Timeline: from 2nd c. BC to end of 14th c.
Given in 1877 by a German geographer
Because of lucrative Chinese silk traded along the route
From Chang'an (Xi'an) in China
Through Central Asian (present day Uzbekistan) cities of Bukhara and Samarkand
To Mediterranean in West
Linked China to Roman Empire
Began during Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 220)
Expanded from 139 BC to 129 BC
Largely through missions
And explorations of Zhang Qian who journeyed to Western regions twice
Imperial envoy to world outside China 2nd c. BC
1st official diplomat to bring back reliable info. about Central Asia to Chinese court
Under Emperor Wu of Han
Opened China to trade
Compiled account of his travels in "Records of Grand Historian"
From Yellow Emperor to Emperor Wu of Han
Wars with Huns
Commanded by Wei Qin and Huo Qubing
Removed obstacles along the trade route
Relations were indirect
Through intermediates (Parthians and Kushans)
High quality glass
Manufactured goods from Alexandria and Syria
So popular in Rome that it was prohibited
Because too much Roman sesterces coins spent to buy it
And because it revealed too much.
Fa Xian (399-414)
Went to India to find better copies of Buddhist books than were available in China
Visited Buddhist holy sites.
Inspired other Buddhist monks (like Xuanzang)
Decline of Tang led to decline of Silk Road
An Lushan Rebellion, established rival Yan Dynasty (fell 763)