The silk route played a crucial role in connecting the East and the West for more than a thousand years.
The Silk Road as we know it today refers to several land routes that also connected different parts of Asia, such as South Asia with Southeast Asia. Silk Road was one of the most important trade routes in world history as it not only enabled silk trade along with the exchange of various other goods, it also facilitated cultural interactions in between the regions, the Silk Roads passed by.
The Silk Roads’ most striking and defining feature was that they weren’t artificial at all. Contrary to its name, the Silk Road isn’t exactly a road but a path that passes through mountains and deserts. Some of the Silk Roads’ paving stones and bridges were found in Appian Way in Rome based on archaeological surveys. You might not be able to identify or comprehend the silk route when perhaps standing upon it, but this ancient trade route can be better identified when looked from high up in the air.
Certain specific desert oases, converging valleys, and river spasms in between mountain peaks marked the existence of the silk routes. Let’s now take a closer look at some of the previously unknown facts about the silk route and how it became one of the most important trade routes in world history.
Facts About The Silk Road
Over the years, archaeologists found vital information about the Silk Road from documents. The papers and documents recovered from the Taklamakan desert speak leaps and bounds about the Silk Road.
- Did you know the typically dry climate of this Taklamakan desert helped preserve these documents for such a long time?
- The Silk Road existed from around 130 BC to 1453 AD until the Ottoman empire discouraged trading with China leading to a stop in the use of the Silk Road.
- The Silk Road facilitated trading between two of the most significant civilizations of history, the Chinese in the east and the Romans in the west.
- Did you know Buddhism and Nestorian Christianity were introduced in China through the Silk Road? Both the beliefs were carried from India to China by the merchants and traders who traveled on the silk routes.
- Did you know the trade routes were named Silk Roads or silk routes simply because Chinese silk traded from China in the east to the civilizations in the west?
- The Silk Road came into existence during the rule of the Han Dynasty in China and was later expanded to Central Asia primarily because of the efforts of Zhang Qian.
- Did you know the Chinese extended the construction of the Great Wall of China to protect the Silk Road?
- According to the various accounts of history, the Silk Road initially began from Chang’an in China, known as Xi’an. Chang’an was also the ancient capital of China.
- Interestingly, after a few years, the Silk Road began from Luoyang as the Chinese capital was moved towards the east during the rule of the later Han Dynasty, which lasted from 25-220 AD.
- Did you know the northern Silk Roads in China had a whooping length of 2,500 mi (4,000 km)?
- Little do people know that there were, in fact, five different Silk Roads, even though all of them originated from China.
- The primary Silk Road, the most extensively used one, began in China and ended in Rome in Europe and traveled via Central Asia.
- A version of the Silk Road is known as the Maritime Silk Road; as the name suggests, it traveled through the seas towards the Middle East and Europe.
- Additionally, the southern branch of the Silk Road extended via the Karakoram mountains, whereas the northern one reached Russia.
- The last kind of Silk Road was known as the Tea Horse Road, which reached India via Tibet.
The Silk Road’s History
In the current day, we refer to the path as the Silk Road, but in reality, it wasn’t a single route; instead, several different paths originated in China. Historians therefore preferred to name it the silk route. The Silk Road is undoubtedly one of the most ancient routes of history, which played a pivotal role in connecting the far east to Europe and enabling the trade of many items.
- The Silk Road was used for a span of around 1,500 years since its inception in 130 BCE by the Han Dynasty.
- Did you know Marco Polo, the renowned European explorer, traveled extensively on the Silk Road and the accounts can be found in many of his works?
- Interestingly, the term Silk Road or silk route did not exist during that period and was coined as late as the 19 century.
- Did you know in 129 BCE Mesopotamia was under the control of Parthians, which meant that the Parthians then controlled the Silk Road, which went to China?
- The years that followed saw Chinese silk become very popular in Europe, especially in Rome during the reign of Augustus Caesar from 161 CE to 180 CE.
- Did you know the Bubonic Plague, which wreaked havoc on Europe, is believed to have been brought to Europe via the Silk Road?
- The use of the Silk Road declined since 1453 CE as the Ottoman Empire closed these trade routes for the Western world.
- The term ‘Silk Road’ and ‘Silk routes’ were coined as late as 1877 CE by the German geographer Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen after producing a map of China that showed a line that directly connected China and Europe.
- Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen referred to the Silk Road as ‘Seidenstrasse’ and the silk routes as ‘Seidenstrassen.’
- The route went through India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Britain, Rome, and even Greece.
The Silk Road’s Significance
The Silk Road was extensively used for trade and commerce for over 1,000 years, and it has greatly shaped the world as we see it today. Spanning from the economic fronts to the cultural and religious factors, the Silk Road has been of great significance to the world in the past centuries, and history vouches for the same. Let’s delve deeper into the significance of the Silk Road and how it influenced the way the world was shaped.
- When the Silk Road came into use, it was the only path that connected the far east of the world to the European civilizations.
- Did you know historians and analysts believe that the emergence of the Silk Road played a pivotal role in China establishing itself in front of the world?
- The Silk Road also led to the development and prosperity of the Han Dynasty.
- Economically, the Silk road enabled the trade of various items such as silk, gold, paper, spices, and other items from Asia to Europe.
- The trade led to the mutual development of the civilizations involved, and there was interchange as well.
- At the same time, several civilizations traded goods via the Silk Road, and it laid a solid foundation for the developing world based upon cooperation.
- People often forget that the Silk Road didn’t only lead to economic trades and historical developments but also created opportunities for cultural exchanges among civilizations.
- Did you know it was due to these cultural exchanges that the Xiongnu later used the Chinese lifestyle, fashion, and agricultural techniques?
- On the other hand, the Chinese adopted the dance and music culture of the Xiongnu along with some of their military techniques.
- Many religions were spread in many countries due to extensive travel along the Silk Road.
- Today, tourism along the Silk Road is an excellent fad among tourists. One can glimpse the indigenous Ugyur people as they travel along the Silk Roads in China.
Things Traded On The Silk Road
The trade route is named ‘Silk Road,’ but unsurprisingly, silk wasn’t the only commodity involved in the trade from Central Asia to Europe for over a thousand years. A large variety of products were traded from the east to the west through this trade route. Let’s take a glimpse of the primary items traded along the Silk Road and how they shaped the world.
- Did you know the Han Dynasty initially began trading silk in exchange for large warhorses as they were at war with the Xiongnu?
- Did you know, the Chinese only knew how to make wine from rice and were surprised when they came to know that they could also make wines from grapes.
- Grapes and lucerne seeds were introduced to China via the Silk Road in exchange for silk.
- Although the trade route is named the silk route, it was paper and gun powder that had a drastic impact on western culture.
- As the west was introduced to paper, scientific research and studies boomed, and the introduction of gunpowder changed the way wars were fought in the west.
- Did you know rich spices exported from the east also influenced the culture of the western civilizations?
- In exchange, the Western world sent items such as honey, glassware, horses, textiles, gold, silver, woolen rugs, camels, and even enslaved people.
- Apart from silk, paper, spices, and gunpowder, several other items were traded towards the west, including bronze, medicine, ivory, tea, various precious stones, and perfumes.