The Great Silk Road is one of the wonderful achievements of the ancient civilizations. Transcontinental road for the first time in the mankind history connected two worlds - East and West.

The beginning of its function dates from the second part of the 2nd century BC when Chinese diplomat and traveler Zhang Qian opened countries of Central Asia to China. Thus two existing great roads were combined in new one. One, from countries of the Mediterranean Sea to Central Asia up to Yaksart-Sirdarya, prospected and passed by Hellenes and Macedonians during Alexander the Great’s campaign and by Seleucid commander Demodan. The second road, passed by Zhang Qian, started in Han Empire and led to Central Asia through Dayuan (Fergana), Kangju and Bactria.

From antique times Central Asian region played eminent role in the development of world trade. Having unique and highly profitable geographic location, Central Asia lied on the crossroad of important trade routes which connected East and West.

Cultural, religious, political and economical relationship between historical states of Middle and Central Asia began in the period of forming of early agriculture - the Neolithic period and developed in the Bronze Period. Different findings, mostly jewellery and house equipment found far from their origin, certify this relationship.

The most ancient trading route on the territory of Central Asia is “Lapis lazuli Road”. It was founded in 3-2 millennium BC. The road started from Pamir Mountains and went to Egypt through Iran and Middle East. The main trading product – lapis lazuli was mined in Badakhshan in Pamir Mountains. Road gave its name from this semi-precious stone. Products from Badakhshan lapis lazuli were found in tombs of Egypt pharaohs.

“Royal Road” belonged to Achaemenids Dynasty. In 6-4th centuries BC this road connected Small Asia, Ephesus and Sardis in the Mediterranean Sea with one of the capitals of Iran – Susa. One of “Royal Road” directions started in Iran and went to Altai through Bactria, Sogdiana, Tashkent oasis and Kazakhstan territory. The length of the “Royal Road” was 2857 km. Trade products of this period were found in mountains of Altai.

The name of the biggest trading route “The Great Silk Road” was given by German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877 year.

The length of the Great Silk Road was 12000 km. It started from the shore of Yellow Sea and through Eastern Turkestan, Central Asia, Iran, Mesopotamia went to Mediterranean Sea.

Main products exported from China were silk, ceramics, tea. Central Asia exported to China grape, walnut, pomegranate and other arable farming products, fabric, sheep leather, weapons, precious stones, horses, etc. Sogdiana exported to China wool fabric, carpets, jewellery, precious stones. Bactria exported camel, Fergana – horses, Badakhshan – lapis lazuli. Caravans with cotton fabric and cotton seeds came to Central Asia from India, rice - from China.

Sogdiana and Bactria took main place in world trade. It is well-knows that sogdians were skilled in trade and diplomacy. After Alexander the Great’s conquest of Sogd, sogdians settled to east. Sogdian trading stations arose along whole eastern part of the road from Central Asia till Chang An in China and Japan. They were the main caravan merchants of Central Asia. In 6th century Sogdian merchant Maniah having rounded Caspian Sea and sailed Black Sea arrived to Constantinople and established new route “Caucasian Silk Road”. There are facts that sogdians also traded in sea routes of the Great Silk Road which went from Arabia to India and China.

Except main roads of the Great Silk Road there were several caravan paths. Road to Pap and Zarkent, settlements of miners and nomad sites got the name “Golden” due to fabulous wealth of Kuramin and Alay Mountains and Zarafshan River.

There was also “Silver Road” along which caravans with Central Asian silver went to countries where this product was in shortage; through Hazar Khaganate, Bulgarian State to Kievan Rus and European countries. Silver, mined in Shash pit and on Kuhi-Sim Mountain (Silver Mountain) were used in coining. Judging by dirham (silver coin) findings in the territory of Russia, Germany and the Baltic countries, silver coins were taken out both as money and trading product.

Though silk was certainly the major trade item from China, many other goods were traded, and various technologies also traveled along the Great Silk Road. Knowledge, spiritual values and religious ideas, customs and traditions of different people disseminated through this road. Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Manichaeism and Islam spread across Eurasian continent through trade networks of the Great Silk Road. It played significant role in the development of the civilizations of both East and West.

The main trading cities, the centers of the Great Silk Road in Central Asia are still keeping the atmosphere of ancient times. Caravanserais and khanakos, hammams and bazaars are waiting for travelers. Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Merv, Termez, Fergana, Almaty, Penjikent, Khodjent...
Make your nearest trip to these fabulous cities on ancient caravan roads and feel the spirit of past times.

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