Silk Road Pictures
sand dunes and Half Crescent Lake, Dunhuang.
Photos © Denzil Watson
Chinese part of the Silk Road used to run from Shanghai north
west to Xian, Lanzhou, Jaiyuguan, Dunhuang, Urumqi and finally
From about 600 A.D. to 1360 A.D. there was a huge flow of trade
from Europe - particularly Rome - to the Chinese capital, Changan.
Market towns sprang up all along this route - such as Samarkand and Bactria in central Asia - and flourished, as did the taxmen,
charging duty on those who passed through.
China produced must-haves like silk, paper, bamboo, and gunpowder
while the west sent back gold, jade, glass and grapes.
The Silk Road became not only a profitable trade route but was
also a major factor in cultural exchange and developement of international
relations, though it also created strife as warlords fought to
control and tax traders passing through their areas.
The route was dangerous due to frequent attacks but in addition
the environment was extremely harsh in places, varying from deserts
to snowy mountains, with temperatures ranging from -20C to 50C.
Marco Polo was supposedly the first European to complete this
route. Later traders learnt to protect themselves by travelling
in convoys of men and beasts - camels or donkeys. These were know
images illustrate what you may see from Lanzhou to Kashgar in
China's north west, much of it Muslim rather than than Buddhist.
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