About the Silk Road

Conjuring up romantic images of exotic cities perfumed with spices, a labyrinth of Eastern bazars, and caravans trekking over high and crumbling mountain passes, it’s easy to fall in love with the myth behind the Silk Road, but what is it exactly?

In simple layman’s terms, the Silk Road refers a network of routes crossing the Asian continent over to Europe and the Middle East via Central Asia, rather than one single road as the name might suggest.

In fact, even though this trading network traversing Central Asia has linked China and Europe for millennia, the term “Silk Road” was only recently coined by 19th century German geologist Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen.

The name of the route might sound catchy, but its origins stem from the Chinese silk trade that used the route over the Central Asian steppes during the time of the Han Dynasty in 206BC-220AD.

However, the actual Silk Road was more than just the trade route for a single luxury commodity, since other goods also made their way between Europe and Asia via the roads connecting the cities of Samarkand and Merv.

The Silk Road is one of the very first international market places, but it also influenced the political and economic interactions between civilizations at the time. The cities along the road served as cultural hub for discourse on technology, religion, science, and philosophy, making its civilizations grow over time.

There is no single road running directly between Europe and China, but rather a network of caravan paths with stops at key cities along the way.

Some routes went south to India and others north towards parts of Russia, one route even crossed the Caspian Sea to the Caucasus as one entry point into Europe via Turkey and the Black Sea, however the principle route crossed Iran into Turkey and then the Middle East.

There are 21 countries that are defined by UNESCO on the land-based Silk Road, these are: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, India, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan.


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