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The History of the Silk Road

The Silk Road or Silk Route was an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction originally through regions of Eurasia connecting the East and West and stretching from the Korean peninsula and Japan to the Mediterranean Sea. The Silk Road concept refers to both the terrestrial and the maritime routes connecting Asia and Europe. The overland Steppe route stretching through the Eurasian steppe is considered the ancestor to the Silk Road(s).

These two largest economies of that era shared appr. 90% of global economy for 1,800 years

While the term is of modern coinage, the Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk (and horses) carried out along its length, beginning during the Han dynasty (207 BCE – 220 CE). The Han dynasty expanded Central Asian sections of the trade routes around 114 BCE, [where current Uzbekistan, with its famous cities of Bukhara and Samarqand, and Central Asian region were the epicenter of the first global trade route].

Trade on the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, the Goguryeo kingdom (Korea), Japan, the Indian subcontinent, Persia, Europe, the Horn of Africa and Arabia, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations. Though silk was certainly the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, syncretic philosophies, and various technologies. Diseases, most notably plague, also spread along the Silk Routes. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network.

The main traders during antiquity included the Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Somalis, Syrians, Jews, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Georgians, Armenians, Bactrians, Turkmens, and (from the 5th to the 8th century) the Sogdians.

In September 2013, during a visit to Kazakhstan, Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced a plan for creating a New Silk Road from China to Europe.

Uzbekistan and Central Asia benefited significantly from being neighbors to the then-Asia’s two giants – China and India. These two largest economies of that era shared appr. 90% of global economy for 1,800 years.  

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