Introduction - Han Dynasty Silk Road FactsOne of the most interesting facts about the Han Dynasty is that it was during this period that the trade routes called the Silk Road (also called Silk Route) were established. Named for the Chinese silk trade, which utilized these routes, the Silk Road had great historic significance. Starting with the Han Dynasty the Silk Road facilitated trade between China and numerous ancient civilizations, including Rome, and enabled the exchange of ideas and knowledge between them. Below you will find lists of information about where these routes were, when they were established, and how they were used.
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Interesting Silk Road Facts
- Silk was one of the main products traded along the Silk Road. Due to its softness and beauty silk was in great demand in the ancient world. An interesting fact is that China was referred to as the "land of silk" by the ancient Romans.
- The Silk Road began at the ancient city of Chang'an (modern day Xian) and stretched over 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers) to the Mediterranean Sea. It crossed deserts, high mountains and many other natural obstacles.
- The Silk Road was primarily used to trade expensive luxury goods like silk. The routes were long and transporting goods by horse and camel was time consuming and expensive; therefore traders looked to sell smaller, lighter, and more expensive goods. Other popular products besides silk traded along these routes were porcelain, gold, silver, ivory, salt, spices, and tea.
- To protect themselves from thieves, merchants would usually travel along the Silk Road in large caravans.
- During the Han Dynasty the Great Wall of China was lengthened by many miles to help protect this trade route.
- Due to the arid sandy conditions along large areas of the Silk Road camels were used to transport goods.
- The famous European explorer Marco Polo (1254 to 1324.) traveled to China on the Silk Road.
- There were numerous cities and towns along these routes with merchants who served as middlemen. Traders would sell their products to these merchants who would in turn transport the products further down the route.
- There were numerous routes making up the Silk Road; often travelers had to decide whether to take a longer safer route or a shorter more dangerous one.
- Although established during the Han Dynasty this trade route saw its greatest expansion and use during the Tang Dynasty.
- Zhang Qian who was an envoy for the Han Dynasty under Emperor Wu of Han played an important role in establishing the Silk Road. He provided important reliable information about previously unknown regions. To this day he is held in high regard in China for opening up foreign trade.
- The Silk Road passed through the Taklamakan desert located in northwest China. This desert is one of the most hostile environments on earth; there is little rainfall or vegetation. Traders brave enough to cross this desert would rely on the few oases where they could find water.
- By the end of the fourteenth century improvements in navigation and ship building provided a more practical way to transport goods leading to the decreased importance of the Silk Road.