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The Silk Road

Jiayuguan Pass


Jiayuguan Pass had a location that benefited China.  The Jiayuguan Tower was cunningly placed between the Qinlian and Mazong Mountains, and near the Taolai River.  This way the fortress could overlook both the east-western passageway and to the west the Great Wall.  Jiayuguan Pass became a useful stronghold for military defense.





Samarkand was just one of the cities that flourished during the time of the Silk Road.  Samarkand had a great many exports and therefore many imports and ideas came in.  Chinese painting became a role model for the Islamic painting.  Beautiful porcelain ceramics came from China in blue and white.

Samarkand was once under the Mongol rule of Genghis Khan.  Once they had regained independence, Samarkand became the capital of Timur (Tamerlane).  Trade was an encouraged subject.  Now Samarkand is in present-day Turkmenistan.





Rayy is located in present day Iran.  As part of the Silk Road, Rayy was known for exporting ceramics.  Part of Rayy’s success depended on the fact that it was located on an oasis.









The Silk Road was not one route, but many routes, roads, and paths. One thing that many of the routes had in common was a meeting point in Kashgar. This city, which is in present-day Uzbekistan, became one of the most important trading centers in Central Asia. Kashgar was the halfway point along the Silk Road where most traders sold their loads to merchants who would make another transaction further down the route.




Chang’an, which is in present-day China, was at the eastern end of the Silk Road. It was the main world trade route of its day. In the city market, merchants offered goods from distant lands such as sandalwood from Indonesia, cloves from India, and incense from eastern Africa. Some merchants sold Persian dates and pistachios, Burmese pepper, and Tibetan mustard.





Trebizond, present day Turkey, has gone under many names. In earlier times Trebizond was known as Trapezus.  Now the city is Tabzan.

Trebizond was located next to the Black Sea, which made trade convenient.  Once Sekjuk Turks wished to have this city for their own profit.  They wanted to divert the trade to their own city Sinhope.


Rome, present-day Italy, was one end of the route traveled by silk.  Silk was first seen on the Roman Empire in the year 1 A.D..  After that, silk grew greatly in demand.  In fact, it was this sudden want that started the Silk Road.  Trade routes joined together to form one.

During the time before this major joining, China and Rome did have some idea of each other.  To  the Chinese, Rome was known as “Li Kun.”  Romans began to know China as “The Land of Silk.”





Baghdad is located in present-day Iraq. In the ancient days, it was captured by the Mongols, as were many other cities of the Silk Road.





Merv is in present-day Afghanistan. It was a major oasis city located on the southern border of the Kara-kum desert. It was very hot there. Merv became a very rich settlement as part of the Silk Road. The ruins of ancient Merv cover an area of 15 sq. mi.












Byzantium is located in present-day Turkey.  Silk was very precious, and the emperor of China decreed that anyone who revealed the secret of how to make silk would be killed.  Two monks from Byzantium smuggled silkworm eggs and mulberry from inside China by hiding them inside their staffs.  Having found out the secret, they let the rest of the world know and silk-producing cities sprung up everywhere.


History of the Silk Road


  • 3000 B.C.  Silk was first produced in China.
  • 206 B.C.   The Han dynasty is established.
  • 200 B.C.    The camel, a necessity for desert travel, was domesticated.
  • 1 A.D.      Silk was first seen in Rome.
  • 300 A.D.  The secret of how to make silk is smuggled out of China.
  • 500 A.D.  Silkworm farms are built in Europe.
  • 750 A.D.  The Silk Road reaches its peak.
  • 1100A.D. Sea trade begins to replace the Silk Road.
  • 1206 A.D.   The Yuan dynasty is formed, by the Mongolian Khans, and                 trade is recovered.
  • 1368 A.D.   The Ming dynasty takes over and trade is discouraged.

Geography of the Silk Road


The Silk Road is 5,000 miles, or 8,000kilometers long. Some of the many routes of the Silk Road were well developed and relatively free of bandits, while some others were less protected. The problem was that the quickest and shortest routes were usually the most riskey, or filled with natural features hard to cope with.

The entire Silk Road was a rough place, ecpicialy for the traders.  There was rough desert like terrain along the Silk Road. There was little water available.  As a result, many towns along the Silk Road were oases.  In the desert sand storms could arise suddenly, destroying everything in its path.  Mountains can be equally treacherous and prevent trades from trading.  There are several mountain ranges stopping easy travel.  As a result few traders actually traveled the entire route.  Most goods were traded many times until they reached a final destination.


Interesting Facts

Did you know that:

v    before the secret of silk was released, there was a Roman poet who thought that silk was a kind of vegetable grown on trees?

v    the Silk Road was over 5,000miles?

v    the Silk Road lasted for about 2,000years?



Country Imports Exports


Rome glass silk fabric
  amber silk ankle bands
  wool silk robe
  linen bronze
  coral laquerware
  gold jade
Syria glassware porcelain
Afghanistan horses ceramics
Central Asia raisins  
Indonesia sandalwood  
India cloves  
Eastern Africa incense  
Persia dates  
Other elephants  
  exotic plants  


precious stones  




Present-Day Origin
China, Scotland, Italy, Thailand, Nepal  


Nepal, India, Cambodia Handbags/Wallet  
United States Tapestry  
Italy, Thailand Toys  
India, Tibet, Nepal Rugs  
Italy, France, United States, China  


India, China, United States Bed Coverings  
Israel Challah Cover  
England Robe  
United States Fake Flowers
United States United States



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