Silk Road Featured Route

Silk Road, also called Silk Route, ancient trade route that, linking China with the West, carried goods and ideas between the two great civilizations of Rome and China. Silk came westward, while wools, gold, and silver went east. China also received Nestorian Christianity and Buddhism (from India) via the road.

Originating at Xi’an (Sian), the 4,000-mile (6,400-km) road, actually a caravan tract, followed the Great Wall of China to the northwest, bypassed the Takla Makan Desert, climbed the Pamirs (mountains), crossed Afghanistan, and went on to the Levant; from there the merchandise was shipped across the Mediterranean Sea. Few persons traveled the entire route, and goods were handled in a staggered progression by middlemen.

With the gradual loss of Roman territory in Asia and the rise of Arabian power in the Levant, the Silk Road became increasingly unsafe and untraveled. In the 13th and 14th centuries the route ... (150 of 342 words)

Xi'an to Dunhuang
The main caravan route from China to the West 
started in the capital Chang An, what we know today as the great city of Xian 
headed west to Lanzhou and north along the Hexi Corridor to Dunhuang and the end of the Great Wall of China.
Silk Road Route
Around the Taklimakan Desert
The caravan route splits in two around the Taklimakan Desert. The northern route has much better infrastructure compared to the southern route and is therefore the recommended route. The southern route is also called the Jade Road. It was from this road that the famous Hotan Jade was imported into China. Two cross-desert Highways bisect the Taklimakan connecting the northern and southern rim of the desert; they can be used for those who want to get a taste of both routes. (More likely you've had enough of the dirt tracks of the Southern Route and just wanted to get back to civilization.) 

Northern Route: Dunhuang, Hami, Turfan, Korla, Kuche, Kashgar 
Southern Route: Dunhuang, Cherchen, Khotan, Yarkand, Kashgar 

The two routes rejoin at Kashgar in the far west of China. Generally, the journey from Xi'an, Lanzhou, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang to Xinjiang Kashgar belongs to The Silk Road in China. 

Beyond Kashgar
After Kashgar, the main route goes across the Pamirs into Central Asia. There are 2 border crossings between China and Kyrgyzstan, The Irkeshtam Pass (easier) and the Torugart Pass (harder). Irkeshtam is the main caravan route while Torugart is more scenic. Once in Kyrgyzstan, cross the Pamirs to reach the Ferghana Valley. The key cities are all in Uzbekistan. They are Kokand, Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara. 
Silk Road Route

Continue on to Turkmenistan, stop by Merv before crossing into Iran for the holy city of Mashhad. From Mashhad, Tehran is 1 night's train ride away. From here on, the Silk Road branches off again. The southern route crosses through Baghdad,Iraq into Damascus,Syria before eventually ending up in Alexandra,Egypt. (Given the currently situation in the Middle East, the route is not recommended) 

The northern route involves crossing into Turkey to reach Istanbul. The fastest overland option is the aptly named "Trans-Asia Express" train between Tehran and Istanbul. Interesting stops in between are: Tabriz and Cappadocia. 

Other routes
There were also alternate routes — for example: 
crossing into Central Asia further North from Urumqi into Kazakhstan 
passing North of the Caspian Sea instead of through Iran 
reaching the Mediterranean in what is now Lebanon or Israel rather than via Istanbul 

branches off the road for example: 
South from Xinjiang into Pakistan and India via what is now the Karakoram Highway or via Ladakh 
South into Afghanistan and India from points further West on the road 

a Maritime Silk Road — from Chinese ports like Nanjing and Quanzhou to India and the Arab countries a "Tea and horse caravan" route  much further South, from Chengdu through Yunnan and parts of Tibet to Northern IndiaThe Silk Road was originally opened up by Zhang Qian and it gradually formed in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).

In the Han Dynasty, the ancient road originated from the historical capital of Chang'an (now Xian). This trade route ran through Gansu Province via Tianshui, Lanzhou, Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquan, Jiayuguan (an important military garrison and barrier of the Great Wall) and Dunhuang along the Hexi Corridor. Dunhuang is famous for its Mogao Caves and other cultural relics. It was also a key point of the route, where the trade road divided into three main routes: the southern, central and northern routes.

The three main routes spread all over the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The Southern Route wandered west along the northern foot of the Kunlun Mountains, passing  Ruoqiang (Charkhlik), Qiemo (Cherchen), Hetian, Yecheng (Karghalik), Shache (Yarkand) and reached Kashgar (the last point of the Silk Road in China). Then this route crossed the snow-covered Pamirs, reached Pakistan and India via Kashmir; it could also reach Europe through Islamabad, Kabul, Mashhad, Baghdad and Damascus.

The Central Route ran west along the southern foot of Tianshan Mountains, passing Loulan (now Ruoqiang), Turpan , Korla, Kuche (Kuqa), Aksu and Kashgar, afterwards went over the freezing Pamirs, wound to Mashhad via the Fergana Basin, Samarkand, Bukhara and finally joined the Southern Route. The Northern Route went west along the northern foot of Tianshan Mountains, taking merchants westwards to Hami (Kumul), Urumqi and Yining, and then reached the areas near the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

According to some experts, the total length of the historically important trade route is about 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles), among which approximately 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) of the route are inside China's territory. Nowadays, the immemorial Silk Road spreads over the five provinces in the Northwest Territories including Shaanxi Province, Gansu Province, Qinghai Province, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The road made a great contribution to the political, economic and cultural exchange between China and Central Asia, West Asia, India, Roman and Europe.
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