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The Beginnings of The Silk Road

Posted On: 05/06/2014 @ 15:39:00 » Send your friend these details

What is the Silk Road?

The Silk Road is a series of trade routes linking China to the Mediterranean. For a long time, each route was separate, and the travellers of the Silk Road would not advance beyond their particular point. It was given its name in 1877 by the German Geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen due to the fact that silk was the major product traded on this route.

It is well known that Ancient China produced many significant inventions including paper, the printing technique, gunpowder, compasses and silk. These inventions, in time, would move to other civilizations, helping to shape the world as we know it; and they would all travel via the Silk Road.
The Emperor and the Explorer

Emperor Wudi of the Hans Dynasty was one of the most famous rulers of Ancient China. He became Emperor at the age of 15 and would rule with success for 54 years (the third longest reign of all the Chinese Emperors). As well as expanding his Empire considerably, Emperor Wudi took a strong stand against the Huns- fierce nomadic horsemen who constantly invaded the frontiers of China. Wudi’s predecessor had attempted to appease the Huns by sending Chinese Princesses north for them to marry. Wudi ended this policy and declared the Huns as his enemy.

In 139 BC he sent the envoy and explorer Zhang Qian (pronounced JANG-CHYEN) on a diplomatic mission to the Western regions of China. The Emperor wanted Zhang to form an alliance with the Da Yuezhi tribe in order to combat their common enemy the Huns.  

During the journey Zhang managed to get taken hostage twice, only to arrive in the city after 10 years and have his offer rejected by the people of Da Yuezhi. On the bright side, Zhang gained a great deal of knowledge from his travels, including information that helped the Hans Dynasty defeat the Huns in three wars between 127 BC and 119BC. This cleared the road between China and the Western countries, making it safer for merchants to travel with their luxury items.

Zhang Qian’s exploration of the Western regions of China greatly contributed to opening up the first leg of what would become the Silk Road.

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