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     The Silk Road

No one knows for sure when the miraculously fine, light, soft, strong, shimmering, sensuous fabric spun from the cocoon of the Bombyx caterpillar first reached the West from China.

Ancient Silk Road

The main ways a period
of the Roman empire heyday,
about 200 years of A.D.

The period of Mongolian empire,
about 1260 years of A.D.

Silk Road
in approx the 2 Century A.D.

Silk Road
in approx the 7 Century A.D.

Silk Road
in approx the 13 Century A.D.

In the 4th century BC, Aristotle described a fibre that may have been Chinese silk. Some people give credit for history's first great industrial espionage coup to a Chinese princess who was departing to marry a Khotanese king.
The legend goes that she hid live worms and cocoons from customs agents so she would be able to wear silk in her distant home.
But even after the secret of sericulture arrived in the Mediterranean world, the Chinese silk was by far the best. Writing a short while after the time of Christ, Pliny the Elder was scandalised by the luxurious, transparent cloths which allowed Roman women to be "dressed and yet nude". He also fell wide of the mark in describing silk's origin and processing.
States, on the Iranian plateau, was the most voracious foreign consumer of Chinese silk at the close of the 2nd century BC. In about 105, exchanged embassies and inaugurated official bilateral trade along the caravan route that lay between them. With this the Silk Road was born, in fact if not in name.
It was said to take 200 days to traverse the route, though geographically the Silk Road was a complex and shifting proposition. It was no single road, but rather a web of caravan tracks that threaded through some of the highest mountains and bleakest deserts on earth.
Though the road map expanded over the centuries, the network had its main eastern terminus at the Chinese captial Ch'ang-an (modern Xian); west of there, the route divided at Dunhuang, one branch skirting the dreaded Taklamakan desert to the north through Turfan, Kucha and Aksu, while the other headed south via Khotan and Yarkand. The two forks met again in Kashgar, whence the trail headed up to any of a series of passes confronting the traveller who attempted to cross the Pamir and Tian Shan (one pass again in use today is the Torugart on the border with Kyrgyzstan).
Beyond the mountains, the Ferghana Valley fed westward through Kokand, Samarkand and Bukhara, past Merv and on to Iran, the Levant and Constantinople. Goods reached transshipment points on the Black and Mediterranean seas, where caravans took on cargo for the march back eastward over the same tracks. In the middle of the network, major branches headed south over the Karakoram range to India and north (North or Steppes road) via the Ili river across the Saka steppes.
Goods heading west and goods heading east did not fall into discrete bundles. In fact there was no "through traffic", caravanners were mostly short and medium-distance haulers who marketed and took on freight along a given beat according to their needs and inclinations.
In general, the eastern end was enriched by the importation of gold, silver, ivory, jade and other precious stones, wool, Mediterranean coloured glass (an industrial mystery originally as inscrutable to the Chinese as silk was in the West), grapes and wine, spices. Goods enriching the western end were silk, porcelain, spices, gems and perfumes.
And in the middle lay Central Asia, a great clearinghouse which provided its native beasts - horses and two-humped camels - to keep the goods flowing in both directions.
The Silk Road gave rise to unprecedented trade, but its true glory and unique status in human history were the result of the interchange of ideas, technologies and religions that occurred among the very different cultures that used it.

You will find additional information in corresponding city section you intend to visit

More information:
Kazakhstan [ RUS ENGL ]
Welcom to Kazakhstan [ RUS ENGL ]
The central State museum of Republic of Kazakhstan [ RUS ]
Balkhash city history and economy museum [ RUS ]
State museum of arts named after A. Kasteeva [ RUS ]
Pavlodar history and economy museum named after G.N. Potanin [ RUS ]
Mangistau history and economy museum [ RUS ]
Archaeology Museum attached to Archaeology institute named after A.Kh. Margulan [ RUS ]
People's musical instruments Museum named after Ykhlas [ RUS ]
Archaeological museum of Kazakh State University [ RUS ]
Historical museum of Kazakh State University [ RUS ]
Biological museum of Kazakh State University [ RUS ]
Republic of Kazakhstan National currency Museum [ RUS ]
Aktobe Regional history and economy museum [ RUS ]
Kostanay Regional history and economy museum [ RUS ]

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Copyright 2001,Albert