In ancient times, there were many land routes on the territory of Eurasia, but only one was able to become the main caravan route connecting East Asia with the Mediterranean. Only one was able to become a legend, a tale about which it is reaching us at the present time, and “silk blood” flowed in its veins.
The Great Silk Road is a grand trade route that connects East and West. First of all, it was used for the export of silk from China, with which its name is connected. Actually, the German geographer Baron von Richthofen called it Silk Road in 1877, before it this trade route was called the Western Meridional Way. The length of the Great Silk Road was 12 thousand km, one of the routes of the trade caravan passed on the territory of modern Uzbekistan.
The beginning of the Great Silk Road operation dates back to the second half of the 2nd century BC, when diplomat and intelligence officer Zhang Jiang first opened the Western Territory for the Chinese – the countries of Central Asia.
The first camel caravan with silk and bronze mirrors headed for the Fergana oasis through the Turfan depression along the Fire Mountains and the spurs of the Tien Shan in 121 BC.
Historians believe that the Great Silk Road was mainly used to transport goods: silk, spices, jewelry, but not for traveling people. Goods passed from hand to hand. Mainly they were taken to the destination on donkeys and camels.
At the same time, silk was not the only commodity that was transported along the transcontinental route. Horses, very valuable in China, military equipment, gold and silver, semi-precious stones and glassware, leather and wool, carpets and cotton fabrics, exotic fruits like watermelons and peaches, fat sheep and hunting dogs, leopards and lions were exported from Central Asia .
From China, caravans carried porcelain and metal items, lacquered products and cosmetics, tea and rice. In merchants’ travel bags one could find elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns, tortoise shells, spices, and much more.
It is worth noting that numerous oases existed on caravan routes and cities were flourished.
In the 1st century, the Great Silk Road connected Chinese Daqin and Serres. In the 4th – 9th centuries, the international trading network was supported by Sogdi in the east and by Jewish-rahdonites in the west. Sogdian language served as the language of international communication: for example, the sacred texts of Buddhism were translated from Sanskrit into Chinese through Sogdiana.
Trade along the Great Silk Road grew, especially after the sea route to China from the Persian Gulf was closed for some time in the XII century, and the entire flow of goods from the west rushed to China through Khorezm. For nearly fifty years, Khorezm became an important mediator in the trade of the whole world with China. Merchants from the Volga region, India, and Iran came here, trading caravans from here went to the Middle East, East Turkestan and China. From Urgench, the capital of Khorezm, they were led to Mongolia, through the Polovtsian steppes to Saksin (a port city at the mouth of the Volga), to Russian principalities and to Europe.
The Great Silk Road has shown a big role in the development of economic and cultural ties between the peoples of East Asia, the Caucasus, Central Asia and China. For example, religion (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Manichaeism), manufactory (the production of silk itself, as well as gunpowder, paper).
The significance of the Silk Road began to fall due to the beginning of the great geographical discoveries in the 14th century, and so rapidly that by the 16th century trade throughout the Great Silk Road fell into decay.
The international trade route has played its historical role in the development of the economy and culture of many countries.
An attempt was made to revitalize the ancient trade route connecting East and West. For this, the program of the international transport corridor Europe – the Caucasus – Asia “TRACECA” was developed, which is sometimes called the “new silk route”. In the summer of 1998, twelve countries of the Caucasus, the Black Sea and Central Asia reached an agreement on the creation of a railway, sea, air and road transport corridor from China and Mongolia to Europe, bypassing Russia. The program secretariat is located in Baku.