History of Silk Road | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 16, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:03 AM, October 16, 2015

History of Silk Road

From the 2nd century BC to the end of the 14th century AD, a great trade route originated from Chang'an (now Xian) in the east and ended at the Mediterranean in the west, linking China with the Roman Empire. Because silk was the major trade product which travelled on this road, it was named the Silk Road in 1877 by Ferdinand von Richthofen – a well-known German geographer. This route not only circulated goods, but also exchanged the splendid cultures of China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greek and Rome.

This route was opened up by Zhang Qian in the Western Han Dynasty and the routes were gradually formed throughout the Han Dynasty. This trade route spent its childhood and gradually grew up in this dynasty. With the establishment of the Tang Dynasty, this famous trade route reached its most prosperous stage in history. During the reign of Yuan Dynasty, it experienced its last flourishing period.

Western Han Dynasty
(206 BC–24 AD)

From 139 to 129 BC, Zhang Qian set out on his journey to the Western Regions twice, pioneering the world-famous route. Several successful wars against the Huns were commanded by Wei Qing and Huo Qubing, which removed obstacles along this trade route.

Eastern Han Dynasty
(25 BC–220 AD)

Ban Chao and Ban Yong conducted several expeditions to the Western Regions to suppress rebellions and re-established the Protectorate of the Western Regions, ensuring peace and trade along this important route.

Tang Dynasty (618AD–907AD)
With the establishment of the Tang Dynasty and great prosperity during this time, the road rose to its most flourishing period in history. Before the Anshi Rebellion (755–762) in the Tang Dynasty, this road experienced its "Golden Age" of development.

Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368)
Along with the growth of the Mongolian Empire and the establishment of the Yuan Dynasty, the route regained its vigor and became prosperous once again. It enjoyed the last glorious era during this period. In 1271, the great Mongolian ruler Kublai Khan established a powerful Mongol Empire – Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) at Dadu (the present Beijing). The Mongol Empire destroyed a great number of toll-gates and corruption of the Silk Road; therefore passing through the trade route became more convenient, easier and safer than ever before.

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