Since June 2014, a portion of all Silk Road Countries has been chosen as a World Heritage Site, in particular, that of the Chang’an-Tian-shan Road Corridor. Its extension is logically smaller than that of the initial crossing. If you want to know more about this interesting trade route, we tell you its story here.
Where does the Silk Road come from?
The origin of the concept of this route, or rather the term itself, can be found in the book Old and New Approaches to the Silk Road by German geographer Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen.
Various goods circulated along this route, such as precious stones and metals, woolen and linen fabrics, spices, glass, porcelain, among others. So it is not just a trade route for silk, although it has been considered the most valuable commodity.
The production of this precious material was a kept secret by the Chinese. The Parthians, inhabitants of Parthia, a historic region in northeastern Iran, traded with it, and it was they who introduced it to the rest of the world. The women of the Roman aristocracy became the main lovers of silk.
But the Silk Road countries did not use this route only for trade, they also used it for the dissemination of culture, art, scientific knowledge and even religion. Due to the rich use of this route, it has been considered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The countries of the Silk Road
A frequent question is how many kilometers does the Silk Road travel, because there are two different numbers. The reason ? Because the initial route covered a much larger area than what ultimately included in the heritage.
The original travels 8,000 kilometers; a network of roads that cross different continents, crossing the highest mountains and the harshest deserts. The starting point in Chang’an, China, now called Xi’an and initially went to Constantinople, now Istanbul.
Along the route, which has grown over the centuries, were hotels for merchants every 30 kilometers. This means that it took them several months to reach their final destination. Oddly, most of the trade moved from east to west. However, religious ideas have followed the opposite path.
The decline among the Silk Road countries occurred when China built its Great Wall and began to sever its ties to the rest of the world. Likewise, the new European powers discovered new sea routes in the 15th century and Central Asia fell into oblivion. Several centuries passed before a mission of explorers arrived in China and Freiherr von Richthofen coined its current name.
The Silk Road today
Due to the great extension of the route, all current routes through Central Asia inevitably pass through some of the first sections. Regarding the portion proposed by the Silk Road countries, it covers different points between China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
However, the place where all the threads of the road converge is in Uzbekistan. And that is why this section has become the most popular of the Silk Road. Its capital, Tashkent, combines modern and Soviet architecture, as the latter rebuilt the city. Close by is the ItchanKala de Jiva architectural complex, which, along with Burcará and Samarcanda, is part of the Triangle of Silk Road countries. There we can find various museums and monuments that we can visit, such as the impressive Madrasahs.
Thanks to them, it is possible to obtain information on the Silk Road and on the history of the country. They were responsible for keeping their religion alive and the roaring animal figures defied Islam’s prohibition on representing them.
Those who wish to delve deeper into the countries of the Silk Road should include the city of Kashgar in Sinkiang during their trip; one of the five autonomous regions that are part of the People’s Republic of China. Along the Karakorum route, we will reach the Himalayas, crossing over 4500 meters from Khunjerab Pass in Pakistan and the Hunza Valley. Finally, in Rawalpindi, we arrive at our destination, no more and no less than 1,300 kilometers from Kashgar.