From the second century BC to end of fourteenth century AD, an ancient network of routes was created and used to trade goods between as far east as Chang’an (now Xi’an) and west to the Mediterranean. This was the Silk Road and it linked China with the Roman Empire.
The Silk Road was made up of various trading routes which stretched from China through India, Asia the Middle East, Africa, Greece, Rome and Britain.
Why is it called the Silk Road?
As the name suggests, silk was the major product that was traded along this road from China in the east to the west, in particular, to Italy. China kept their method of silk production top secret for a very long time. This kept demand high for many, many years.
The route was therefore named the Silk Road in 1877 by a man named Ferdinand von Richthofen – a well-known German geographer. The Silk Road name is slightly misleading; there are actually multiple routes that can be travelled. Many historians therfor prefer to call it the ‘Silk Routes.’
What else was traded on the Silk Road?
Whilst silk was the main item traded from the East to the West, other items that were traded regularly included tea, dyes, porcelain, medicine, bronze and gold artefacts, perfumes, rice, paper, gunpowder, spices, china, ivory and precious stones.
In the opposite direction, from the west to the east, the following items were traded; horses, saddles and riding tack, grapes and grapevines, animals, animal fur and skins, honey, fruits, glassware, woollen blankets, rugs and carpets, textiles, gold and silver, weapons and Armor.
The End of the Silk Road
In 1453AD, the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with the west. They then closed the routes.
Due to Europeans being used to receiving goods from the east, merchants needed to find new trade routes, so they took to the seas instead. This was known as the Age of Discovery.
Without the Silk Road allowing trade over such a large part of the world, and the huge impact it had on development of world civilization, it is hard to imagine the world we live in today without it.
Along this route you can find many exciting places to visit and areas to explore, such as Samarkand with its stunning buildings (pictured), and the Tash Rabat in Kyrgyzstan (pictured), a place where merchants travelling the silk road stopped to sleep and rest. Burana Tower in Kyrgyzstan (pictured) is another reminder of the Silk Road.
We highly recommend exploring this part of the world for your next adventure.
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