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The Silk Road

Interactive Map of Cities Along the Silk Routes

It began with a single commodity, a material spun from a cocoon of a moth that became the clothing of emperors. Dr. Sam Willis, historian and broadcaster, BBC documentary, The Silk Road.

The world’s most iconic network of ancient trade routes that connected Asia, Europe and Africa, both by land and sea.

A contribution of many civilizations, the Silk Road paved the way to global trade; rich cultural, scientific, technological and religious exchanges, and shaped our interconnected world today.

The name Silk Road or Seidenstrassen was first coined by German geologist and explorer Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877.

It was named after the silk fibre discovered in 200 BC by Empress Hsi Ling Shi while sipping tea under a mulberry tree.

Originating in China’s ancient capital, Chang’an (known as Xian today), the two millennia old overland Silk Road spans over 5,000 miles, crisscrossing Central Asia passing through Turkey, Greece to Italy in Mediterranean Europe.

The world’s first super highway wove through deserts, oases, grasslands, mountains and forests.

On its maritime routes, it extended east to Korea and Japan, south to India, the African coast, Middle East and Southeast Asia.

According to UNESCO, around 50 countries run alongside the ancient Silk Road.

The network of overland and maritime trade routes flourish organically over time across Asia, Africa and Europe.

Travellers not only brought exotic spices and goods to faraway lands, but also their heritage, ideas and inventions including paper, ceramics, glass and believe it or not, trousers.

The Silk Road is where mathematics and astronomy were born.

 

From the main Silk Routes,  they branch out to destinations in neighbouring countries.

Venetian merchant and adventurer, Marco Polo, pioneered the route from Europe to Asia about 750 years ago.  The Silk Road fueled the Renaissance in Europe.

Empires have come and gone, but the Silk Road continues to serve as a Legacy of Exchanges Between East and West.

In 2013, China’s President Xi Jinping launched a modern re-take of the Silk Road with his government’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative to build infrastructures to boost trade and stimulate economic growth across Asia and beyond.

The OBOR initiative consists of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the inland Silk Road Economic Belt projects.

Unlike the ancient Silk Road that grew organically, the OBOR is a political and economic initiative undertaken by one country.