The Great Silk Road is the trading caravan way from China to the capital of Rome empire. It connects two very contrasting worlds - East and West: the two cultures of Asia and Europe. Existed from the 2nd century B.C. till the 16th century A.D. the total length of the route was about 7,000 km.
Its name comes from the first item of transit trade - Chinese silk, later beside silk, appeared other goods: jewellery, glass, iron etc. Silk Road has had a unique role in foreign trade and political relations, stretching far beyond the bounds of Asia itself. It has left its mark on the development of civilisations on both sides of the continent.
The main route of the Great Silk Road went through the territories of China, basin of Tarim, Over Pamir and Tien-Shan mountains, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, along the eastern shore of Mediterranean and farther to the main trade centres of Near East, North Africa and Europe. The Great Silk Road played a vital role in lifestyle of many nations of Eurasia. It was an important artery in ancient and middle aged time, the source of trade and information, cause of many conflicts and wars. Along the route appeared, reached the golden ages and die many nations and cultures, trade centres and many capitals of world empires.
The Han-dynasty Silk Road began at the magnificent capital city of Chang'an (today's Xian). The route took traders westwards into Gansu Province through Lanzhou, Tianshui, Zhangye, jiuquan along the Hexi Corridor reached Jiayuguan - the giant barrier of the Great Wall and the first key point of the route- Dunhuang. Dunhuang is in the west end of the Hexi Corridor of Gansu Province. It is one of the well-known Chinese historical and cultural cities, and the bright pearl on the ancient Silk Road.
When the ancient Silk Road came out of the Hexi Corridor into Xinjiang, it broke into three main routes. The southern route ran west along the northern foot of Kunlun Mountains, via Charkhilk ( Ruoqiang), Cherchen ( Quemo), Minfeng ( Niya), and Hetian ( Hotan), then reached Kashgar - another key point on the Silk Road, afterwards went over the Pamirs, and reached India or passed through Afghanistan and Russian Central Asia to reach the coast of the Mediterranean or Arabia. The central route meandered west along the southern foot of the Tianshan Mountains dotted by Loulan, Korla, Chucha, and Aksu, then crossed the Pamirs and led to Mari in Russia. The northern route rambled along the northern foot of the Tianshan Mountains, starting at Hami wound through Turpan, Urumqi, westward reached the Ili River Valley, and led to area as near the Black Sea.
The ancient Silk Road in Xinjiang traversed desolate desert areas and wound over snow-capped peaks. It was full of difficulties and obstacles and more dangerous and fascinating than other sections of the road. It was the only way for China to get in touch with the West between the second century B.C. and the 10th century A.D. Various ancient cultures of the West and East, including some lost cultures, have left traces of themselves in Xinjiang. Although sections of the Silk Road have been buried by sand in deserts, the local dry climate has miraculously preserved sites and relics several thousand years old. Some relics are as good as they were centuries ago.
The three routes of the Silk Road ran between mountain ranges and long edges of deserts, going through oases inhabited by ancient tribes. These tribes also opened some branch roads across mountain passes to join the three routes together.
Many caravan routes on the Great Silk Road were changed by time, and only the main directions from the East to the West and back were kept originally.Caravan traffic was very slow, in good day the caravan consisted from 100 to 10 thousand camels covered 8 farsah (50 km), in nasty days - 4 forsah (25 km). Along the route the one could take a rest in Caravanserais.
The Great Silk Road promoted the transition to settled style of life, and developing of animal breeding. There were no similar phenomenons in the history of humanity with the same economical and cultural importance. The Great Silk Road put the Order, Commonwealth and Peace in general chaos of the Middle Ages.