Facts About the Silk Road

Here are some Silk Road facts.

  • The Silk Road was an ancient trading route, that stretched across much of Asia from China to the Mediterranean Sea. It stretched for almost 8,500 km.
  • The route was named for the profitable trade in Chinese silk which took place along much of its route. Other goods were transported via the Silk Road, including precious metals, perfumes, tea and spices.
  • Goods were also brought along the Silk Road into China. Some of these were new to the Chinese, including curtains, carpets, blankets and exotic animals such as lions.
  • Silk was produced in China as early as 3500 BC and was seen as a luxury item. A typical silk caravan consisted of up to 500 people, as well as camels and yaks to carry the material.
  • In addition to merchants, the route was used by monks, pilgrims, soldiers and travellers. It also allowed the exchange of ideas, religion and technology between the west and the east.
  • Paper making was one of the most important inventions to come out of China on the Silk Road. Evidence of Persian, Arabic and Greek books and papers dating back to about 335 BC have been found along the road.
  • The route was firmly established in the 1st century BC, although travellers had used the route centuries earlier. There were several different branches, all crossing Asia.
  • Important cities along the Silk Road included Constantinople, (now Istanbul) Damascus, Tehran, Kabul, Samarkand and Lhasa. By the 16th century, Europe was using the route.
  • Marco Polo was one of the most famous Silk Road travellers. The monk Xuanzang also travelled the road to India where he spent 16 years studying Buddhist texts.
  • The Silk Road began to decline in importance in the 16th century following the decline of the Mongol Empire and increase in trade by sea.

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