsula. The Greco-Roman trade with India
India
started by Eudoxus of Cyzicus in 130 BCE continued to increase, and according to Strabo (II.5.12), by the time of Augustus
Augustus
, up to 120 ships were setting sail every year from Myos Hormos in Roman Egypt
Egypt
to India. The Roman Empire connected with the Central Asian Silk
Silk
Road through their ports in Barygaza (known today as Bharuch ) and Barbaricum (known today as the cities of Karachi, Sindh, and Pakistan
Pakistan
) and continued along the western coast of India. An ancient "travel guide" to this Indian Ocean trade route was the Greek Periplus of the Erythraean Sea written in 60 CE.

The travelling party of Maës Titianus penetrated farthest east along the Silk
Silk
Road from the Mediterranean
Mediterranean
world, probably with the aim of regularising contacts and reducing the role of middlemen, during one of the lulls in Rome's intermittent wars with Parthia , which repeatedly obstructed movement along the Silk
Silk
Road. Intercontinental trade and communication became regular, organised, and protected by the 'Great Powers.' Intense trade with the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
soon followed, confirmed by the Roman craze for Chinese silk (supplied through the Parthians), even though the Romans thought silk was obtained from trees. This belief was affirmed by Seneca the Younger in his Phaedra and by Virgil in his Georgics . Notably, Pliny the Elder knew better. Speaking of the _bombyx_ or silk moth, he wrote in his Natural Histories "They weave webs, like spiders, that become a luxurious clothing material for women, called silk." The Romans traded spices, glassware, perfumes, and silk. A Westerner on a camel, Northern Wei Dynasty
Dynasty
(386–534)

Roman artisans began to replace yarn with valuable plain silk cloths from China
China
and the Silla
Silla
Kingdom in Gyeongju , Korea. Chinese wealth grew as they delivered silk and other luxury goods to the Roman Empire, whose wealthy Roman women admired their beauty. The Roman Senate issued, in vain, several edicts to prohibit the wearing of silk, on economic and moral grounds: the import of Chinese silk caused a huge outflow of gold, and silk clothes were considered to be decadent and immoral.

I can see clothes of silk, if materials that do not hide the body, nor even one's decency, can be called clothes... Wretched flocks of maids labour so that the adulteress may be visible through her thin dress, so that her husband has no more acquaintance than any outsider or foreigner with his wife's body.

The Roman Empire, and its demand for sophisticated Asian products, crumbled in the West around the 5th century.

The unification of Central Asia
Central Asia
and Northern India
India
within Kushan Empire in the 1st to 3rd centuries reinforced the role of the powerful merchants from Bactria
Bactria
and Taxila
Taxila
. They fostered multi-cultural interaction as indicated by their 2nd century treasure hoards filled with products from the Greco-Roman world, China, and India, such as in the archeological site of Begram .

BYZANTINE EMPIRE

Further information: Byzantine-Mongol alliance
Byzantine-Mongol alliance

Byzantine Greek historian Procopius stated that two Nestorian Christian monks eventually uncovered the way of how silk was made. From this revelation monks were sent by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian
Justinian
(ruled 527 – 565) as spies on the Silk
Silk
Road from Constantinople
Constantinople
to China
China
and back to steal the silkworm eggs , resulting in silk production in the Mediterranean, particularly in Thrace in northern Greece, and giving the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
a monopoly on silk production in medieval Europe. In 568 the Byzantine ruler Justin II was greeted by a Sogdian embassy representing Istämi , ruler of the Turkic Khaganate , who formed an alliance with the Byzantines against Khosrow I of the Sasanian Empire
Sasanian Empire
that allowed the Byzantines to bypass the Sasanian merchants and trade directly with the Sogdians for purchasing Chinese silk. Although the Byzantines had already procured silkworm eggs from China
China
by this point, the quality of Chinese silk was still far greater than anything produced in the West, a fact that is perhaps emphasized by the discovery of coins minted by Justin II found in a Chinese tomb of Shanxi
Shanxi
province dated to the Sui Dynasty (581–618). Coin of Constans II (r. 641–648), who is named in Chinese sources as the first of several Byzantine emperors to send embassies to the Chinese Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty

Both the _ Old Book of Tang _ and _ New Book of Tang _, covering the history of the Chinese Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
(618–907), record that a new state called _Fu-lin_ (拂菻; i.e. Byzantine Empire) was virtually identical to the previous _ Daqin _ (大秦; i.e. Roman Empire). Several _Fu-lin_ embassies were recorded for the Tang period, starting in 643 with an alleged embassy by Constans II (transliterated as _Bo duo li_, 波多力, from his nickname "Kōnstantinos Pogonatos") to the court of Emperor Taizong of Tang . The _ History of Song _ describes the final embassy and its arrival in 1081, apparently sent by Michael VII Doukas (transliterated as _Mie li sha ling kai sa_, 滅力沙靈改撒, from his name and title Michael VII Parapinakēs Caesar) to the court of Emperor Shenzong of the Song dynasty (960–1279). However, the _ History of Yuan
History of Yuan
_ claims that a Byzantine man became a leading astronomer and physician in Khanbaliq , at the court of Kublai Khan
Kublai Khan
, Mongol founder of the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) and was even granted the noble title 'Prince of Fu lin' (Chinese : 拂菻王; Fú lǐn wáng). The Uyghur Nestorian
Nestorian
Christian diplomat Rabban Bar Sauma , who set out from his Chinese home in Khanbaliq (Beijing) and acted as a representative for Arghun (a grandnephew of Kublai Khan), traveled throughout Europe
Europe
and attempted to secure military alliances with Edward I of England
Edward I of England
, Philip IV of France , Pope Nicholas IV , as well as the Byzantine ruler Andronikos II Palaiologos . Andronikos II had two half-sisters who were married to great-grandsons of Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan
, which made him an in-law with the Yuan-dynasty Mongol ruler in Beijing, Kublai Khan. The _ History of Ming _ preserves an account where the Hongwu Emperor , after founding the Ming dynasty
Ming dynasty
(1368–1644), had a supposed Byzantine merchant named Nieh-ku-lun (捏古倫) deliver his proclamation about the establishment of a new dynasty to the Byzantine court of John V Palaiologos
John V Palaiologos
in September 1371. Friedrich Hirth (1885), Emil Bretschneider (1888), and more recently Edward Luttwak (2009) presumed that this was none other than Nicolaus de Bentra, a Roman Catholic bishop of Khanbilaq chosen by Pope John XXII to replace the previous archbishop John of Montecorvino .

TANG DYNASTY REOPENS THE ROUTE

Further information: Tang campaigns against the Western Turks , Conquest of the Western Turks , Tang campaign against the Eastern Turks , and Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
§ Trade
Trade
and spread of culture _ A Chinese sancai _ statue of a Sogdian man with a wineskin , Tang Dynasty
Dynasty
(618–907)

Although the Silk
Silk
Road was initially formulated during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han (141 – 87 BC), it was reopened by the Tang Empire in 639 when Hou Junji conquered the Western Regions , and remained open for almost four decades. It was closed after the Tibetans captured it in 678, but in 699, during Empress Wu 's period, the Silk Road reopened when the Tang reconquered the Four Garrisons of Anxi originally installed in 640, once again connecting China
China
directly to the West for land-based trade. The Tang captured the vital route through the Gilgit
Gilgit
Valley from Tibet
Tibet
in 722, lost it to the Tibetans in 737, and regained it under the command of the Goguryeo-Korean General Gao Xianzhi .

While the Turks were settled in the Ordos region (former territory of the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
), the Tang government took on the military policy of dominating the central steppe. The Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
(along with Turkic allies) conquered and subdued Central Asia
Central Asia
during the 640s and 650s. During Emperor Taizong's reign alone, large campaigns were launched against not only the Göktürks , but also separate campaigns against the Tuyuhun , the oasis states , and the Xueyantuo . Under Emperor Taizong , Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
conquered Eastern Turkic Khaganate . Under Emperor Gaozong , Tang general Su Dingfang conquered the Western Turkic Khaganate which was an important ally of Byzantine empire. After these conquest, Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
fully controlled the Xiyu which was the strategic location astride the Silk
Silk
Road. This lead the Tang dynasty reopened the Silk
Silk
Road and kept the Silk
Silk
Road open for decades.

The Silk
Silk
Road was the most important pre-modern Eurasian trade route. The Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
established a second Pax Sinica , and the Silk
Silk
Road reached its golden age, whereby Persian and Sogdian merchants benefited from the commerce between East and West. At the same time, the Chinese empire welcomed foreign cultures, making it very cosmopolitan in its urban centres. In addition to the land route, the Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
also developed the maritime Silk
Silk
Route. Chinese envoys had been sailing through the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
to India
India
since perhaps the 2nd century BCE, yet it was during the Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
that a strong Chinese maritime presence could be found in the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
and Red Sea , into Persia
Persia
, Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
(sailing up the Euphrates
Euphrates
River in modern-day Iraq
Iraq
), Arabia
Arabia
, Egypt, Aksum
Aksum
( Ethiopia
Ethiopia
), and Somalia
Somalia
in the Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa
.

MEDIEVAL

Further information: Europeans in Medieval China
Europeans in Medieval China
Caravan on the Silk
Silk
Road, 1380

The Silk
Silk
Road represents an early phenomenon of political and cultural integration due to inter-regional trade. In its heyday, it sustained an international culture that strung together groups as diverse as the Magyars
Magyars
, Armenians
Armenians
, and Chinese. The Silk
Silk
Road reached its peak in the west during the time of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
; in the Nile- Oxus
Oxus
section, from the Sassanid Empire period to the Il Khanate period; and in the sinitic zone from the Three Kingdoms
Three Kingdoms
period to the Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
period. Trade
Trade
between East and West also developed across the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
, between Alexandria
Alexandria
in Egypt
Egypt
and Guangzhou
Guangzhou
in China. Persian Sassanid coins emerged as a means of currency, just as valuable as silk yarn and textiles.

Under its strong integrating dynamics on the one hand and the impacts of change it transmitted on the other, tribal societies previously living in isolation along the Silk
Silk
Road, and pastoralists who were of barbarian cultural development, were drawn to the riches and opportunities of the civilisations connected by the routes, taking on the trades of marauders or mercenaries. Many barbarian tribes became skilled warriors able to conquer rich cities and fertile lands and to forge strong military empires. Map of Eurasia
Eurasia
and Africa showing trade networks, c. 870

The Sogdians dominated the East-West trade after the 4th century up to the 8th century, with Suyab and Talas ranking among their main centres in the north. They were the main caravan merchants of Central Asia. Their commercial interests were protected by the resurgent military power of the Göktürks , whose empire has been described as "the joint enterprise of the Ashina clan and the Soghdians". A.V. Dybo noted that "according to historians, the main driving force of the Great Silk
Silk
Road were not just Sogdians, but the carriers of a mixed Sogdian-Türkic culture that often came from mixed families." Their trade, with some interruptions, continued in the 9th century within the framework of the Uighur Empire , which until 840 extended across northern Central Asia
Central Asia
and obtained from China
China
enormous deliveries of silk in exchange for horses. At this time caravans of Sogdians travelling to Upper Mongolia are mentioned in Chinese sources. They played an equally important religious and cultural role. Part of the data about eastern Asia provided by Muslim
Muslim
geographers of the 10th century actually goes back to Sogdian data of the period 750–840 and thus shows the survival of links between east and west. However, after the end of the Uighur Empire, Sogdian trade went through a crisis. What mainly issued from Muslim
Muslim
Central Asia
Central Asia
was the trade of the Samanids , which resumed the northwestern road leading to the Khazars and the Urals and the northeastern one toward the nearby Turkic tribes.

The Silk
Silk
Road gave rise to the clusters of military states of nomadic origins in North China, ushered the Nestorian
Nestorian
, Manichaean , Buddhist , and later Islamic religions into Central Asia
Central Asia
and China.

ISLAMIC ERA AND THE SILK ROAD

Further information: History of Islamic economics The Round city of Baghdad
Baghdad
between 767 and 912 was the most important urban node along the Silk
Silk
Road. A lion motif on Sogdian polychrome silk , 8th century, most likely from Bukhara
Bukhara

By the Umayyad
Umayyad
era, Damascus
Damascus
had overtaken Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
as a major trade center until the Abbasid dynasty
Abbasid dynasty
built the city of Baghdad
Baghdad
, which became the most important city along the silk road .

At the end of its glory, the routes brought about the largest continental empire ever, the Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
, with its political centres strung along the Silk
Silk
Road ( Beijing
Beijing
in North China, Karakorum in central Mongolia, Sarmakhand in Transoxiana , Tabriz
Tabriz
in Northern Iran, Sarai and Astrakhan
Astrakhan
in lower Volga
Volga
, Solkhat in Crimea
Crimea
, Kazan in Central Russia, Erzurum in eastern Anatolia
Anatolia
), realising the political unification of zones previously loosely and intermittently connected by material and cultural goods.

The Islamic world was expanded into Central Asia
Central Asia
during the 8th century, under the Umayyad
Umayyad
Caliphate , while its successor the Abbasid Caliphate put a halt to Chinese westward expansion at the Battle of Talas in 751 (near the Talas River
Talas River
in modern-day Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
). However, following the disastrous An Lushan Rebellion (755–763) and the conquest of the Western Regions by the Tibetan Empire
Tibetan Empire
, the Tang Empire was unable to reassert its control over Central Asia. Contemporary Tang authors noted how the dynasty had gone into decline after this point. In 848 the Tang Chinese, led by the commander Zhang Yichao , were only able to reclaim the Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor
and Dunhuang
Dunhuang
in Gansu
Gansu
from the Tibetans. The Persian Samanid Empire (819–999) centered in Bukhara
Bukhara
( Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
) continued the trade legacy of the Sogdians . The disruptions of trade were curtailed in that part of the world by the end of the 10th century and conquests of Central Asia by the Turkic Islamic Kara-Khanid Khanate , yet Nestorian
Nestorian
Christianity , Zoroastrianism , Manichaeism , and Buddhism
Buddhism
in Central Asia virtually disappeared.

During the early 13th century Khwarezmia was invaded by the early Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
. The Mongol ruler Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan
had the once vibrant cities of Bukhara
Bukhara
and Samarkand
Samarkand
burned to the ground after besieging them. However, in 1370 Samarkand
Samarkand
saw a revival as the capital of the new Timurid Empire . The Turko-Mongol ruler Timur
Timur
forcefully moved artisans and intellectuals from across Asia to Samarkand, making it one of the most important trade centers and cultural _entrepôts _ of the Islamic world.

MONGOL AGE

See also: Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
, Pax Mongolica , Franco-Mongol alliance , Europeans in Medieval China
Europeans in Medieval China
, and Fonthill Vase Map of Marco Polo 's travels in 1271–1295

The Mongol expansion throughout the Asian continent from around 1207 to 1360 helped bring political stability and re-established the Silk Road (via Karakorum ). It also brought an end to the dominance of the Islamic Caliphate over world trade. Because the Mongols came to control the trade routes, trade circulated throughout the region, though they never abandoned their nomadic lifestyle.

The Mongol rulers wanted to establish their capital on the Central Asian steppe, so to accomplish this goal, after every conquest they enlisted local people (traders, scholars, artisans) to help them construct and manage their empire.

The Mongol diplomat Rabban Bar Sauma visited the courts of Europe
Europe
in 1287–88 and provided a detailed written report to the Mongols. Around the same time, the Venetian explorer Marco Polo
Marco Polo
became one of the first Europeans to travel the Silk
Silk
Road to China. His tales, documented in _The Travels of Marco Polo
Marco Polo
_, opened Western eyes to some of the customs of the Far East. He was not the first to bring back stories, but he was one of the most widely read. He had been preceded by numerous Christian missionaries to the East, such as William of Rubruck , Benedykt Polak , Giovanni da Pian del Carpine , and Andrew of Longjumeau . Later envoys included Odoric of Pordenone , Giovanni de\' Marignolli , John of Montecorvino , Niccolò de\' Conti , and Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta
, a Moroccan Muslim
Muslim
traveller who passed through the present-day Middle East
Middle East
and across the Silk
Silk
Road from Tabriz
Tabriz
between 1325–54.

In the 13th century efforts were made at forming a Franco-Mongol alliance , with an exchange of ambassadors and (failed) attempts at military collaboration in the Holy Land
Holy Land
during the later Crusades
Crusades
. Eventually the Mongols in the Ilkhanate , after they had destroyed the Abbasid
Abbasid
and Ayyubid
Ayyubid
dynasties, converted to Islam
Islam
and signed the 1323 Treaty of Aleppo with the surviving Muslim
Muslim
power, the Egyptian Mamluks .

Some studies indicate that the Black Death
Black Death
, which devastated Europe starting in the late 1340s, may have reached Europe
Europe
from Central Asia (or China) along the trade routes of the Mongol Empire. One theory holds that Genoese traders coming from the entrepot of Trebizond in northern Turkey
Turkey
carried the disease to Western Europe; like many other outbreaks of plague, there is strong evidence that it originated in marmots in Central Asia
Central Asia
and was carried westwards to the Black Sea
Black Sea
by Silk
Silk
Road traders.

DECLINE AND DISINTEGRATION

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Port cities on the maritime silk route featured on the voyages of Zheng He .

The fragmentation of the Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
loosened the political, cultural, and economic unity of the Silk
Silk
Road. Turkmeni marching lords seized land around the western part of the Silk
Silk
Road from the decaying Byzantine Empire. After the fall of the Mongol Empire, the great political powers along the Silk
Silk
Road became economically and culturally separated. Accompanying the crystallisation of regional states was the decline of nomad power, partly due to the devastation of the Black Death
Black Death
and partly due to the encroachment of sedentary civilisations equipped with gunpowder .

The consolidation of the Ottoman and Safavid
Safavid
empires in the Middle East led to a revival of overland trade, interrupted sporadically by warfare between them. The silk trade continued to flourish until it was disrupted by the collapse of the Safavid
Safavid
Empire in the 1720s.

NEW SILK ROAD

A silk banner from Mawangdui
Mawangdui
, Changsha , Hunan
Hunan
province; it was draped over the coffin of Lady Dai (d. 168 BCE), wife of the Marquess Li Cang (利蒼) (d. 186 BCE), chancellor for the Kingdom of Changsha .

After an earthquake that hit Tashkent in Central Asia
Central Asia
in 1966, the city had to rebuild itself. Although it took a huge toll on their markets, this commenced a revival of modern silk road cities.

The Eurasian Land Bridge (a railway through China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia) is sometimes referred to as the "New Silk
Silk
Road". The last link in one of these two railway routes was completed in 1990, when the railway systems of China
China
and Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
connected at Alataw Pass (Alashan Kou). In 2008 the line was used to connect the cities of Ürümqi in China's Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Province to Almaty and Astana in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
. In October 2008 the first Trans- Eurasia
Eurasia
Logistics train reached Hamburg
Hamburg
from Xiangtan . Starting in July 2011 the line has been used by a freight service that connects Chongqing
Chongqing
, China with Duisburg
Duisburg
, Germany, cutting travel time for cargo from about 36 days by container ship to just 13 days by freight train. In 2013, Hewlett-Packard began moving large freight trains of laptop computers and monitors along this rail route.

In September 2013, during a visit to Kazakhstan, Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced a plan for creating a New Silk
Silk
Road from China
China
to Europe. The latest iterations of this plan, dubbed "One Belt, One Road " (OBOR), includes a land-based Silk
Silk
Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk
Silk
Road , with primary points in Ürümqi, Dostyk , Astana, Gomel
Gomel
, Brest , and the Polish cities of Małaszewicze and Łódź , which would be hubs of logistics and transshipment to other countries of Europe.

On 15 February 2016, with a change in routing, the first train dispatched under the OBOR scheme arrived from eastern Zhejiang Province to Tehran
Tehran
. Though this section does not complete the Silk Road–style overland connection between China
China
and Europe, plans are underway to extend the route past Tehran, through Istanbul
Istanbul
, into Europe. The actual route went through Almaty, Bishkek
Bishkek
, Samarkand
Samarkand
, and Dushanbe
Dushanbe
.

In January 2017, the service sent its first train to London
London
. The network additionally connects to Madrid
Madrid
and Milan
Milan
.

ROUTES

For more details on this topic, see Cities along the Silk
Silk
Road .

The Silk
Silk
Road consisted of several routes. As it extended westwards from the ancient commercial centres of China, the overland, intercontinental Silk
Silk
Road divided into northern and southern routes bypassing the Taklamakan Desert
Taklamakan Desert
and Lop Nur .

NORTHERN ROUTE

Main article: Northern Silk
Silk
Road The Silk
Silk
Road in the 1st century The Silk
Silk
Road

The northern route started at Chang\'an (now called Xi\'an ), an ancient capital of China
China
that was moved further east during the Later Han to Luoyang
Luoyang
. The route was defined around the 1st century BCE when Han Wudi put an end to harassment by nomadic tribes.

The northern route travelled northwest through the Chinese province of Gansu
Gansu
from Shaanxi
Shaanxi
Province and split into three further routes, two of them following the mountain ranges to the north and south of the Taklamakan Desert
Taklamakan Desert
to rejoin at Kashgar
Kashgar
, and the other going north of the Tian Shan
Tian Shan
mountains through Turpan
Turpan
, Talgar , and Almaty (in what is now southeast Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
). The routes split again west of Kashgar, with a southern branch heading down the Alai Valley towards Termez (in modern Uzbekistan) and Balkh (Afghanistan), while the other travelled through Kokand in the Fergana Valley
Fergana Valley
(in present-day eastern Uzbekistan) and then west across the Karakum Desert . Both routes joined the main southern route before reaching ancient Merv
Merv
, Turkmenistan. Another branch of the northern route turned northwest past the Aral Sea and north of the Caspian Sea , then and on to the Black Sea
Black Sea
.

A route for caravans, the northern Silk
Silk
Road brought to China
China
many goods such as "dates, saffron powder and pistachio nuts from Persia; frankincense , aloes and myrrh from Somalia
Somalia
; sandalwood from India; glass bottles from Egypt, and other expensive and desirable goods from other parts of the world." In exchange, the caravans sent back bolts of silk brocade, lacquer-ware, and porcelain.

SOUTHERN ROUTE

The southern route or Karakoram
Karakoram
route was mainly a single route running from China
China
through the Karakoram
Karakoram
mountains , where it persists in modern times as the international paved road connecting Pakistan and China
China
as the Karakoram
Karakoram
Highway . It then set off westwards, but with southward spurs enabling the journey to be completed by sea from various points. Crossing the high mountains, it passed through northern Pakistan, over the Hindu Kush mountains, and into Afghanistan, rejoining the northern route near Merv, Turkmenistan. From Merv, it followed a nearly straight line west through mountainous northern Iran
Iran
, Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
, and the northern tip of the Syrian Desert to the Levant
Levant
, where Mediterranean
Mediterranean
trading ships plied regular routes to Italy
Italy
, while land routes went either north through Anatolia or south to North Africa
North Africa
. Another branch road travelled from Herat through Susa
Susa
to Charax Spasinu
Charax Spasinu
at the head of the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
and across to Petra
Petra
and on to Alexandria
Alexandria
and other eastern Mediterranean ports from where ships carried the cargoes to Rome.

SOUTHWESTERN ROUTE

See also: Tea Horse Road Woven silk textiles from Tomb No. 1 at Mawangdui
Mawangdui
, Changsha , Hunan
Hunan
province, China, Western Han dynasty period, dated 2nd century BCE

The southwestern route is believed to be the Ganges
Ganges
/Brahmaputra Delta, which has been the subject of international interest for over two millennia. Strabo, the 1st-century Roman writer, mentions the deltaic lands: "Regarding merchants who now sail from Egypt...as far as the Ganges, they are only private citizens..." His comments are interesting as Roman beads and other materials are being found at Wari-Bateshwar ruins , the ancient city with roots from much earlier, before the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
, presently being slowly excavated beside the Old Brahmaputra in Bangladesh
Bangladesh
. Ptolemy's map of the Ganges
Ganges
Delta , a remarkably accurate effort, showed that his informants knew all about the course of the Brahmaputra River, crossing through the Himalayas then bending westward to its source in Tibet
Tibet
. It is doubtless that this delta was a major international trading center, almost certainly from much earlier than the Common Era. Gemstones and other merchandise from Thailand
Thailand
and Java
Java
were traded in the delta and through it. Chinese archaeological writer Bin Yang and some earlier writers and archaeologists, such as Janice Stargardt, strongly suggest this route of international trade as Sichuan
Sichuan
- Yunnan
Yunnan
- Burma
Burma
- Bangladesh
Bangladesh
route. According to Bin Yang, especially from the 12th century the route was used to ship bullion from Yunnan
Yunnan
(gold and silver are among the minerals in which Yunnan
Yunnan
is rich), through northern Burma, into modern Bangladesh, making use of the ancient route, known as the 'Ledo' route. The emerging evidence of the ancient cities of Bangladesh, in particular Wari-Bateshwar ruins , Mahasthangarh , Bhitagarh , Bikrampur , Egarasindhur, and Sonargaon , are believed to be the international trade centers in this route.

CULTURAL EXCHANGES

The Nestorian
Nestorian
Stele , created in 781, describes the introduction of Nestorian Christianity
Nestorian Christianity
to China
China

Richard Foltz , Xinru Liu , and others have described how trading activities along the Silk
Silk
Road over many centuries facilitated the transmission not just of goods but also ideas and culture, notably in the area of religions. Zoroastrianism , Judaism
Judaism
, Buddhism, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam
Islam
all spread across Eurasia
Eurasia
through trade networks that were tied to specific religious communities and their institutions. Notably, established Buddhist monasteries along the Silk
Silk
Road offered a haven, as well as a new religion for foreigners.

The spread of religions and cultural traditions along the Silk
Silk
Roads, according to Jerry H. Bentley , also led to syncretism . One example was the encounter with the Chinese and Xiongnu
Xiongnu
nomads. These unlikely events of cross-cultural contact allowed both cultures to adapt to each other as an alternative. The Xiongnu
Xiongnu
adopted Chinese agricultural techniques, dress style, and lifestyle, while the Chinese adopted Xiongnu
Xiongnu
military techniques, some dress style, music, and dance. Perhaps most surprising of the cultural exchanges between China
China
and the Xiongnu, Chinese soldiers would sometimes defect and convert to the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
way of life and stay in the steppes for fear of punishment.

TRANSMISSION OF CHRISTIANITY

Further information: Nestorian Christianity
Nestorian Christianity
and Church of the East
Church of the East

The transmission of Christianity was primarily known as Nestorianism on the Silk
Silk
Road. In 781, an inscribed stele shows Nestorian
Nestorian
Christian missionaries arriving on the Silk
Silk
Road. Christianity had spread both east and west, simultaneously bringing Syriac language and evolving the forms of worship.

TRANSMISSION OF BUDDHISM

Main articles: Silk
Silk
Road transmission of Buddhism
Buddhism
and Greco-Buddhism
Greco-Buddhism
a Blue-eyed Central Asian monk teaching an East-Asian monk, Bezeklik
Bezeklik
, Turfan , eastern Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
, China, 9th century; the monk on the right is possibly Tocharian , although more likely Sogdian .

The transmission of Buddhism
Buddhism
to China
China
via the Silk
Silk
Road began in the 1st century CE, according to a semi-legendary account of an ambassador sent to the West by the Chinese Emperor Ming (58–75). During this period Buddhism
Buddhism
began to spread throughout Southeast, East, and Central Asia. Mahayana, Theravada, and Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism
are the three primary forms of Buddhism
Buddhism
that spread across Asia via the Silk
Silk
Road.

The Buddhist movement was the first large-scale missionary movement in the history of world religions. Chinese missionaries were able to assimilate Buddhism, to an extent, to native Chinese Daoists, which would bring the two beliefs together. Buddha's community of followers, the Sangha, consisted of male and female monks and laity. These people moved through India
India
and beyond to spread the ideas of Buddha. As the number of members within the Sangha increased, it became costly so that only the larger cities were able to afford having the Buddha and his disciples visit. It is believed that under the control of the Kushans , Buddhism
Buddhism
was spread to China
China
and other parts of Asia from the middle of the first century to the middle of the third century. Extensive contacts started in the 2nd century, probably as a consequence of the expansion of the Kushan
Kushan
empire into the Chinese territory of the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
, due to the missionary efforts of a great number of Buddhist monks to Chinese lands. The first missionaries and translators of Buddhists scriptures into Chinese were either Parthian , Kushan, Sogdian , or Kuchean
Kuchean
. _ Bilingual edict (Greek and Aramaic
Aramaic
) by Indian Buddhist King Ashoka, 3rd century BCE; see_ Edicts of Ashoka , from Kandahar
Kandahar
. This edict advocates the adoption of "godliness" using the Greek term Eusebeia for Dharma
Dharma
. Kabul
Kabul
Museum.

One result of the spread of Buddhism
Buddhism
along the Silk
Silk
Road was displacement and conflict. The Greek Seleucids were exiled to Iran
Iran
and Central Asia
Central Asia
because of a new Iranian Dynasty
Dynasty
called the Parthians
Parthians
at the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, and as a result the Parthians became the new middle men for trade in a period when the Romans were major customers for silk. Parthian scholars were involved in one of the first ever Buddhist text translations into the Chinese language. Its main trade centre on the Silk
Silk
Road, the city of Merv
Merv
, in due course and with the coming of age of Buddhism
Buddhism
in China, became a major Buddhist centre by the middle of the 2nd century. Knowledge among people on the silk roads also increased when Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty (268–239 BCE) converted to Buddhism
Buddhism
and raised the religion to official status in his northern Indian empire.

From the 4th century CE onward, Chinese pilgrims also started to travel on the Silk
Silk
Road to India
India
to get improved access to the original Buddhist scriptures, with Fa-hsien 's pilgrimage to India (395–414), and later Xuanzang (629–644) and Hyecho , who traveled from Korea to India. The travels of the priest Xuanzang were fictionalized in the 16th century in a fantasy adventure novel called _ Journey to the West _, which told of trials with demons and the aid given by various disciples on the journey. A statue depicting Buddha giving a sermon, from Sarnath
Sarnath
, 3,000 km (1,864 mi) southwest of Urumqi, Xinjiang, 8th century

There were many different schools of Buddhism
Buddhism
travelling on the Silk Road. The Dharmaguptakas and the Sarvastivadins were two of the major Nikaya schools. These were both eventually displaced by the Mahayana, also known as "Great Vehicle". This movement of Buddhism
Buddhism
first gained influence in the Khotan
Khotan
region. The Mahayana, which was more of a "pan-Buddhist movement" than a school of Buddhism, appears to have begun in northwestern India
India
or Central Asia. It formed during the 1st century BCE and was small at first, and the origins of this "Greater Vehicle" are not fully clear. Some Mahayana scripts were found in northern Pakistan, but the main texts are still believed to have been composed in Central Asia
Central Asia
along the Silk
Silk
Road. These different schools and movements of Buddhism
Buddhism
were a result of the diverse and complex influences and beliefs on the Silk
Silk
Road. With the rise of Mahayana Buddhism, the initial direction of Buddhist development changed. This form of Buddhism
Buddhism
highlighted, as stated by Xinru Liu, "the elusiveness of physical reality, including material wealth." It also stressed getting rid of material desire to a certain point; this was often difficult for followers to understand.

During the 5th and 6th centuries CE, merchants played a large role in the spread of religion, in particular Buddhism. Merchants
Merchants
found the moral and ethical teachings of Buddhism
Buddhism
to be an appealing alternative to previous religions. As a result, merchants supported Buddhist monasteries along the Silk
Silk
Road, and in return the Buddhists gave the merchants somewhere to stay as they traveled from city to city. As a result, merchants spread Buddhism
Buddhism
to foreign encounters as they traveled. Merchants
Merchants
also helped to establish diaspora within the communities they encountered, and over time their cultures became based on Buddhism. As a result, these communities became centers of literacy and culture with well-organized marketplaces, lodging, and storage. The voluntary conversion of Chinese ruling elites helped the spread of Buddhism
Buddhism
in East Asia and led Buddhism
Buddhism
to become widespread in Chinese society. The Silk
Silk
Road transmission of Buddhism essentially ended around the 7th century with the rise of Islam
Islam
in Central Asia.

TRANSMISSION OF ART

Main article: Silk
Silk
Road transmission of art Iconographical evolution of the Wind God. Left: Greek Wind God from Hadda , 2nd century. Middle: Wind God from Kizil , Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
, 7th century. Right: Japanese Wind God Fujin , 17th century.

Many artistic influences were transmitted via the Silk
Silk
Road, particularly through Central Asia
Central Asia
, where Hellenistic , Iranian , Indian and Chinese influences could intermix. Greco-Buddhist art represents one of the most vivid examples of this interaction. Silk was also a representation of art, serving as a religious symbol. Most importantly, silk was used as currency for trade along the silk road.

These artistic influences can be seen in the development of Buddhism where, for instance, Buddha was first depicted as human in the Kushan period. Many scholars have attributed this to Greek influence. The mixture of Greek and Indian elements can be found in later Buddhist art in China
China
and throughout countries on the Silk
Silk
Road.

The production of art consisted of many different items that were traded along the Silk
Silk
Roads from the East to the West. One common product, the lapis lazuli , was a blue stone with golden specks, which was used as paint after it was ground into powder.

COMMEMORATION

On 22 June 2014, the United Nations
United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named the Silk
Silk
Road a World Heritage Site at the 2014 Conference on World Heritage. The United Nations World Tourism Organization has been working since 1993 to develop sustainable international tourism along the route with the stated goal of fostering peace and understanding.

Bishkek
Bishkek
and Almaty each have a major east-west street named after the Silk
Silk
Road (Kyrgyz : Жибек жолу, _Jibek Jolu_ in Bishkek, and Kazakh : Жібек жолы, _Jibek Joly_ in Almaty).

GALLERY

* Silk
Silk
Road and artifacts

*

Caravanserai
Caravanserai
of Sa\'d al-Saltaneh *

Caravanserai
Caravanserai
of Sa\'d al-Saltaneh *

Caravanserai
Caravanserai
of Sa\'d al-Saltaneh *

Sultanhani caravanserai *

Sultanhani caravanserai *

18th century caravanserai in Sheki , Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
*

Orbelian\'s Caravanserai
Caravanserai
, Armenia
Armenia
*

bridge in Ani
Ani
, capital of medieval Armenia
Armenia
*

Taldyk pass *

Dunhuang
Dunhuang
*

Zeinodin Caravanserai
Caravanserai
*

Sogdian man on a Bactrian camel
Bactrian camel
, _sancai _ ceramic glaze, Chinese Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
(618-907) *

Ancient Chinese customs post on Silk
Silk
Road near Dunhuang
Dunhuang
*

The ruins of a Han Dynasty
Dynasty
(206 BCE – 220 CE) Chinese watchtower made of rammed earth at Dunhuang, Gansu
Gansu
province *

A late Zhou or early Han Chinese bronze mirror inlaid with glass , perhaps incorporated Greco-Roman artistic patterns *

A Chinese Western Han Dynasty
Dynasty
(202 BCE – 9 CE) bronze rhinoceros with gold and silver inlay *

Han dynasty
Han dynasty
Granary
Granary
west of Dunhuang
Dunhuang
on the Silk
Silk
Road. *

Ornamented Trakian sword, 6th century, excavated in Gyerim-ro, South Korea]] *

Modern woven carpet illustrating camel caravan on Silk
Silk
Road, from Kashgar
Kashgar
*

Green Roman glass
Roman glass
cup unearthed from an Eastern Han Dynasty
Eastern Han Dynasty
(25-220 CE) tomb, Guangxi , southern China
China

SEE ALSO

* Ancient tea route * Dzungarian Gate * Godavaya * History of silk * Hippie trail
Hippie trail
* Incense Route * Dvaravati–Kamboja route * Mount Imeon * Serica * Steppe Route * Three hares
Three hares
* Pan-American Highway * The silk roads * Global silver trade from the 16th to 18th centuries * One Belt, One Road * Silk
Silk
Road Economic Belt * Silk
Silk
Road Numismatics * Silk
Silk
Road Fund

NOTES

REFERENCES

* ^ Miho Museum News (Shiga, Japan) Volume 23 (March 2009). "Eurasian winds toward Silla". * ^ _A_ _B_ Gan, Fuxi (2009). "The silk road and ancient Chinese glass". Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Ancient Glass
Glass
Research along the Silk
Silk
Road, World Scientific ed.). p. 41. ISBN 9812833560 . CS1 maint: Date and year (link ) * ^ Elisseeff, Vadime (2001). _The Silk
Silk
Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce_. UNESCO
UNESCO
Publishing / Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-92-3-103652-1 . * ^ Boulnois, Luce (2005). _ Silk
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Road in World History_ (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 11. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ "Republic of Korea Silk
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Road". _en.unesco.org_. Retrieved 2017-02-23. * ^ Jerry Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 32. * ^ Jerry Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 33. * ^ Compare: Hansen, Valerie (2012). _The Silk
Silk
Road_. OUP USA. p. 218. ISBN 9780195159318 . Retrieved 2016-07-22. Jewish merchants have left only a few traces on the Silk
Silk
Road. * ^ Miha Museum (Shiga, Japan), Sping Special
Special
Exhibition (14 March 2009). "Eurasian winds toward Silla". * ^ _A_ _B_ "The Horses of the Steppe: The Mongolian Horse and the Blood-Sweating Stallions Silk
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Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce_. Paris (1998) UNESCO, Reprint: Berghahn Books (2009), pp. 1–2. ISBN 92-3-103652-1 ; ISBN 1-57181-221-0 ; ISBN 1-57181-222-9 (pbk) * ^ "Approaches Old and New to the Silk
Silk
Roads" Vadime Eliseeff in: _The Silk
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and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West_. Thames & Hudson, London. * _Ming Pao_. "Hong Kong proposes Silk
Silk
Road on the Sea as World Heritage", 7 August 2005, p. A2. * Osborne, Milton, 1975. _River Road to China: The Mekong River Expedition_, 1866–73. George Allen ISBN 0-521-01109-4 (paperback). * Sarianidi, Viktor , 1985. _The Golden Hoard of Bactria: From the Tillya-tepe Excavations in Northern Afghanistan_. Harry N. Abrams, New York. * Schafer, Edward H. 1963. _The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A study of T'ang Exotics_. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles. 1st paperback edition: 1985. ISBN 0-520-05462-8 . * Stein, Aurel M . 1907. _Ancient Khotan: Detailed report of archaeological explorations in Chinese Turkestan_, 2 vols. Clarendon Press. Oxford. * Stein, Aurel M., 1912. _Ruins of Desert Cathay: Personal narrative of explorations in Central Asia
Central Asia
and westernmost China_, 2 vols. Reprint: Delhi. Low Price Publications. 1990. * Stein, Aurel M., 1921. _Serindia: Detailed report of explorations in Central Asia
Central Asia
and westernmost China_, 5 vols. London
London
& Oxford. Clarendon Press. Reprint: Delhi. Motilal Banarsidass. 1980. * Stein Aurel M., 1928. _Innermost Asia: Detailed report of explorations in Central Asia, Kan-su and Eastern Iran_, 5 vols. Clarendon Press. Reprint: New Delhi. Cosmo Publications. 1981. * Stein Aurel M., 1932 _On Ancient Central Asian Tracks: Brief Narrative of Three Expeditions in Innermost Asia and Northwestern China_. Reprinted with Introduction by Jeannette Mirsky. Book Faith India, Delhi. 1999. * Thorsten, Marie. 2006 " Silk
Silk
Road Nostalgia and Imagined Global Community". Comparative American Studies 3, no. 3: 343–359. * Waugh, Daniel. (2007). "Richthofen " Silk
Silk
Roads": Toward the Archeology of a Concept." _The Silk
Silk
Road_. Volume 5, Number 1, Summer 2007, pp. 1–10. * von Le Coq, Albert, 1928. Buried Treasures of Turkestan. Reprint with Introduction by Peter Hopkirk, Oxford University Press. 1985. * Whitfield, Susan, 1999. _Life Along the Silk
Silk
Road._ London: John Murray. * Wimmel, Kenneth, 1996. _The Alluring Target: In Search of the Secrets of Central Asia_. Trackless Sands Press, Palo Alto, CA. ISBN 1-879434-48-2 * Yan, Chen, 1986. "Earliest Silk
Silk
Route: The Southwest Route." Chen Yan. _ China
China
Reconstructs_, Vol. XXXV, No. 10. October 1986, pp. 59–62. * Yule (translator and editor), Sir Henry (1866). _Cathay and the way thither: being a collection of medieval notices of China. Issue 37 of Works issued by the Hakluyt Society_. Printed for the Hakluyt society.

FURTHER READING

* Boulnois, Luce. Silk
Silk
Road: Monks, Warriors and Merchants
Merchants
on the Silk
Silk
Road. Odyssey Publications, 2005. ISBN 962-217-720-4 * Bulliet, Richard W. 1975. _The Camel and the Wheel_. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-09130-2 . * Christian, David (2000). " Silk
Silk
Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History". _ Journal of World History _. University of Hawaii Press . 2.1 (Spring): 1. * de la Vaissière, E., Sogdian Traders. A History, Leiden, Brill, 2005, Hardback ISBN 90-04-14252-5 Brill Publishers , French version ISBN 2-85757-064-3 on * Elisseeff, Vadime. Editor. 1998. _The Silk
Silk
Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce_. UNESCO
UNESCO
Publishing. Paris. Reprint: 2000. ISBN 92-3-103652-1 softback; ISBN 1-57181-221-0 ; ISBN 1-57181-222-9 softback. * Forbes, Andrew ; Henley, David (2011). _China's Ancient Tea Horse Road_. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN: B005DQV7Q2 * Hansen, Valerie. _The Silk
Silk
Road: A New History_ (Oxford University Press; 2012) 304 pages; Combines archaeology and history in a study of seven oases * Hallikainen, Saana: _Connections from Europe
Europe
to Asia and how the trading was affected by the cultural exchange_ (2002) * Hill, John E. (2004). _The Peoples of the West from the Weilüe_ 魏略 _by Yu Huan_ 魚豢_: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265._ Draft annotated English translation. * Hopkirk, Peter : _The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia
Central Asia
_; Kodansha International, New York, 1990, 1992. * Kuzmina, E. E. _The Prehistory of the Silk
Silk
Road_. (2008) Edited by Victor H. Mair . University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. ISBN 978-0-8122-4041-2 * Larsen, Jeanne . _ Silk
Silk
Road: A Novel of Eighth-Century China_. (1989; reprinted 2009) * Levy, Scott C. (2012). "Early Modern Central Asia
Central Asia
in World History". _ History Compass _. 10 (11): 866–878. doi :10.1111/hic3.12004 . * Li et al. "Evidence that a West-East admixed population lived in the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
as early as the early Bronze Age". _ BMC Biology _ 2010, 8:15. * Liu, Xinru , and Shaffer, Lynda Norene. 2007. _Connections Across Eurasia: Transportation, Communication, and Cultural Exchange on the Silk
Silk
Roads_. McGraw Hill, New York. ISBN 978-0-07-284351-4 . * Miller, Roy Andrew (1959): _Accounts of Western Nations in the History of the Northern Chou Dynasty_. University of California Press. * Omrani, Bijan ; Tredinnick, Jeremy (2010). _Asia Overland: Tales of Travel on the Trans-Siberian and Silk
Silk
Road_. Hong Kong New York: Odyssey Distribution in the USA by W.W. Norton & Co , Odyssey Publications . ISBN 962-217-811-1 . * Polo, Marco , _Il Milione_. * Thubron, C., _The Silk
Silk
Road to China_ (Hamlyn, 1989) * Tuladhar, Kamal Ratna (2011). _ Caravan to Lhasa : A Merchant of Kathmandu in Traditional Tibet._ Kathmandu: Lijala Wardwell, Anne E. (1997). _When silk was gold: Central Asian and Chinese textiles_. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 0870998250 . * Weber, Olivier , Eternal Afghanistan
Afghanistan
(photographs of Reza), (Unesco-Le Chêne, 2002) * Yap, Joseph P. _Wars With the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
– A Translation From Zizhi Tongjian_. AuthorHouse (2009) ISBN 978-1-4490-0604-4 * National Institute of Informatics – Digital Silk
Silk
Road Project Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books * Digital Silk
Silk
Road > Toyo Bunko Archive > List of Books

EXTERNAL LINKS

_ Wikimedia Commons has media related to SILK ROAD _.

_ Wikivoyage has a travel guide for SILK ROAD _.

* Silk
Silk
Road Atlas (University of Washington) * _The Silk
Silk
Road_, a historical overview by Oliver Wild * _The Silk
Silk
Road Journal_, a freely available scholarly journal run by Daniel Waugh

.