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Role of The Great Silk Road in the World civilization

History of Great Silk Road

Great Silk Road played an important role in the process of integration of economy and culture of Eastern and Western peoples connecting the states of Eurasia from China till the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe.  According to the written sources, the discovery of these worlds for each other occurred only in the II c B.C. when the Chinese traveler Chian Tsian, crossing Alai Mountains got to Fergana then to Sogdiana and furthermore to Kushan State.  He opened Western world for China and put the beginning of formation of cultural-economic relations between them.  However, the formation of this Trans-Eurasian communication system had begun long before in the III-II millennium B.C. when exchange and later trade relations between independent ancient historical cultural regions originated. According to the elite goods these ancient trade routes were called by historians as azure, jade, sable or steppe roads.

Gradually, largest empires of those times –Rome and Byzantium in the Mediterranean and Europe, Iran in Near and Middle East, Kushan State in Central Asia and Khan in Far East started mutual, sometimes complicated political, trade and cultural relations  putting the beginning to the century-old contacts between the West and East.   Great Silk Road was not an invariable line which strictly went through definite cities or centers.  Trade and diplomatic caravans changed their routes and intermediate locations very often.  Only main direction East-West and North-South was strictly maintained.     Originated in ancient times the Great Silk Road had several stages in its development achieving the heydays in middle Ages. Each of the countries and each nation drawn into this system of international trade and contacts, naturally tried to contribute in its development and transformation of material and spiritual cultures. Manufacture and trade, as well as the widening the exchange and continuously growing consumption are the leading constituent parts of development and prosperity of independent states and society in the whole.

Interaction of Eurasian countries on this road became one of the factors of its development. Great Silk Road is a system of trade routes connecting countries of the Mediterranean with China and with the whole Far East.

This system has evolved gradually over the centuries and was not stable varying depending on certain historical events.  Exceptional importance of trade in the development of economy and culture is generally known. Since ancient times it contributed to the dissemination of technical, scientific and spiritual achievements gaining great cultural significance bringing together distant nations. Crafts developed, internal  trade grew,  images of cities changed.


Prominent American orientalist  Edward  Hetzel  Scheffer collected information about simple and rare goods imported to China over some centuries along the Great Silk Road from Korea and Machjuri, Mongolia and Eastern Turkestan, Tibet, Central Asia , India and Iran.

Among the rarest items he highlights amazing peaches in the size of cobblestones brought from Samarkand. They were of golden color for this reason had been called golden peaches, color and taste of these fruits admired contemporaries.

And no coincidence E.Scheffer called his book about rarest goods brought to the Empire as “Golden peaches of Samarkand”.

Great Silk Road started from the Great Wall of China in north-western boundaries of Chinese Empire and went along the edges of Gobi desert. The shortest route was from Dunhuang through the saline desert Taklamakan. Southernmost and earliest led along the mysterious mountains Kuenlunia to the Pamir, Badakhshan bypassing dangerous lands of nomads and then to Bactria, Balkh and furthermore to Near East.   From Bactria the route was to the north through the crossing of the Amudarya to Kesh and Sogd.  Second northernmost route led to the regions of Central Asia through passes to Uzgend, Osh, cities of Ferghana, to central regions of Central Asia.

According to the Chinese chronicles, here the land routes joining the river trail on the river Iosha-Yaksart- Sirdarya with goods led to Kanguy, Yantzi and Yantzai possessions. Main trade links passed through Davan ( In the upper  flow of the Yaksart) , a large blooming possession which was famous for its fine wine, fruits and precious horses.

From here China took away the secrets of grape and alfalfa production, heavenly breed horses, in its turn besides silk supplying with gold, silver and bringing here the iron production. All this was conducive to the wide spread of trade along the central route of the Great Silk Road in which Davan people were mentioned as people “ skillful in trade and competing in benefit ”.

White fabrics, copper, steel armors and weapons were brought from Ferghana. From Chach (Tashkent) that was tightly related to the nomads of steppe, to whom wool and skins were brought in large numbers from livestock:  wool fabrics of high quality, wonderful quivers and famous Chach bows and arrows, swords and knives, military tents, raincoats, carpets, prayer mats, yurts, blankets and robes made of leather, as well as, famous Chach ceramic dishes, horses and grain was brought     Boats, scented gum and soap were exported from Termez.

Scientists orientalists discovered surprisingly interesting written documents of that period, particularly, “ancient Sogdian writings” of III-IV cc. A.D..,   that belonged to  the merchant colonies of tradesmen from Samarkand, Bukhara, Termez and Chach  who settled in the ancient Dunhuan city  near the Great Wall of China.

Modern historians particularly distinguished Sogdians as initiative, brave and enterprising organizers of international trade.  “People of Kan Kingdom (Medieval Sogd had such name in China) are skillful tradesmen. When a boy turns five years old, he starts learning to read;  when he understands and distinguishes books he will be sent to study trading business” as Chinese ambassador Vei Tse informs.

Sogdian merchants dominated in all land routes, and their colonies were known from Japan till China, Caucasus and European countries.  A thick bundle of trade routes used to come together in Samarkand.

Their main branches led to the East to China, and to the west to Khorasan,  Duchy of Russia and to Byzantium, Caucasus, Khazaria and Eastern Europe.

Khorezm played an important role as a transit centre of trade being located in favorable crossroads from nomadic oasis of far countries  to Maverannahr.

It was like northern gates of Maverannahr , from where the routes opened to the nomads of Great Steppe to northern states as Khazariya, Bulgaria and cities of Russia. Almost all eastern geographers informed about it. The role of Khorezmian cities and among them Khiva increased with the development of southern branch of Great Silk road, as we all know goes through Samarkand, Bukhara and Khorezm, and rounding the Caspian Sea from the north went to the Caucasus and furthermore to Constantinople.

Khorezmian warriors accompanied caravans through the Oguz steppe, served in the Guard at European courts where there were a lot of Khorezmian merchants.


Nuralieva Raykhon Frunzevna
Magister, Termez Archeological Museum, translator,
+998-91-580-81-89, rayhon@iguide.uz, www.iguide.uz

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