History of Silk Road

The Silk Road has a history of more than 2000years, and its charm is eternal. Today, historical sites, cultural relics, magnificent sights and colorful folklore along the Silk Road still attract numerous tourists from around the world. Historically, camel, known as "boat in the desert", was the main means of transportation, but today, tourists can tour the Silk Road by air, train or motor vehicle.

The Great Silk Road is a unique phenomenon in the history of mankind, with its aspiration for unity and cultural values exchange, its conquests of lands and monopolization of the markets.

Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty decided in 138 B.C. to forge military alliances with kingdoms west of his northwestern archenemy the Xiongnu (or Hun) tribes. He charged General Zhang Qian with this mission, giving him one hundred of his best warriors and valuable gifts to seal the military cabals. Thirteen years later, having been a Xiongnu hostage for ten years, General Zhang returned to the Imperial Han court with only one other member of the original party. Though he had failed to make a single military alliance, General Zhang enthralled the court with information of the thirty-six commercially vibrant kingdoms west of China's frontier. Compounding the Emperor's interest was his description of the magnificent horses he'd seen in the Ferghana valley (modern day Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan); horses that were stronger and faster than any in China, horses so fine as to render the Chinese army invincible.

Subsequent commercial and diplomatic ventures to the Ferghana valley failed to secure horses and so precipitated two full-scale Chinese invasions, the second of which in 102 B.C. succeeded in conquering all lands between China and the Ferghana Valley. The Chinese had secured not only horses but also foreign markets in which to sell their goods.

In 73AD, the Han government sent a diplomatic mission of 36 people led by Ban Chao to Xiyu and his assistant Gan Ying arrived at Daqin (ancient Rome), on the Persian Gulf (the present Arabian Gulf), which ensured a functional Silk Road and further expanded the are to the road. Inida's famous monk also came to central China's Henan through Pakistan and Afghanistan, Silk Road in 147 AD and 401 AD respectively, to translate Buddhist books and enroll thousands of disciples. Chinese high-ranking monk Fa Xian in the Jin Dynasty (265—420) and Xuan Zang in the Tang Dynasty (618—907 respectively visited India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and dozens of other countries and districts and did missionary work in these countries along the Silk Road. Fa Xian's "Note on Buddhist Country" and Xuan Zang's "Notes about Tang's Xiyu" are important works of research in the history of ancient Xiyu, India and the Silk Road.The opening of the Silk Road underwent numerous hardships, and maintaining its smooth operation was by no means easy. Due to invasions of Xiongnu and policy mistakes of the Wang Mang regime, during the eastern Han Dynasty the Silk Road was blocked and re-opened three times.

Today, China's policy of invigorating the domestic economy and opening to the outside world has imbued the Silk Road with new vitality. Every year it draws tens of thousands of foreign tourists. Overseas Chinese and compatriots from Hong Kong and Macao also frequently visit this landmark of the Chinese Nation. The number of tourist has been steadily increasing; never before has the old route see so many visitors. Modern transport, especially air communication, has greatly shortened the distances between countries and areas. The hardships endured by travelers on the Silk Road in ancient time no longer exist. But this path of ancient east-west economic and cultural exchange will continue to shine as a bridge linking together peoples of different parts of world.

Memorabilia along the Silk Road:

3000 B.C. Silk first produced in China
1500 B.C. Semi-nomadic stockbreeding tribes inhabit steppes
400 B.C. Greek culture spread into Central Asia  
300 B.C.

Qin dynasty unites the entire China for the first time;  Han dynasty overthrows the Qin and develops its vast empire; Paper first made in China

200 B.C.

The Xiongnu (Huns) rise to power in Central Asia and invade Chinese western border regions;  Zhang Qian travels the Western Regions and opens the route west  

1 A.D. 

Silk first seen in Rome;  Buddhism begins to spread from India into Central Asia  
Xiongnu controls the Tarim region;  General Ban Chao of the Han dynasty defeats Xiongnu and keeps the peace in the Tarim Basin; The first attempt from China to Rome fails  

200 A.D. Han dynasty falls and the China breaks up
300 A.D. Skill of sericulture begins to spread west along the Silk Road;  
Xiongnu invades China and China further dissolved into fragments
500 A.D. Silkworm breeding appears in Europe; Nestorian Christians reach China;  
Sui dynasty reunites China  
600 A.D. Tang dynasty rules in China;  The Silk Road reaches its golden age;  
Xuan Zang's pilgrimage to India  
700 A.D. Tang dynasty begins to decline, and with it, the Silk Road drops into a valley 
800 A.D. First porcelain made in China;  Gunpowder invented in China;  
Compass begins to be used by Chinese  
900 A.D. Tang dynasty ends;  After short abruption, the Song dynasty reunites China 
1100 A.D. China divided into Northern Sung and Southern Sung;  Genghis Khan unites Mongols;  
Silk production and weaving established in Italy
1200 A.D. Kublai Khan establishes the Yuan dynasty in China; Silk road trade prospers again; Marco Polo leaves for the East  
1300 A.D. Third Silk Road route appears in the north; Yuan dynasty ends and Ming dynasty begins
1400 A.D.  China closes the door to foreigners; Threatened by strong Uigur power, Ming dynasty greatly reduces the trade along the Silk Road
1600 A.D. Manchus invades the central plains of China and establish the Qing dynasty  
1700 A.D. The Manchus control the Gobi and Altai districts  
1800 A.D. German scholar, Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen firstly names this route as "Silk Road"; Manchus take over the Tarim Basin, and Xinjiang province established under Qing dynasty; Lost cities unearthed along the old Silk Road  
1900 A.D.  Chinese revolution - end of Chinese feudal dynasties;  uropeans begin to travel in the Silk Road; Karakoram highway from Islamabad to Kashgar built by China and Pakistan