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The Silk
Silk
Road was an ancient network of trade routes connecting the East and West which for centuries was central to cultural interaction between them.[1][2][3] The Silk
Silk
Road refers to both the terrestrial and the maritime routes connecting Asia with the Middle East
Middle East
and southern Europe. The Silk
Silk
Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk carried out along its length, beginning in the Han dynasty
Han dynasty
(207 BCE–220 CE). The Han dynasty
Han dynasty
expanded the Central Asian section of the trade routes around 114 BCE through the missions and explorations of the Chinese imperial envoy Zhang Qian.[4] The Chinese took great interest in the safety of their trade products and extended the Great Wall of China
China
to ensure the protection of the trade route.[5] Trade
Trade
on the Silk
Silk
Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, Korea,[6] Japan,[2] the Indian subcontinent, Iran/Persia, Europe, the Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa
and Arabia, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations.[7] Though silk was the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, syncretic philosophies, and technologies. Diseases, most notably plague, also spread along the Silk
Silk
Road. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network.[8] Traders in antiquity included the Bactrians, Sogdians, Syrians, Jews, Arabs, Iranians, Turkmens, Chinese, Indians, Somalis, Greeks, Romans, Georgians, and Armenians.[9] In June 2014, UNESCO
UNESCO
designated the Chang'an-Tianshan corridor of the Silk
Silk
Road as a 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 2.1.3 Hellenistic
Hellenistic
era

2.2 Chinese exploration of Central Asia 2.3 Roman Empire 2.4 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 3.4 Maritime route

4 Cultural exchanges

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

5 Commemoration 6 Foreign language terms 7 Gallery 8 See also 9 Notes 10 References 11 Sources 12 Further reading 13 External links

Name[edit]

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

The Silk
Silk
Road derives its name from the lucrative Eurasian silk,[10][11] a major reason for the connection of trade routes into an extensive transcontinental network.[12][13] 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.[14][15][16] The term Silk
Silk
Route is also used.[17] 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.[16] The first book entitled The Silk
Silk
Road was by Swedish geographer Sven Hedin
Sven Hedin
in 1938.[16] The fall of the 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.[16] 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, which at sea was conducted mostly through India
India
and on land was handled by numerous intermediaries such as the Sogdians.[18] 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.[19] He notes that traditional authors discussing East-West trade such as Marco Polo and Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
never labelled any route a "silk" one in particular.[16] History[edit] Precursors[edit] Chinese and Central Asian contacts[edit] Central Eurasia has been known from ancient times for its horse riding and horse breeding communities, and the overland Steppe Route
Steppe Route
across the northern steppes of Central Eurasia was in use long before that of the Silk
Silk
Road.[11] Archeological sites such as the Berel burial ground in Kazakhstan, confirmed that the nomadic Arimaspians
Arimaspians
were not only breeding horses for trade but also great craftsmen able to propagate exquisite art pieces along the Silk
Silk
Road.[20][21] From the 2nd millennium BCE, nephrite jade was being traded from mines in the region of Yarkand and Khotan
Khotan
to China. Significantly, these mines were not very far from the lapis lazuli and spinel ("Balas Ruby") mines in Badakhshan, and, although separated by the formidable Pamir Mountains, routes across them were apparently in use from very early times.[citation needed]

Chinese jade and steatite plaques, in the Scythian-style animal art of the steppes. 4th–3rd century BCE. British Museum.

Some remnants of what was probably Chinese silk dating from 1070 BCE have been found in Ancient Egypt. The Great Oasis cities of Central Asia played a crucial role in the effective functioning of the Silk Road trade.[22] 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
Mediterranean
region or the Middle East.[23] 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-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.[citation needed] The tomb of a Scythian
Scythian
prince near Stuttgart, Germany, dated to the 6th century BCE, was excavated and found to have not only Greek bronzes but also Chinese silks.[24] 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
Warring States
era archaeological sites in Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia
(at Aluchaideng) and Shaanxi (at Keshengzhuang) in China.[24] The expansion of Scythian
Scythian
cultures, stretching from the Hungarian plain and the Carpathian Mountains
Carpathian Mountains
to the Chinese Kansu
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
Scythians
accompanied the Assyrian Esarhaddon
Esarhaddon
on his invasion of Egypt, and their distinctive triangular arrowheads have been found as far south as 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. Sogdians played a major role in facilitating trade between China
China
and Central Asia along the Silk
Silk
Roads as late as the 10th century, their language serving as a lingua franca for Asian trade as far back as the 4th century.[25][26] Persian Royal Road[edit]

Achaemenid Persian Empire
Achaemenid Persian Empire
at its greatest extent, showing the 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
Karun
(250 km (155 mi) east of the Tigris) to the port of Smyrna
Smyrna
(modern İzmir
İzmir
in Turkey) on the Aegean Sea.[27] 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 and traverse the length of the road in nine days, while normal travellers took about three months.[citation needed] Hellenistic
Hellenistic
era[edit]

Probable Greek soldier with a Greek mythological centaur in the Sampul tapestry,[28] 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
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, Alexander founded the city of Alexandria Eschate
Alexandria Eschate
or " Alexandria
Alexandria
The Furthest".[29] This later became a major staging point on the northern Silk
Silk
Route. See Dayuan
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
Seleucid
Empire, and then with the establishment of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
(250–125 BCE) in Bactria
Bactria
(modern Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan) and the later Indo-Greek Kingdom
Indo-Greek Kingdom
(180 BCE – 10 CE) in modern Northern Pakistan
Pakistan
and Afghanistan. They continued to expand eastward, especially during the reign of Euthydemus (230–200 BCE), who extended his control beyond Alexandria Eschate
Alexandria Eschate
to 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 [ China
China
and the West around 200 BCE. The Greek historian Strabo
Strabo
writes, "they extended their empire even as far as the Seres
Seres
(China) and the Phryni."[30] The Hellenistic
Hellenistic
world and Classical Greek philosophy mixed with Eastern philosophies,[31] leading to syncretisms such as Greco-Buddhism. Chinese exploration of Central Asia[edit] Main articles: Sino-Roman relations, Sino-Indian relations, Han– Xiongnu
Xiongnu
War, and History of the Han dynasty With the Mediterranean
Mediterranean
linked to the Fergana Valley, the next step was to open a route across the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
and the Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor
to 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[32] (who was originally sent to obtain an alliance with the Yuezhi
Yuezhi
against the Xiongnu). Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian
visited directly the kingdom of Dayuan
Dayuan
in Ferghana, the territories of the Yuezhi
Yuezhi
in Transoxiana, the Bactrian country of Daxia
Daxia
with its remnants of Greco-Bactrian rule, and Kangju. He also made reports on neighbouring countries that he did not visit, such as Anxi (Parthia), Tiaozhi (Mesopotamia), Shendu (Pakistan) and the Wusun.[33] 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.[34] After the defeat of the Xiongnu, however, Chinese armies established themselves in Central Asia, initiating the Silk
Silk
Route as a major avenue of international trade.[35] 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
Ferghana
( Dayuan
Dayuan
"Great Ionians") and the possessions of Bactria (Ta-Hsia) and Parthian Empire
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[36] 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
Buddhism
in the river basin, and with it Indian literature and Hellenistic
Hellenistic
art."[37]

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, 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), 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 [Parthia], Yancai [who later joined the Alans ], Lijian [Syria under the Greek Seleucids], Tiaozhi (Mesopotamia), and Tianzhu [northwestern India]... 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.[38] 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 (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), east of the Oxus
Oxus
River, on the Polytimetus
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."[39] The Roman historian Florus
Florus
also describes the visit of numerous envoys, which included Seres(China), to the first Roman Emperor 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
Scythians
and Sarmatians
Sarmatians
sent envoys to seek the friendship of Rome. Nay, the Seres
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
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
Ban Chao
expanded his conquests across the Pamirs
Pamirs
to the shores of the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
and the borders of Parthia.[40] It was from here that the Han general dispatched envoy Gan Ying to Daqin
Daqin
(Rome).[41] The Silk
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, both through direct settlements in the area of the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
and diplomatic relations with the countries of the Dayuan, Parthians
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.[42] A maritime Silk
Silk
Route opened up between Chinese-controlled Giao Chỉ (centred in modern Vietnam, near Hanoi), probably by the 1st century. It extended, via ports on the coasts of India
India
and 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. The earliest Roman glassware
Roman glassware
bowl found in China
China
was unearthed from a Western Han tomb in Guangzhou, dated to the early 1st century BCE, indicating that Roman commercial items were being imported through the South China Sea.[43] 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.[44][45][46] Other Roman glasswares have been found in Eastern-Han-era tombs (25–220 CE) more further inland in Nanjing
Nanjing
and Luoyang.[47] P.O. Harper asserts that a 2nd or 3rd-century Roman gilt silver plate found in Jingyuan, Gansu, China
China
with a central image of the Greco-Roman god Dionysus
Dionysus
resting on a feline creature, most likely came via Greater Iran
Greater Iran
(i.e. Sogdiana).[48] Valerie Hansen
Valerie Hansen
(2012) believed that earliest Roman coins found in China
China
date to the 4th century, during Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
and the Dominate
Dominate
period, and come from the Byzantine Empire.[49] 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 (i.e. 1st to 3rd centuries CE).[50] 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.[51] Roman golden medallions made during the reign of Antoninus Pius
Antoninus Pius
and quite possibly his successor Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius
have been found at Óc Eo in southern Vietnam, which was then part of the Kingdom of Funan
Kingdom of Funan
bordering the Chinese province of Jiaozhi
Jiaozhi
in northern Vietnam.[52][53] Given the archaeological finds of Mediterranean
Mediterranean
artefacts made by Louis Malleret in the 1940s,[53] Óc Eo may have been the same site as the port city of Kattigara
Kattigara
described by Ptolemy
Ptolemy
in his Geography (c. 150 CE),[52] although Ferdinand von Richthofen
Ferdinand von Richthofen
had previously believed it was closer to Hanoi.[54] Roman Empire[edit]

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, India, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe
Europe
blossomed on an unprecedented scale. The eastern trade routes from the earlier Hellenistic
Hellenistic
powers and the Arabs
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.[55] 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.[6] 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, up to 120 ships were setting sail every year from Myos Hormos
Myos Hormos
in Roman Egypt
Egypt
to India.[56] The Roman Empire connected with the Central Asian Silk
Silk
Road through their ports in Barygaza (known today as Bharuch
Bharuch
[57]) and Barbaricum (known today as the cities of Karachi, Sindh, and Pakistan
Pakistan
[58]) and continued along the western coast of India.[59] An ancient "travel guide" to this Indian Ocean
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
Seneca the Younger
in his Phaedra and by Virgil
Virgil
in his Georgics. Notably, Pliny the Elder
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."[60] The Romans traded spices, glassware, perfumes, and silk.[61]

A Westerner on a camel, Northern Wei dynasty
Northern Wei 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.[62][6] Chinese wealth grew as they delivered silk and other luxury goods to the Roman Empire, whose wealthy Roman women admired their beauty.[63] 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.[64]

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.[65] 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[edit] Further information: Byzantine-Mongol alliance Byzantine Greek historian Procopius
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,[66] 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
Khosrow I
of the Sasanian Empire
Sasanian Empire
that allowed the Byzantines to bypass the Sasanian merchants and trade directly with the Sogdians
Sogdians
for purchasing Chinese silk.[67][68][69] 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
Justin II
found in a Chinese tomb of Shanxi
Shanxi
province dated to the Sui dynasty
Sui dynasty
(581–618).[70]

Coin of Constans II
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[44]

Both the Old Book of Tang
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
Daqin
(大秦; i.e. Roman Empire).[44] Several Fu-lin embassies were recorded for the Tang period, starting in 643 with an alleged embassy by Constans II
Constans II
(transliterated as Bo duo li, 波多力, from his nickname "Kōnstantinos Pogonatos") to the court of Emperor Taizong of Tang.[44] 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
Song dynasty
(960–1279).[44] However, the History of Yuan claims that a Byzantine man became a leading astronomer and physician in Khanbaliq, at the court of Kublai Khan, Mongol founder of the Yuan dynasty
Yuan dynasty
(1271–1368) and was even granted the noble title 'Prince of Fu lin' (Chinese: 拂菻王; Fú lǐn wáng).[71] The Uyghur Nestorian
Nestorian
Christian diplomat Rabban Bar Sauma, who set out from his Chinese home in Khanbaliq
Khanbaliq
(Beijing) and acted as a representative for Arghun
Arghun
(a grandnephew of Kublai Khan),[72][73][74][75] traveled throughout Europe
Europe
and attempted to secure military alliances with Edward I of England, Philip IV of France, Pope Nicholas IV, as well as the Byzantine ruler Andronikos II Palaiologos.[76][74] Andronikos II had two half-sisters who were married to great-grandsons of Genghis Khan, which made him an in-law with the Yuan-dynasty Mongol ruler in Beijing, Kublai Khan.[77] 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 in September 1371.[78][44] Friedrich Hirth
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
Pope John XXII
to replace the previous archbishop John of Montecorvino.[79][80][44] Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
reopens the route[edit] 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 (618–907)

Although the Silk
Silk
Road was initially formulated during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han
(141–87 BCE), 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
Silk
Road reopened when the Tang reconquered the Four Garrisons of Anxi
Four Garrisons of Anxi
originally installed in 640,[81] once again connecting China
China
directly to the West for land-based trade.[82] 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.[83] While the Turks were settled in the Ordos region (former territory of the 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.[84] 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 general Li Jing conquered the Eastern Turkic Khaganate. Under Emperor Gaozong, Tang general Su Dingfang
Su Dingfang
conquered the Western Turkic Khaganate, which was an important ally of Byzantine empire.[85] After these conquests, the Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
fully controlled the Xiyu, which was the strategic location astride the Silk
Silk
Road.[86] This led the Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
to reopen the Silk
Silk
Road. 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,[87] 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, Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
(sailing up the Euphrates
Euphrates
River in modern-day Iraq), Arabia, Egypt, Aksum
Aksum
(Ethiopia), and Somalia
Somalia
in the Horn of Africa.[88] Medieval[edit] Further information: 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, Armenians, and Chinese. The Silk
Silk
Road reached its peak in the west during the time of the Byzantine Empire; in the Nile-Oxus section, from the Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
period to the Il Khanate
Il Khanate
period; and in the sinitic zone from the Three Kingdoms
Three Kingdoms
period to the Yuan dynasty period. Trade
Trade
between East and West also developed across the 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.[89] 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.[citation needed] "Many barbarian tribes became skilled warriors able to conquer rich cities and fertile lands and to forge strong military empires."[90]

Map of Eurasia and Africa showing trade networks, c. 870

The Sogdians
Sogdians
dominated the East-West trade after the 4th century up to the 8th century, with Suyab
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".[65][91] 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."[92] 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
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.[65] The Silk
Silk
Road gave rise to the clusters of military states of nomadic origins in North China, ushered the Nestorian, Manichaean, Buddhist, and later Islamic religions into Central Asia
Central Asia
and China. Islamic era and the Silk
Silk
Road[edit] Further information: History of Islamic economics

The Round city of Baghdad
Round city of 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

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, 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, with its political centres strung along the Silk
Silk
Road ( Beijing
Beijing
in North China, Karakorum in central Mongolia, Sarmakhand
Sarmakhand
in Transoxiana, Tabriz
Tabriz
in Northern Iran, Sarai and Astrakhan
Astrakhan
in lower Volga, Solkhat
Solkhat
in Crimea, Kazan
Kazan
in Central Russia, Erzurum
Erzurum
in eastern Anatolia), realising the political unification of zones previously loosely and intermittently connected by material and cultural goods.[citation needed] The Islamic world
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).[93] However, following the disastrous An Lushan Rebellion
An Lushan Rebellion
(755–763) and the conquest of the Western Regions
Western Regions
by the Tibetan Empire, the Tang Empire was unable to reassert its control over Central Asia.[94] Contemporary Tang authors noted how the dynasty had gone into decline after this point.[95] In 848 the Tang Chinese, led by the commander Zhang Yichao, were only able to reclaim the Hexi Corridor
Hexi Corridor
and Dunhuang in Gansu
Gansu
from the Tibetans.[96] The Persian Samanid Empire
Samanid Empire
(819–999) centered in Bukhara
Bukhara
(Uzbekistan) continued the trade legacy of the Sogdians.[93] 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
Central Asia
virtually disappeared.[97] During the early 13th century Khwarezmia was invaded by the early 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.[98] 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.[99] Mongol age[edit] See also: Mongol Empire, Pax Mongolica, Franco-Mongol alliance, 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.[100] The Mongol diplomat Rabban Bar Sauma
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, 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, a Moroccan Muslim
Muslim
traveller who passed through the present-day Middle East and across the Silk
Silk
Road from Tabriz
Tabriz
between 1325–54.[101] 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. 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
Treaty of Aleppo
with the surviving Muslim
Muslim
power, the Egyptian Mamluks.[citation needed] Some studies indicate that the 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.[102] 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.[103] Decline and disintegration[edit]

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Port cities on the maritime silk route featured on the voyages of Zheng He.[104]

The fragmentation of the Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
loosened the political, cultural, and economic unity of the Silk
Silk
Road. Turkmeni
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.[citation needed] 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.[105] New Silk
Silk
Road[edit]

A silk banner from Mawangdui, Changsha, Hunan
Hunan
province; it was draped over the coffin of Lady Dai
Lady Dai
(d. 168 BCE), wife of the Marquess Li Cang (利蒼) (d. 186 BCE), chancellor for the Kingdom of Changsha.[106]

After an earthquake that hit Tashkent
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.[107] The Eurasian Land Bridge
Eurasian Land Bridge
(a railway through China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia) is sometimes referred to as the "New Silk Road".[108] The last link in one of these two railway routes was completed in 1990, when the railway systems of China
China
and Kazakhstan connected at Alataw Pass (Alashan Kou). In 2008 the line was used to connect the cities of Ürümqi
Ürümqi
in China's Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Province to Almaty and Astana
Astana
in Kazakhstan.[109] In October 2008 the first Trans-Eurasia Logistics train reached Hamburg
Hamburg
from Xiangtan. Starting in July 2011 the line has been used by a freight service that connects Chongqing, China
China
with Duisburg, Germany,[110] cutting travel time for cargo from about 36 days by container ship to just 13 days by freight train. In 2013, Hewlett-Packard
Hewlett-Packard
began moving large freight trains of laptop computers and monitors along this rail route.[108] 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, Brest, and the Polish cities of Małaszewicze
Małaszewicze
and Łódź, which would be hubs of logistics and transshipment to other countries of Europe.[111][112][113][114] On 15 February 2016, with a change in routing, the first train dispatched under the OBOR scheme arrived from eastern Zhejiang Province to Tehran.[115] Though this section does not complete the Silk
Silk
Road–style overland connection between China
China
and Europe, plans are underway to extend the route past Tehran, through Istanbul, into Europe.[114] The actual route went through Almaty, Bishkek, Samarkand, and Dushanbe.[114] In January 2017, the service sent its first train to London. The network additionally connects to Madrid
Madrid
and Milan.[116][117] Routes[edit] Further information: 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[edit] 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
Chang'an
(now called Xi'an), an ancient capital of China
China
that was moved further east during the Later Han to Luoyang. The route was defined around the 1st century BCE when Han Wudi put an end to harassment by nomadic tribes.[citation needed] 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, and the other going north of the Tian Shan
Tian Shan
mountains through Turpan, Talgar, and Almaty
Almaty
(in what is now southeast Kazakhstan). The routes split again west of Kashgar, with a southern branch heading down the Alai Valley towards Termez
Termez
(in modern Uzbekistan) and Balkh
Balkh
(Afghanistan), while the other travelled through Kokand
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, Turkmenistan. Another branch of the northern route turned northwest past the Aral Sea
Aral Sea
and north of the Caspian Sea, then and on to the 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; sandalwood from India; glass bottles from Egypt, and other expensive and desirable goods from other parts of the world."[118] In exchange, the caravans sent back bolts of silk brocade, lacquer-ware, and porcelain. Southern route[edit] 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.[citation needed] 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
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, Mesopotamia, and the northern tip of the Syrian Desert
Syrian Desert
to the Levant, where Mediterranean
Mediterranean
trading ships plied regular routes to Italy, while land routes went either north through Anatolia
Anatolia
or south to North Africa. Another branch road travelled from Herat
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
Mediterranean
ports from where ships carried the cargoes to Rome.[citation needed] Southwestern route[edit] See also: Tea Horse Road

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

The southwestern route is believed to be the Ganges/ Brahmaputra
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, presently being slowly excavated beside the Old Brahmaputra
Brahmaputra
in 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
Brahmaputra
River, crossing through the Himalayas then bending westward to its source in Tibet. It is doubtless that this delta was a major international trading center, almost certainly from much earlier than the Common Era. Gemstones
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-Yunnan-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.[119][120][121] Maritime route[edit] Main article: Maritime Silk
Silk
Road Maritime Silk
Silk
Road or Maritime Silk
Silk
Route refer to the maritime section of historic Silk
Silk
Road that connects China
China
to Southeast Asia, Indonesian archipelago, Indian subcontinent, Arabian peninsula, all the way to Egypt
Egypt
and finally Europe.[122] The trade route encompassed numbers of bodies of waters; including South China
China
Sea, Strait of Malacca, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Bengal, Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
and the Red Sea. The maritime route overlaps with historic Southeast Asian maritime trade, Spice trade, Indian Ocean trade and after 8th century – the Arabian naval trade network. The network also extend eastward to East China
China
Sea and Yellow Sea to connect China
China
with Korean Peninsula
Korean Peninsula
and Japanese archipelago. Cultural exchanges[edit]

The Nestorian
Nestorian
Stele, created in 781, describes the introduction of Nestorian Christianity
Nestorian Christianity
to 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, Buddhism, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam
Islam
all spread across Eurasia through trade networks that were tied to specific religious communities and their institutions.[123] Notably, established Buddhist monasteries along the Silk
Silk
Road offered a haven, as well as a new religion for foreigners.[124] 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.[125] 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.[125] Transmission of Christianity[edit] Further information: Nestorian Christianity
Nestorian Christianity
and 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.[126] Transmission of Buddhism[edit] Main articles: Silk
Silk
Road transmission of Buddhism
Buddhism
and Greco-Buddhism

A blue-eyed Central Asian monk teaching an East-Asian monk, Bezeklik, Turfan, eastern Tarim Basin, China, 9th century; the monk on the right is possibly Tocharian,[127] although more likely Sogdian.[128][129]

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.[130] Mahayana, Theravada, and Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism
are the three primary forms of Buddhism
Buddhism
that spread across Asia via the Silk Road.[131] 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.[132] 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.[133] As the number of members within the Sangha
Sangha
increased, it became costly so that only the larger cities were able to afford having the Buddha and his disciples visit.[134] 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.[135] Extensive contacts started in the 2nd century, probably as a consequence of the expansion of the Kushan empire into the Chinese territory of the 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.[136]

Bilingual edict (Greek and Aramaic) by Indian Buddhist King Ashoka, 3rd century BCE; see Edicts of Ashoka, from Kandahar. This edict advocates the adoption of "godliness" using the Greek term Eusebeia for 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 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, 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.[137] 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.[138] 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
Xuanzang
(629–644) and Hyecho, who traveled from Korea
Korea
to India.[139] The travels of the priest Xuanzang
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, 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.[138] 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.[140] 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.[141] 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.[142] 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.[143] 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.[144] The Silk
Silk
Road transmission of Buddhism
Buddhism
essentially ended around the 7th century with the rise of Islam
Islam
in Central Asia. Transmission of art[edit] 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, 7th century. Right: Japanese Wind God Fujin, 17th century.

Many artistic influences were transmitted via the Silk
Silk
Road, particularly through Central Asia, where Hellenistic, Iranian, Indian and Chinese influences could intermix. Greco-Buddhist art
Greco-Buddhist art
represents one of the most vivid examples of this interaction. Silk
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.[145] 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.[146] 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.[147] Commemoration[edit] 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
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.[148] Bishkek
Bishkek
and Almaty
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). Foreign language terms[edit]

Language Text Transliteration (if applicable)

Chinese 絲綢之路 (traditional) 丝绸之路(simplified) Sīchóu zhī lù

Persian جادهی ابریشم‎ Jâdeye Abrišam Shâhrâh-i Abrešim

Punjabi ਕੌਸ਼ਿਆ ਮਾਰਗ‎ Kausheya Māraga

Urdu شاہراہ ریشم‎ shah rah resham

Hindi रेशम सड़क Resham sadak

Kawi language Sutra dalan

Tamil பட்டு வழி Paṭṭu vaḻi

Uzbek إيباك يولي‎ Ipak yo'li

Turkmen Ýüpek ýoly

Turkish İpek yolu

Azeri İpək yolu

Arabic طريق الحرير‎ Tarīq al-Ḥarīr

Hebrew דרך המשי‎ Derekh ha-Meshi

Greek Δρόμος του μεταξιού Drómos tou metaxioú'

Latin Via Serica

Armenian Մետաքսի ճանապարհ Metaksi chanaparh

Tagalog language Daang Sutla, Daang Seda

Somali language وادادا وادادا Waddada Waddada

Korean 비단길 Bidangil

Gallery[edit]

Silk
Silk
Road and artifacts

Caravanserai
Caravanserai
of Sa'd al-Saltaneh

Sultanhani caravanserai

Sultanhani caravanserai

Shaki Caravanserai, Azerbaijan

Orbelian's Caravanserai, Armenia

bridge in Ani, capital of medieval Armenia

Taldyk pass

Zeinodin Caravanserai

Sogdian man on a Bactrian camel, sancai ceramic glaze, Chinese Tang dynasty (618-907)

The ruins of a Han dynasty
Han 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
Han 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.

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

See also[edit]

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

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

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Silk
Road in World History" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 42. ^ Foltz, "Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road", pp. 37–58 ^ Foltz, Richard C. (1999). Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St Martin's Press. p. 47.  ^ a b Foltz, Richard C. (1999). Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road: Overland Trade
Trade
and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St Martin's Press. p. 38.  ^ Silkroad Foundation; Adela C.Y. Lee. "Ancient Silk
Silk
Road Travellers". Archived from the original on 2009-08-06.  ^ Foltz, Richard C. (1999). Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St Martin's Press. p. 41.  ^ Xinru Liu, "The Silk
Silk
Road in World History" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 21. ^ Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 43–44. ^ Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 48. ^ Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 50. ^ Xinru, Liu,The Silk
Silk
Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 21. ^ Foltz, Richard C. (1999). Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St Martin's Press. p. 45.  ^ "The Silk
Silk
Road and Beyond: Travel, Trade, and Transformation," Art Institute of Chicago website, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-11-14. Retrieved 2016-11-17. , retrieved on 15 November 2016. ^ "Objectives". Archived from the original on 2013-03-15. 

Sources[edit]

Baines, John and Málek, Jaromir (1984): Atlas of Ancient Egypt. Oxford, Time Life Books. Boulnois, Luce. 2004. Silk
Silk
Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants
Merchants
on the Silk
Silk
Road. Translated by Helen Loveday with additional material by Bradley Mayhew and Angela Sheng. Airphoto International. ISBN 962-217-720-4 hardback, ISBN 962-217-721-2 softback. Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. (1999). The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-66991-X. Foltz, Richard, Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road, Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition, 2010, ISBN 978-0-230-62125-1 Harmatta, János, ed., 1994. History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume II. The development of sedentary and nomadic civilizations: 700 BC to 250. Paris, UNESCO
UNESCO
Publishing. Herodotus
Herodotus
(5th century BCE): Histories. Translated with notes by George Rawlinson. 1996 edition. Ware, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions Limited. Hopkirk, Peter: Foreign Devils on the Silk
Silk
Road: The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia. The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1980, 1984. ISBN 0-87023-435-8 Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade
Jade
Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk
Silk
Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1. Hulsewé, A. F. P. and Loewe, M. A. N. 1979. China
China
in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC – 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. E. J. Brill, Leiden. Huyghe, Edith and Huyghe, François-Bernard: "La route de la soie ou les empires du mirage", Petite bibliothèque Payot, 2006, ISBN 2-228-90073-7 Juliano, Annette, L. and Lerner, Judith A., et al. 2002. Monks and Merchants: Silk
Silk
Road Treasures from Northwest China: Gansu
Gansu
and Ningxia, 4th–7th Century. Harry N. Abrams Inc., with The Asia Society. ISBN 0-8109-3478-7; ISBN 0-87848-089-7 softback. Klimkeit, Hans-Joach, im. 1988. Die Seidenstrasse: Handelsweg and Kulturbruecke zwischen Morgen- and Abendland. Koeln: DuMont Buchverlag. Klimkeit, Hans-Joachim. 1993. Gnosis on the Silk
Silk
Road: Gnostic Texts from Central Asia. Trans. & presented by Hans-Joachim Klimkeit. HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-064586-5. Knight, E. F. 1893. Where Three Empires Meet: A Narrative of Recent Travel in: Kashmir, Western Tibet, Gilgit, and the adjoining countries. Longmans, Green, and Co., London. Reprint: Ch'eng Wen Publishing Company, Taipei. 1971. Li, Rongxi (translator). 1995. A Biography of the Tripiṭaka Master of the Great Ci'en Monastery of the Great Tang Dynasty. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. Berkeley, California. ISBN 1-886439-00-1 Li, Rongxi (translator). 1995. The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. Berkeley, California. ISBN 1-886439-02-8 Litvinsky, B. A., ed., 1996. History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume III. The crossroads of civilizations: 250 to 750. Paris, UNESCO Publishing. Liu, Xinru, 2001. "Migration and Settlement of the Yuezhi-Kushan: Interaction and Interdependence of Nomadic and Sedentary Societies." Journal of World History, Volume 12, No. 2, Fall 2001. University of Hawaii Press, pp. 261–92. [2]. Liu, Li, 2004, The Chinese Neolithic, Trajectories to Early States, Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press. Liu, Xinru (2010). The Silk
Silk
Road in World History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-516174-8; ISBN 978-0-19-533810-2 (pbk). McDonald, Angus. 1995. The Five Foot Road: In Search of a Vanished China. HarperCollinsWest, San Francisco. Malkov, Artemy. 2007. The Silk
Silk
Road: A mathematical model. History & Mathematics, ed. by Peter Turchin
Peter Turchin
et al. Moscow: KomKniga. ISBN 978-5-484-01002-8 Mallory, J. P. and Mair, Victor H., 2000. The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China
China
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 & Unwin Lt. Puri, B. N, 1987 Buddhism
Buddhism
in Central Asia, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, Delhi. (2000 reprint). Ray, Himanshu Prabha, 2003. The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80455-8 (hardback); 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.[3] 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.[4] 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: 343–59. 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. [5] 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[edit]

Boulnois, Luce. Silk
Silk
Road: Monks, Warriors and Merchants
Merchants
on the 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
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 [6] 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. [7] Hopkirk, Peter: The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in 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): 866–78. 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 US by W.W. Norton & Co, Odyssey Publications. ISBN 962-217-811-1.  Polo, Marco, Il Milione. Thubron, C., The Silk
Silk
Road to China
China
(Hamlyn, 1989) Tuladhar, Kamal Ratna (2011). Caravan to Lhasa: A Merchant of Kathmandu in Traditional Tibet. Kathmandu: Lijala & Tisa. ISBN 99946-58-91-3 Watt, James C.Y.; 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[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Silk
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Road.

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Silk
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Road.

Silk
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Road Atlas (University of Washington) The Silk
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Road, a historical overview by Oliver Wild The Silk
Silk
Road Journal, a freely available scholarly journal run by Daniel Waugh The New Silk
Silk
Road – a lecture by Paul Lacourbe at TEDxDanubia 2013 Escobar, Pepe (February 2015). Year of the Sheep, Century of the Dragon? New Silk
Silk
Roads and the Chinese Vision of a Brave New (Trade) World, an essay at Tom Dispatch

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Part of a series on trade routes

Amber Road Hærvejen Incense Route Dvaravati–Kamboja route King's Highway Rome- India
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World Heritage Sites in China

East

Classical Gardens of Suzhou Fujian Tulou Lushan Huangshan Mount Sanqing Mount Tai Wuyi Mountains Temple and Cemetery of Confucius
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Multiple regions

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World Heritage Sites in Kazakhstan

Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi Saryarka — Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan Tamgaly
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Petroglyphs Silk
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Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 315127655 LCCN: sh85122554 GND: 4054299-3 BNF: cb11970767h (d

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