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History of Silk Road
Things to Know
The Silk Road was once the world’s most thriving trade of Silk which later transformed into a transcontinental network that connected trade and cultural exchange. The Silk Road was established during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) after the discovery of Silk. The secrets and production of Silk was guarded tightly by the Chinese and was exclusively made in China only. Silk was traded for valuable items such as jade, ivory, furs and horses. The Silk Road expanded due to the exploration and missions of Zhang Qian, the imperial envoy of the Han Dynasty. To ensure the safety of trade products the Great Wall of China was extended.
By the Tang Dynasty the Silk Road entered a prosperous era that increased trade from the west. Under the reign of Tang Taizhong the Silk Road opened up new routes that linked the Monglian plateau in the north, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in the south and unified the western regions of Xinjiang. The flourishing trade during the Tang Dynasty attracted many merchants and envoys to the capital Chang’an (Xi’an). With the increasing numbers of foreign merchants and envoys in the capital the exchange of culture and religion was frequent. The prosperity of the Silk Road during the Tang Dynasty reached its end after the Anshi Rebellion broke out and the Tang Empire declined.
The Silk Road experienced another successful period during the Yuan Dynasty. The establishment of the Mongol Empire in 1271 with the capital located in Dadu (Beijing) the Yuan Dynasty was the largest empire in China. By conquering small states and unifying the country, the safety of trade on the Silk Road improved and once again attracted merchants from the West. The Mongolian Empire welcomed foreigners and even appointed foreigners in governmental positions. One of the most famous foreign officials of the Yuan Dynasty was Marco Polo who recorded his journey and experiences of the Silk Road in his book The Travels of Marco Polo.
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