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Silk Route

The Silk Route is a historical path for trade in fabrics, spices, grain, animal skins, wood and metal products, gemstones, fruits and vegetables, and other high-value goods. It passed through China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greece, and Italy (from Asia to the Mediterranean). This route was formed in the 2nd century A.D. for trade in a valuable fabric, silk, which appeared in China. The route existed until the 14th century A.D., and in 2013, Xi Jinping, president of China announced his decision to restore the Silk Route and connect 60 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East and to improve cooperation among Asian, African, and European countries.

Understanding the Silk Route

The Silk Route (Road) was a web of trading points and markets, roads between the Far East and the Middle East, covering China and Europe. During the trip, it was possible to find places to store, exchange and transport goods.

Some people traveled in caravans of camels or horses, looking for overnight accommodations at a distance of 1 travel day and finding them in guest houses or inns. Others traveled by sea and found temporary shelters in ports to refill their fresh water supplies and make new trade agreements. Some Silk Route travelers were archaeologists and geographers exploring ancient places.

The Eastern goods that came through the Silk Route had a great impact on the West. For example, gunpowder and paper were some of the most popular goods from China. The paper trade finally resulted in the printing press invention, which was followed by the newspaper and book production.

History of the Silk Route

The first founder of the Silk Route is considered to be the Chinese official and diplomat Zhang Quian, who lived in the Han Dynasty. Zhang Quian made his first expedition for diplomatic purposes, but he was arrested for 13 years. He succeeded in escaping to Central Asia by other routes.

The Silk Route became popular among traders in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 A.D.). There were several land and sea routes to get to the destination. They changed depending on territorial boundaries and government leadership shifts.

The Silk Route has pushed the development of technology, science, literature, art and other fields of knowledge forward through cultural exchange.

In the places where the Silk Route passed, the missions of Buddhist and European monks spread religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and others.

Recovering the Silk Route

In 2013, Chinese “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) program officially started to restore the historic Silk Route, spending $900 billion. China is pushing this program to improve connections between 60 countries in Asia, Europe and East Africa. (OBOR) is restoring a lot of Silk Route ways. The majority of land routes make up the ancient Silk Route Economic Belt.

The modern 21st Century Maritime Silk Route has more sea routes. They connect China’s southern coast to the Mediterranean, Africa, South-East Asia, and Central Asia.

This route will open more opportunities for China to domestic growth and for exporting goods and materials to new markets.

For 2016, OBOR has passed several stages and signed many agreements. In 2017, the historic route between Beijing and London, under the English Channel, was reborn as a rail route. 

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