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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The Great Silk Routes


The Silk Road, or Silk Routes, are an extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian continent connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, including North Africa and Europe.

So-called "Silk Routes" were not only conduits for silk, but for many other products and were also very important paths for cultural and technological transmission by linking traders, merchants, pilgrims, monks, missionaries, soldiers, nomads and urban dwellers from China to the Mediterranean Sea for thousands of years.

Extending over 8,000 km (5,000 miles), the routes enabled people to transport trade goods, especially luxuries such as silk, satins, musk, rubies, diamonds, pearls, and rhubarb, while simultaneously serving as a conduit for the spread of knowledge, ideas, cultures, and diseases between different parts of the world in China, India, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean.

Trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the great civilizations of China, India, Egypt, Persia, Arabia, and Rome, and in several respects helped lay the foundations for the modern world. Although the term the Silk Road implies a continuous journey, very few who traveled the route traversed it from end to end. For the most part, goods were transported by a series of agents on varying routes and were traded in the bustling mercantile markets of the oasis towns.

The Central Asian part of the trade route was expanded around 114 B.C. by the Han Dynasty largely through the missions and explorations of Zhang Qian as earlier trade across the continents had already existed. In the late Middle Ages, transcontinental trade over the land routes of the Silk Road declined as sea trade increased.

References:
1) Elisseeff, Vadime (2001). The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. UNESCO Publishing / Berghahn Books.
2) Wood, Francis (2002). The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

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