The Silk Road history is a fascinating story that is full of adventures, of military conquests, lonely explorers, pilgrims and great thinkers alike, and the humble everyday tradesmen who risked their lives, or limbs, just for profit as they journeyed in great caravans across lifeless deserts, treacherous mountains and dangerous steppes. The Silk Road itself became a collective name for the general trade route that linked two ancient superpowers, the Romans and the Chinese. It is a long and winding route that spanned from Northwestern China all the way towards the West. This ancient route began in the ancient capitals of Luoyang and the Han Dynasty’s Chang’an. It crosses Lanzhou’s Yellow river and winds through all the way to the Gansu Corridor and out into the deserts and mountain ranges.
It is a two thousand-year history rich with famous historical personalities like Marco Polo, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, and many more. They were all enchanted with the great promises of riches and fortune that the Silk Road had offered them. Scholars said this particular trading route first became the real thing that linked both ends together around 100 BC. Since then trading had flourished; but things finally changed during the 15th century when the world had finally discovered the sea routes well below Asia as a better and practical trading alternative.
The Silk Road and the route that it had taken were first conceived during the Han Dynasty of Ancient China to protect and assure the existing caravans and the trade itself. It all started with creating goodwill and trade relationships into the neighboring nomadic state that soon expanded westward. From then on merchants and travelers safely followed suit, exploring this new route finally took them to western civilization.
Luxury trade dominated all the trading. Silk was the main reason why the route was established in the first place. According to Chinese history, silk was an accidental discovery. Such shiny silken threads were woven into fabric and then sent all the way West. Soon after, silk became one of the most coveted textile in the ancient Roman Empire, with some famous historians claiming that the Romans’ general spending and addiction to it helped brought the biggest and greatest empire of the ancient history down on its knees, with their eastern rivals profiting from all of this and taxing on the silk trade.
Silk culture was introduced to the West and all around the Mediterranean, where its popularity spread like wildfire. From priests to potentates, and most especially Cleopatra, silk was highly revered; they dressed themselves with it, particularly those purple dyed from mollusk shells.
The Silk Road history saw many various luxury goods being traded along the route aside from silk. Eastern porcelains, spices, gems, furs and other exotic Asian products were headed to excited western markets. Important Chinese inventions like paper and gunpowder first reached Europe through the silk route. The Chinese on the other hand, had also coveted many things from the West, and among them Syrian jugglers and acrobats. The main items traded for Chinese silk and other goods were gold, silver, cosmetics, amber, ivory, perfume, carpets, glass, and many others. Such items came directly from Europe, Africa, Arabia and Central Asia.
And that was not the end of it. The Silk Road evolved from a mere trading route into an important road where new ideas and stories would travel and reach new shores. Both merchants and other adventurers travelled together traversing the Silk Road, and they also carried along with them stories, the philosophies, art and beliefs of other cultures into their home soil and marvel upon the magnificence and greatness of this whole new world out there. Buddhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and eventually Islam travelled both ways on this global highway to preach their ideas to new cultures eager to embrace them.