A network of historic commercial routes, officially formed during the Han Dynasty of China, between 130 BCE and 1453 CE, was known as the Silk Road. Since there was not a single path that led from East to West along the Silk Road, historians prefer the designation “Silk Routes,” even if “Silk Road” is the term that is most widely used.

However, Marco Polo (l.1254-1324 CE) went on these roads and detailed them in his renowned book, but he is not given credit for their names. ‘Seidenstrasse’ (silk road) and ‘Seidenstrassen,’ German geographer and explorer Ferdinand von Richthofen’s terminology for this network of roadways, were first used in 1877 CE (silk routes). Goods moved via the Silk Road are mentioned by both Polo and subsequently by von Richthofen. Even though the Silk Road hasn’t been utilized for international trade in almost 600 years, its influence on economics, culture, and history continues to reverberate to this very day.

What Was the Origin of The Silk Road?

China’s ruler sent Zhang Qian to Central Asia in 138 BC in an attempt to establish contact with a tribe. A few years after Zhang’s arrival, he was released from captivity and returned to China, where he recounted his adventures, including meeting gorgeous Arabian horses.

The Chinese government was eager to get these horses, and as a result, commerce with Central Asia over large distances started. Alexander the Great’s conquests in the 4th century B.C. brought central Asia into touch with European cultures from the West, first bringing them as far as India. Roman rule eventually established itself as the dominant force, and the burgeoning Silk Road served as a link between East and West, passing via Central Asia as well as the Middle East on its way to do so.

 

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What Is the Significance Of The Name “Silk Road”?

Silk was a major commodity traded along the route. For a long period of time, the Chinese were the only ones who could generate Silk from silkworms, which they learned how to do around the third millennium B.C. One of China’s principal exports and the money they used to pay for the items they needed, it was highly desired by other civilizations, particularly Ancient Rome

The name “Silk Road” is a little bit of a misnomer, though, because the network was used for trading a lot more than just Silk. It was also used to change textiles, spices, precious metals, and furs, among other things.

How Were These Objects Transported Over the Silk Road?

Few individuals would have walked the entire length of the Silk Road, which was around 4,000 miles long. There were a lot of merchants that transported the commodities, which had been traded several times. A large number of merchants rode in convoys, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, on camels, horses, or even on foot. As maritime Silk Roads evolved, several products were also transported by water.

How Were These Objects Transported Over the Silk Road?

Silk Road To China

Trading stations, marketplaces, and thoroughfares were deliberately placed along the Silk Road routes in order to facilitate the movement, exchange, transportation, and storage of merchandise. It was possible to travel from Antioch to Palmyra by way of the Syrian Desert to Palmyra, Ctesiphon, and Seleucia by way of the Tigris River, which is currently in Iraq.

Roads from Seleucia to the towns of Ecbatana and Merv (Iran and Turkmenistan, respectively) traveled across the Zagros Mountains to Afghanistan and Mongolia, respectively. The Persian Gulf ports on the Silk Road routed commodities to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where they were conveyed. It was possible to share items with other towns in the Roman Empire and throughout Europe via these cities’ connections to Mediterranean ports on the sea itself.

Silk Road Economic Belt

The appeal of the Chinese Silk among Roman traders and others in Europe gave the Silk Road its name, but Silk was not the only primary product from Asia to Europe. This so-called “silk road” commercial region includes trade in fruits and vegetables (as well as animals), grain (including cattle and grain), leather and skins (tools and religious artifacts), artwork, and valuable stones and metals.

Things like paper and gunpowder, both created by the Chinese under the Han Dynasty, had an evident and enduring influence on the culture and history of Western countries. As a result, they were widely exchanged between the East and the West. To get to Europe, the paper was first used in Samarkand about 700 A.D. before making its way to the Islamic ports of Sicily & Spain in the 3rd century B.C. in China.

To be sure, the introduction of paper to Europe spurred revolutionary shifts in the industry as the written word was elevated to the status of a primary means of mass communication. Mass manufacturing of books and newspapers was made possible by Gutenberg’s printing press, which led to an increase in the amount of information that could be shared.

Eastward Exploration

In addition, the paths of the Silk Road offered up means of the route for explorers who were interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the geography and culture of the Far East. Polo utilized the Silk Road to go from Venice to China in 1275 when they landed under the power of the Mongolian Empire.

They didn’t use a boat; instead, they rode camels through deserts and rivers. Kublai Khan’s opulent Xanadu summer palace welcomed them with open arms. The explorer worked for Kublai Khan’s court for 24 years, maybe as a tax collector.

In 1295, after traveling once again along the paths of the Silk Road, Marco Polo arrived back in Venice at a time when the Mongolian Empire was already in collapse. The Travels of Marco Polo, a book he wrote on his adventures along the Silk Road, helped Europeans better comprehend Asian business and culture.

The Effects of Exchange

More commodities were accessible in more areas as a result of commerce along the Silk Road. Because of its softness and glitter, Silk became so sought after in Central Asia that it was employed as money. Chinese silkworm farming and cocoon-making remained an unrevealed Chinese secret until the 6th century C.E. China’s ongoing dominance as the only supplier of Silk ensured that commerce commodities traveled across Asia without interruption. As a result, a large number of individuals and places along Silk Road trade routes were engaged.

Silk, glass beads from Rome, ginger, and porcelain from China, furs from animals on the Caucasian steppe, as well as enslaved people from all around the world all traversed the Silk Road together. Some of the repercussions were a result of cultural factors. Graves in Tang-era China were decorated with camel sculptures from the commerce caravans that passed across the country. The animals had a significant impact!

When Was the End Of The Silk Road?

In the 13th century, the Venetian adventurer Marco Polo journeyed to China through this path, which was still in use until the late medieval period. It soon slid into decline for several causes, including assaults on China’s empire and the expansion of European maritime connections to the East. Policymakers in Asia are now discussing the development of new Silk Roads throughout the continent in an effort to enhance economic growth in the region.