The Silk Road

The Silk Road丝绸之路

The long,winding and well-travelled Silk Road 漫长曲折、游客如织的丝調之路,a major Eurasian trade route, dates back to the second century BC with a history of more than 2,000 years. Its extremely important contribution to civilization has been renowned throughout the world, but the road itself still remains mysterious today. The Silk Road is closely associated with the Gobi Desert, grasslands, snow-capped mountains, grottoes, and the ruins of ancient cities, etc. Passed from lip to lip on the Silk Road were miraculous legends and romance, which told the rises and falls of successive dynasties in China.

For over 2,000 years, historians and archaeologists both at home and abroad have been on scene to unveil the mysteries of the Silk Road, a traffic passage, which started in Xian, the capital of Northwest China Shaanxi Province and ran westward for about 7,000 kilometres, through the western regions and provinces of China, on into several Central Asian countries before stretching down to Rome in the Mediterranean. The Silk Road runs through many time-honored cultures and civilizations in China, Asia Minor, India and the Persian Gulf, Greece and Italy. But it has left so many interesting subjects only a little light on a certain episode of its history. The early Chinese civilization already reached a very high standard more than 2,000 years ago.


Chinese government emissaries, traders and pious monks used to set out from Chang’an (former name for Xi’an) in their journeys through the (Gansu) Hexi Corridor (also known as the Silk Road Corridor), accounting for one-sixth of the total length of the Silk Road, along the rim of Taklamakan —the second largest desert of the world沿着世界第二大沙漠塔克拉玛干沙漠的边缘and across the Congling (Onion) Mountains in Western Xinjiang till they reached Western countries于新疆西部越过葱岭到达西方各国.The trade caravans were loaded mainly with silks and satins —valuables invented and manufactured in China, as high officials and nobles of the West took pride in putting on gorgeous Chinese silken robes. The silks so captured the fancy of people that this road came to be known as the famous Silk Road in the entire world.

The Silk Road was by no means a scene of desolation. The camels’ bells kept tinkling in the wild as one caravan after another travelled along the passage, which was lined with towns, checkpoints and courier stations. The merchants and traders also carried chinaware, lacquer ware, tea, gold vessels, silverware and other special products to the West. Introduced to the West through the same passage were the Chinese technologies of papermaking, printing, smelting, sericulture, gunpowder making, water conservancy and irrigation. China’s remarkable cultural achievements like medicine, astronomy, music and fine arts also made their way to the West, giving a powerful impetus to the economic and cultural progress there. Exchange of this kind was always a two-way thoroughfare. Through the Silk Road, Western countries also sent to China their fine glass, medicine, perfumes, spices, ivories, rhinoceros, horns, leather, hides, and strains of watermelon and grape as well as music, dance and religious arts, which helped enhance China’s economic and cultural growth. The Western religious culture, in particular, exerted an immense impact on the religious beliefs and social life of the Chinese people.


It is extremely true that the mysterious Silk Road provided a broad avenue for economic and cultural interaction between East and West in ancient times, which helped promote progress and friendship between the Chinese people and the peoples in the West. The Silk Road has become insignificant in terms of trade between East and West, but it is experiencing a new lease of life as a travelling route for both Chinese and overseas tourists,who wish to explore the mysteries of the fabled Silk Road, gain a better understanding of ancient history and see more of the world.

When tourists stand in the midst of Gobi sand dunes and take a look into the distant snow-capped mountains against the magnificent backdrop of a blue sky and tufts of white cloud, they almost immediately feel broadminded and relieved of all earthly worries. When tourists step into the grottoes at Dunhuang inscribed on the List of

World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987 ( commonly known as “ Thousand-Buddha Caves**), the Maiji (Wheat-Pile) Mountain and the Bingling (Thousand Buddhas or Hundred Thousand Buddhas in Tibetan 炳灵是藏语 “千佛”或“十万佛”之意)Cave Temple in Gansu Province,they will find the bright-coloured and vivid-looking murals and sculptures by ancient masters of art simply dazzling. They cannot help feeling excited for being able to enjoy these ancient gems of art with their own eyes. When visitors find themselves on the ruins of the ancient city of Jiaohe or Gaochang and perceive the inexorability of history, they cannot help having a sigh with emotion: the passage of time has gone to the length of reducing the flourishing ancient city to yellow mounds! When travelers rub shoulders with local residents of the Han and other

Chinese ethnic people, become their home —guests, see their art performances or stroll through their bazaars, they will find their pattern of life and customs simple and yet colorful, strange and yet intimate.

The ancient and celebrated Silk Road has stretched thousands of kilometres, resembling a dreamlike boulevard. Being a mirror of ancient history, it is calling to historians and archaeologists: as a mysterious and unique travelling route, it is calling to tourists throughout the world. To know, you must go!

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