The Great Silk Road is one of the oldest routes of international trade in the world. This system of caravan routes connected Asia with the Mediterranean and European world and started from Xian in China to Rome in Italy. The ca. 6,437 kilometers (4,000 miles) network of routes was used by traders for more than 1,500 years, from when the Han dynasty of China opened trade in 130 B.C.E. until 1453 C.E.
Connecting eastern and western margins of Eurasian continent, extended routes of the Silk Road crossed China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. On the east the road led to Korea and Japan; on the west to Russia, Eastern and Western Europe; on the south to India and Middle East on south-west.
These routes highly influenced the development of trade interactions and cultural ties between the West and the East. The Silk Road served not only as route for exporting goods such as silk, spices, precious metals, minerals handicrafts, architecture and paintings but also transmitted cultural exchange including theatric performance, dance and music art. This was also a transit road with two-way movement of food, spices, animals, scientific ideas and achievements and religious values.
At certain period of time Silk Road used to be important and quick means of disseminating information through merchants, travelers and diplomats.
It has been an important fundament of human civilization.
But the route was probably also one of the main ways that plague bacteria responsible for the Black Death pandemic in Europe in the mid-14th century moved westward from Asia.
The Silk Roads have existed for thousands of years, passing through many different empires, kingdoms, and societies throughout history. At certain times during their long history, traders could travel freely along these routes, whereas at others, travel was difficult, dangerous, or prohibited.
In China, this problem was partially dealt with by extending the Great Wall of China along the routes, or having local governments protect the road. Kingdoms along the Silk Road, such as those led by the Uyghurs and Kirghiz in the East, and Arabs in Mesopotamia, also helped bring stability to the routes.
The first centuries of the Tang Dynasty during the 7th Century were considered the Golden Age of the routes.
One of the most famous travelers of the Silk Road was Marco Polo (1254 C.E. –1324 C.E.).
The Silk Road abruptly ended with the rise of the Ottoman Empire in 1453, which almost immediately severed trade between East and West.
In June 2014, UNESCO designated the Chang’an-Tianshan corridor of the Silk Road as a World Heritage Site, while the Indian portion remains on the tentative site list.
This property is a 5,000 km section of the extensive Silk Roads network, stretching from Chang’an/Luoyang, the central capital of China in the Han and Tang dynasties, to the Zhetysu region of Central Asia. It took shape between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD and remained in use until the 16th century, linking multiple civilizations and facilitating far-reaching exchanges of activities in trade, religious beliefs, scientific knowledge, technological innovation, cultural practices and the arts. The thirty-three components included in the routes network include capital cities and palace complexes of various empires and Khan kingdoms, trading settlements, Buddhist cave temples, ancient paths, posthouses, passes, beacon towers, sections of The Great Wall, fortifications, tombs and religious buildings.
Parts of the Silk Road survive in the form of a paved highway connecting Pakistan and the Uyghur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang in China.
The Silk Road also inspired China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure development strategy authored by President and General Secretary Xi Jinping, to revive and extend those routes via networks of upgraded or new railways, ports, pipelines, power grids and highways.