Main routes of the Silk Road
|Time period||Around 114 BCE – 1450s CE|
|Official name||Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan|
|Criteria||ii, iii, iv, vi|
|Designated||2014 (38th session)|
The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that connected the East and West. It was central to cultural interaction between the regions for many centuries. The Silk Road refers to both the terrestrial and the maritime routes connecting East Asia and Southeast Asia with East Africa, West Asia and Southern Europe.
The Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk carried out along its length, beginning in the Han dynasty (207 BCE–220 CE). The Han dynasty expanded the Central Asian section of the trade routes around 114 BCE through the missions and explorations of the Chinese imperial envoy Zhang Qian. The Chinese took great interest in the safety of their trade products and extended the Great Wall of China to ensure the protection of the trade route.
Trade on the Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, Korea, Japan, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Europe, the Horn of Africa and Arabia, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations. Though silk was the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, syncretic philosophies, sciences, and technologies. Diseases, most notably plague, also spread along the Silk Road. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network.
- 1 Name
- 2 History
- 2.1 Precursors
- 2.2 Chinese exploration of Central Asia
- 2.3 Roman Empire
- 2.4 Byzantine Empire
- 2.5 Tang dynasty reopens the route
- 2.6 Post-classical history
- 2.7 Islamic era and the Silk Road
- 2.8 Mongol age
- 2.9 Decline and disintegration
- 2.10 New Silk Road
- 3 Routes
- 4 Cultural exchanges
- 5 Commemoration
- 6 Foreign language terms
- 7 Gallery
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
The Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative Asian silk, a major reason for the connection of trade routes into an extensive transcontinental network. The German terms Seidenstraße and Seidenstraßen ("the Silk Road(s)") were coined by Ferdinand von Richthofen, who made seven expeditions to China from 1868 to 1872. The term Silk Route is also used. Although the term was coined in the 19th century, it did not gain widespread acceptance in academia or popularity among the public until the 20th century. The first book entitled The Silk Road was by Swedish geographer Sven Hedin in 1938. The fall of the Soviet Union and 'Iron Curtain' in 1989 led to a surge of public and academic interest in Silk Road sites and studies in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
Use of the term 'Silk Road' is not without its detractors. For instance, Warwick Ball contends that the maritime spice trade with India and Arabia was far more consequential for the economy of the Roman Empire than the silk trade with China, which at sea was conducted mostly through India and on land was handled by numerous intermediaries such as the Sogdians. Going as far as to call the whole thing a "myth" of modern academia, Ball argues that there was no coherent overland trade system and no free movement of goods from East Asia to the West until the period of the Mongol Empire. He notes that traditional authors discussing East-West trade such as Marco Polo and Edward Gibbon never labelled any route a "silk" one in particular.
Chinese and Central Asian contacts
Central Eurasia has been known from ancient times for its horse riding and horse breeding communities, and the overland Steppe Route across the northern steppes of Central Eurasia was in use long before that of the Silk Road. Archeological sites such as the Berel burial ground in Kazakhstan, confirmed that the nomadic Arimaspians were not only breeding horses for trade but also great craftsmen able to propagate exquisite art pieces along the Silk Road. From the 2nd millennium BCE, nephrite jade was being traded from mines in the region of Yarkand and Khotan to China. Significantly, these mines were not very far from the lapis lazuli and spinel ("Balas Ruby") mines in Badakhshan, and, although separated by the formidable Pamir Mountains, routes across them were apparently in use from very early times.
Some remnants of what was probably Chinese silk dating from 1070 BCE have been found in Ancient Egypt. The Great Oasis cities of Central Asia played a crucial role in the effective functioning of the Silk Road trade. The originating source seems sufficiently reliable, but silk degrades very rapidly, so it cannot be verified whether it was cultivated silk (which almost certainly came from China) or a type of wild silk, which might have come from the Mediterranean or Middle East.
Following contacts between Metropolitan China and nomadic western border territories in the 8th century BCE, gold was introduced from Central Asia, and Chinese jade carvers began to make imitation designs of the steppes, adopting the Scythian-style animal art of the steppes (depictions of animals locked in combat). This style is particularly reflected in the rectangular belt plaques made of gold and bronze, with other versions in jade and steatite. An elite burial near Stuttgart, Germany, dated to the 6th century BCE, was excavated and found to have not only Greek bronzes but also Chinese silks. Similar animal-shaped pieces of art and wrestler motifs on belts have been found in Scythian grave sites stretching from the Black Sea region all the way to Warring States era archaeological sites in Inner Mongolia (at Aluchaideng) and Shaanxi (at Keshengzhuang) in China.
The expansion of Scythian cultures, stretching from the Hungarian plain and the Carpathian Mountains to the Chinese Kansu Corridor, and linking the Middle East with Northern India and the Punjab, undoubtedly played an important role in the development of the Silk Road. Scythians accompanied the Assyrian Esarhaddon on his invasion of Egypt, and their distinctive triangular arrowheads have been found as far south as Aswan. These nomadic peoples were dependent upon neighbouring settled populations for a number of important technologies, and in addition to raiding vulnerable settlements for these commodities, they also encouraged long-distance merchants as a source of income through the enforced payment of tariffs. Sogdians played a major role in facilitating trade between China and Central Asia along the Silk Roads as late as the 10th century, their language serving as a lingua franca for Asian trade as far back as the 4th century.
Persian Royal Road
By the time of Herodotus (c. 475 BCE), the Royal Road of the Persian Empire ran some 2,857 km (1,775 mi) from the city of Susa on the Karun (250 km (155 mi) east of the Tigris) to the port of Smyrna (modern İzmir in Turkey) on the Aegean Sea. It was maintained and protected by the Achaemenid Empire (c. 500–330 BCE) and had postal stations and relays at regular intervals. By having fresh horses and riders ready at each relay, royal couriers could carry messages and traverse the length of the road in nine days, while normal travellers took about three months.
The next major step in the development of the Silk Road was the expansion of the Greek empire of Alexander the Great into Central Asia. In August 329 BC, at the mouth of the Fergana Valley in Tajikistan, he founded the city of Alexandria Eschate or "Alexandria The Furthest".
The Greeks remained in Central Asia for the next three centuries, first through the administration of the Seleucid Empire, and then with the establishment of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom (250–125 BCE) in Bactria (modern Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan) and the later Indo-Greek Kingdom (180 BCE – 10 CE) in modern Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. They continued to expand eastward, especially during the reign of Euthydemus (230–200 BCE), who extended his control beyond Alexandria Eschate to Sogdiana. There are indications that he may have led expeditions as far as Kashgar in Chinese Turkestan, leading to the first known contacts between China and the West around 200 BCE. The Greek historian Strabo writes, "they extended their empire even as far as the Seres (China) and the Phryni."
Chinese exploration of Central Asia
With the Mediterranean linked to the Fergana Valley, the next step was to open a route across the Tarim Basin and the Hexi Corridor to China Proper. This extension came around 130 BCE, with the embassies of the Han dynasty to Central Asia following the reports of the ambassador Zhang Qian (who was originally sent to obtain an alliance with the Yuezhi against the Xiongnu). Zhang Qian visited directly the kingdom of Dayuan in Ferghana, the territories of the Yuezhi in Transoxiana, the Bactrian country of Daxia with its remnants of Greco-Bactrian rule, and Kangju. He also made reports on neighbouring countries that he did not visit, such as Anxi (Parthia), Tiaozhi (Mesopotamia), Shendu (Pakistan) and the Wusun. Zhang Qian's report suggested the economic reason for Chinese expansion and wall-building westward, and trailblazed the silk road, which is one of the most famous trade routes. After the defeat of the Xiongnu, however, Chinese armies established themselves in Central Asia, initiating the Silk Route as a major avenue of international trade. Some say that the Chinese Emperor Wu became interested in developing commercial relationships with the sophisticated urban civilizations of Ferghana, Bactria, and the Parthian Empire: "The Son of Heaven on hearing all this reasoned thus: Ferghana (Dayuan "Great Ionians") and the possessions of Bactria (Ta-Hsia) and Parthian Empire (Anxi) are large countries, full of rare things, with a population living in fixed abodes and given to occupations somewhat identical with those of the Chinese people, but with weak armies, and placing great value on the rich produce of China" (Hou Hanshu, Later Han History). Others say that Emperor Wu was mainly interested in fighting the Xiongnu and that major trade began only after the Chinese pacified the Hexi Corridor.
The Silk Roads' origin lay in the hands of the Chinese. The soil in China lacked Selenium, a deficiency which contributed to muscular weakness and reduced growth in horses. Consequently, horses in China were too frail to support the weight of a Chinese soldier. The Chinese needed the superior horses that nomads bred on the Eurasian steppes, and nomads wanted things only agricultural societies produced, such as grain and silk. Even after the construction of the Great Wall, nomads gathered at the gates of the wall to exchange. Soldiers sent to guard the wall were often paid in silk which they traded with the nomads. Past its inception, the Chinese continued to dominate the Silk Roads, a process which was accelerated when "China snatched control of the Silk Road from the Hsiung-nu" and the Chinese general Cheng Ki "installed himself as protector of the Tarim at Wu-lei, situated between Kara Shahr and Kucha." "China's control of the Silk Road at the time of the later Han, by ensuring the freedom of transcontinental trade along the double chain of oases north and south of the Tarim, favoured the dissemination of Buddhism in the river basin, and with it Indian literature and Hellenistic art."
The Chinese were also strongly attracted by the tall and powerful horses (named "Heavenly horses") in the possession of the Dayuan (literally the "Great Ionians", the Greek kingdoms of Central Asia), which were of capital importance in fighting the nomadic Xiongnu. The Chinese subsequently sent numerous embassies, around ten every year, to these countries and as far as Seleucid Syria. "Thus more embassies were dispatched to Anxi [Parthia], Yancai [who later joined the Alans ], Lijian [Syria under the Greek Seleucids], Tiaozhi (Mesopotamia), and Tianzhu [northwestern India]... As a rule, rather more than ten such missions went forward in the course of a year, and at the least five or six." (Hou Hanshu, Later Han History).These connections marked the beginning of the Silk Road trade network that extended to the Roman Empire. The Chinese campaigned in Central Asia on several occasions, and direct encounters between Han troops and Roman legionaries (probably captured or recruited as mercenaries by the Xiong Nu) are recorded, particularly in the 36 BCE battle of Sogdiana (Joseph Needham, Sidney Shapiro). It has been suggested that the Chinese crossbow was transmitted to the Roman world on such occasions, although the Greek gastraphetes provides an alternative origin. R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy suggest that in 36 BCE, a "Han expedition into central Asia, west of Jaxartes River, apparently encountered and defeated a contingent of Roman legionaries. The Romans may have been part of Antony's army invading Parthia. Sogdiana (modern Bukhara), east of the Oxus River, on the Polytimetus River, was apparently the most easterly penetration ever made by Roman forces in Asia. The margin of Chinese victory appears to have been their crossbows, whose bolts and darts seem easily to have penetrated Roman shields and armour." The Roman historian Florus also describes the visit of numerous envoys, which included Seres(China), to the first Roman Emperor Augustus, who reigned between 27 BCE and 14 CE:
Even the rest of the nations of the world which were not subject to the imperial sway were sensible of its grandeur, and looked with reverence to the Roman people, the great conqueror of nations. Thus even Scythians and Sarmatians sent envoys to seek the friendship of Rome. Nay, the Seres came likewise, and the Indians who dwelt beneath the vertical sun, bringing presents of precious stones and pearls and elephants, but thinking all of less moment than the vastness of the journey which they had undertaken, and which they said had occupied four years. In truth it needed but to look at their complexion to see that they were people of another world than ours.— Henry Yule, Cathay and the Way Thither (1866)
The Han army regularly policed the trade route against nomadic bandit forces generally identified as Xiongnu. Han general Ban Chao led an army of 70,000 mounted infantry and light cavalry troops in the 1st century CE to secure the trade routes, reaching far west to the Tarim basin. Ban Chao expanded his conquests across the Pamirs to the shores of the Caspian Sea and the borders of Parthia. It was from here that the Han general dispatched envoy Gan Ying to Daqin (Rome). The Silk Road essentially came into being from the 1st century BCE, following these efforts by China to consolidate a road to the Western world and India, both through direct settlements in the area of the Tarim Basin and diplomatic relations with the countries of the Dayuan, Parthians and Bactrians further west. The Silk Roads were a "complex network of trade routes" that gave people the chance to exchange goods and culture.
A maritime Silk Route opened up between Chinese-controlled Giao Chỉ (centred in modern Vietnam, near Hanoi), probably by the 1st century. It extended, via ports on the coasts of India and Sri Lanka, all the way to Roman-controlled ports in Roman Egypt and the Nabataean territories on the northeastern coast of the Red Sea. The earliest Roman glassware bowl found in China was unearthed from a Western Han tomb in Guangzhou, dated to the early 1st century BCE, indicating that Roman commercial items were being imported through the South China Sea. According to Chinese dynastic histories, it is from this region that the Roman embassies arrived in China, beginning in 166 CE during the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Emperor Huan of Han. Other Roman glasswares have been found in Eastern-Han-era tombs (25–220 CE) more further inland in Nanjing and Luoyang. P.O. Harper asserts that a 2nd or 3rd-century Roman gilt silver plate found in Jingyuan, Gansu, China with a central image of the Greco-Roman god Dionysus resting on a feline creature, most likely came via Greater Iran (i.e. Sogdiana). Valerie Hansen (2012) believed that earliest Roman coins found in China date to the 4th century, during Late Antiquity and the Dominate period, and come from the Byzantine Empire. However, Warwick Ball (2016) highlights the recent discovery of sixteen Principate-era Roman coins found in Xi'an (formerly Chang'an, one of the two Han capitals) that were minted during the reigns of Roman emperors spanning from Tiberius to Aurelian (i.e. 1st to 3rd centuries CE). It is true that these coins were found in China, but they were deposited there in the twentieth century, not in ancient times, and therefore they do not shed light on historic contacts between China and Rome. Roman golden medallions made during the reign of Antoninus Pius and quite possibly his successor Marcus Aurelius have been found at Óc Eo in southern Vietnam, which was then part of the Kingdom of Funan bordering the Chinese province of Jiaozhi in northern Vietnam. Given the archaeological finds of Mediterranean artefacts made by Louis Malleret in the 1940s, Óc Eo may have been the same site as the port city of Kattigara described by Ptolemy in his Geography (c. 150 CE), although Ferdinand von Richthofen had previously believed it was closer to Hanoi.
Soon after the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BCE, regular communications and trade between China, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe blossomed on an unprecedented scale. The Roman Empire inherited eastern trade routes that were part of the Silk Road from the earlier Hellenistic powers and the Arabs. With control of these trade routes, citizens of the Roman Empire received new luxuries and greater prosperity for the Empire as a whole. The Roman-style glassware discovered in the archeological sites of Gyeongju, capital of the Silla kingdom (Korea) showed that Roman artifacts were traded as far as the Korean peninsula. The Greco-Roman trade with India started by Eudoxus of Cyzicus in 130 BCE continued to increase, and according to Strabo (II.5.12), by the time of Augustus, up to 120 ships were setting sail every year from Myos Hormos in Roman Egypt to India. The Roman Empire connected with the Central Asian Silk Road through their ports in Barygaza (known today as Bharuch ) and Barbaricum (known today as the cities of Karachi, Sindh, and Pakistan ) and continued along the western coast of India. An ancient "travel guide" to this Indian Ocean trade route was the Greek Periplus of the Erythraean Sea written in 60 CE.
The travelling party of Maës Titianus penetrated farthest east along the Silk Road from the Mediterranean world, probably with the aim of regularising contacts and reducing the role of middlemen, during one of the lulls in Rome's intermittent wars with Parthia, which repeatedly obstructed movement along the Silk Road. Intercontinental trade and communication became regular, organised, and protected by the 'Great Powers.' Intense trade with the Roman Empire soon followed, confirmed by the Roman craze for Chinese silk (supplied through the Parthians), even though the Romans thought silk was obtained from trees. This belief was affirmed by Seneca the Younger in his Phaedra and by Virgil in his Georgics. Notably, Pliny the Elder knew better. Speaking of the bombyx or silk moth, he wrote in his Natural Histories "They weave webs, like spiders, that become a luxurious clothing material for women, called silk." The Romans traded spices, glassware, perfumes, and silk.
Roman artisans began to replace yarn with valuable plain silk cloths from China and the Silla Kingdom in Gyeongju, Korea. Chinese wealth grew as they delivered silk and other luxury goods to the Roman Empire, whose wealthy women admired their beauty. The Roman Senate issued, in vain, several edicts to prohibit the wearing of silk, on economic and moral grounds: the import of Chinese silk caused a huge outflow of gold, and silk clothes were considered decadent and immoral.
I can see clothes of silk, if materials that do not hide the body, nor even one's decency, can be called clothes... Wretched flocks of maids labour so that the adulteress may be visible through her thin dress, so that her husband has no more acquaintance than any outsider or foreigner with his wife's body.
The West Roman Empire, and its demand for sophisticated Asian products, crumbled in the West around the 5th century.
The unification of Central Asia and Northern India within the Kushan Empire in the 1st to 3rd centuries reinforced the role of the powerful merchants from Bactria and Taxila. They fostered multi-cultural interaction as indicated by their 2nd century treasure hoards filled with products from the Greco-Roman world, China, and India, such as in the archeological site of Begram.
Byzantine Greek historian Procopius stated that two Nestorian Christian monks eventually uncovered the way silk was made. From this revelation, monks were sent by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (ruled 527–565) as spies on the Silk Road from Constantinople to China and back to steal the silkworm eggs, resulting in silk production in the Mediterranean, particularly in Thrace in northern Greece, and giving the Byzantine Empire a monopoly on silk production in medieval Europe. In 568 the Byzantine ruler Justin II was greeted by a Sogdian embassy representing Istämi, ruler of the Turkic Khaganate, who formed an alliance with the Byzantines against Khosrow I of the Sasanian Empire that allowed the Byzantines to bypass the Sasanian merchants and trade directly with the Sogdians for purchasing Chinese silk. Although the Byzantines had already procured silkworm eggs from China by this point, the quality of Chinese silk was still far greater than anything produced in the West, a fact that is perhaps emphasized by the discovery of coins minted by Justin II found in a Chinese tomb of Shanxi province dated to the Sui dynasty (581–618).
Both the Old Book of Tang and New Book of Tang, covering the history of the Chinese Tang dynasty (618–907), record that a new state called Fu-lin (拂菻; i.e. Byzantine Empire) was virtually identical to the previous Daqin (大秦; i.e. Roman Empire). Several Fu-lin embassies were recorded for the Tang period, starting in 643 with an alleged embassy by Constans II (transliterated as Bo duo li, 波多力, from his nickname "Kōnstantinos Pogonatos") to the court of Emperor Taizong of Tang. The History of Song describes the final embassy and its arrival in 1081, apparently sent by Michael VII Doukas (transliterated as Mie li sha ling kai sa, 滅力沙靈改撒, from his name and title Michael VII Parapinakēs Caesar) to the court of Emperor Shenzong of the Song dynasty (960–1279). However, the History of Yuan claims that a Byzantine man became a leading astronomer and physician in Khanbaliq, at the court of Kublai Khan, Mongol founder of the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) and was even granted the noble title 'Prince of Fu lin' (Chinese: 拂菻王; Fú lǐn wáng). The Uyghur Nestorian Christian diplomat Rabban Bar Sauma, who set out from his Chinese home in Khanbaliq (Beijing) and acted as a representative for Arghun (a grandnephew of Kublai Khan), traveled throughout Europe and attempted to secure military alliances with Edward I of England, Philip IV of France, Pope Nicholas IV, as well as the Byzantine ruler Andronikos II Palaiologos. Andronikos II had two half-sisters who were married to great-grandsons of Genghis Khan, which made him an in-law with the Yuan-dynasty Mongol ruler in Beijing, Kublai Khan. The History of Ming preserves an account where the Hongwu Emperor, after founding the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), had a supposed Byzantine merchant named Nieh-ku-lun (捏古倫) deliver his proclamation about the establishment of a new dynasty to the Byzantine court of John V Palaiologos in September 1371. Friedrich Hirth (1885), Emil Bretschneider (1888), and more recently Edward Luttwak (2009) presumed that this was none other than Nicolaus de Bentra, a Roman Catholic bishop of Khanbilaq chosen by Pope John XXII to replace the previous archbishop John of Montecorvino.
Tang dynasty reopens the route
Although the Silk Road was initially formulated during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han (141–87 BCE), it was reopened by the Tang Empire in 639 when Hou Junji conquered the Western Regions, and remained open for almost four decades. It was closed after the Tibetans captured it in 678, but in 699, during Empress Wu's period, the Silk Road reopened when the Tang reconquered the Four Garrisons of Anxi originally installed in 640, once again connecting China directly to the West for land-based trade. The Tang captured the vital route through the Gilgit Valley from Tibet in 722, lost it to the Tibetans in 737, and regained it under the command of the Goguryeo-Korean General Gao Xianzhi.
While the Turks were settled in the Ordos region (former territory of the Xiongnu), the Tang government took on the military policy of dominating the central steppe. The Tang dynasty (along with Turkic allies) conquered and subdued Central Asia during the 640s and 650s. During Emperor Taizong's reign alone, large campaigns were launched against not only the Göktürks, but also separate campaigns against the Tuyuhun, the oasis states, and the Xueyantuo. Under Emperor Taizong, Tang general Li Jing conquered the Eastern Turkic Khaganate. Under Emperor Gaozong, Tang general Su Dingfang conquered the Western Turkic Khaganate, which was an important ally of Byzantine empire. After these conquests, the Tang dynasty fully controlled the Xiyu, which was the strategic location astride the Silk Road. This led the Tang dynasty to reopen the Silk Road.
The Tang dynasty established a second Pax Sinica, and the Silk Road reached its golden age, whereby Persian and Sogdian merchants benefited from the commerce between East and West. At the same time, the Chinese empire welcomed foreign cultures, making it very cosmopolitan in its urban centres. In addition to the land route, the Tang dynasty also developed the maritime Silk Route. Chinese envoys had been sailing through the Indian Ocean to India since perhaps the 2nd century BCE, yet it was during the Tang dynasty that a strong Chinese maritime presence could be found in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea into Persia, Mesopotamia (sailing up the Euphrates River in modern-day Iraq), Arabia, Egypt, Aksum (Ethiopia), and Somalia in the Horn of Africa.
The Silk Road represents an early phenomenon of political and cultural integration due to inter-regional trade. In its heyday, it sustained an international culture that strung together groups as diverse as the Magyars, Armenians, and Chinese. The Silk Road reached its peak in the west during the time of the Byzantine Empire; in the Nile-Oxus section, from the Sassanid Empire period to the Il Khanate period; and in the sinitic zone from the Three Kingdoms period to the Yuan dynasty period. Trade between East and West also developed across the Indian Ocean, between Alexandria in Egypt and Guangzhou in China. Persian Sassanid coins emerged as a means of currency, just as valuable as silk yarn and textiles.
Under its strong integrating dynamics on the one hand and the impacts of change it transmitted on the other, tribal societies previously living in isolation along the Silk Road, and pastoralists who were of barbarian cultural development, were drawn to the riches and opportunities of the civilisations connected by the routes, taking on the trades of marauders or mercenaries. "Many barbarian tribes became skilled warriors able to conquer rich cities and fertile lands and to forge strong military empires."
The Sogdians dominated the East-West trade after the 4th century up to the 8th century, with Suyab and Talas ranking among their main centres in the north. They were the main caravan merchants of Central Asia. Their commercial interests were protected by the resurgent military power of the Göktürks, whose empire has been described as "the joint enterprise of the Ashina clan and the Soghdians". A.V. Dybo noted that "according to historians, the main driving force of the Great Silk Road were not just Sogdians, but the carriers of a mixed Sogdian-Türkic culture that often came from mixed families." Their trade, with some interruptions, continued in the 9th century within the framework of the Uighur Empire, which until 840 extended across northern Central Asia and obtained from China enormous deliveries of silk in exchange for horses. At this time caravans of Sogdians travelling to Upper Mongolia are mentioned in Chinese sources. They played an equally important religious and cultural role. Part of the data about eastern Asia provided by Muslim geographers of the 10th century actually goes back to Sogdian data of the period 750–840 and thus shows the survival of links between east and west. However, after the end of the Uighur Empire, Sogdian trade went through a crisis. What mainly issued from Muslim Central Asia was the trade of the Samanids, which resumed the northwestern road leading to the Khazars and the Urals and the northeastern one toward the nearby Turkic tribes.
Islamic era and the Silk Road
At the end of its glory, the routes brought about the largest continental empire ever, the Mongol Empire, with its political centres strung along the Silk Road (Beijing in North China, Karakorum in central Mongolia, Sarmakhand in Transoxiana, Tabriz in Northern Iran, Sarai and Astrakhan in lower Volga, Solkhat in Crimea, Kazan in Central Russia, Erzurum in eastern Anatolia), realising the political unification of zones previously loosely and intermittently connected by material and cultural goods.
The Islamic world was expanded into Central Asia during the 8th century, under the Umayyad Caliphate, while its successor the Abbasid Caliphate put a halt to Chinese westward expansion at the Battle of Talas in 751 (near the Talas River in modern-day Kyrgyzstan). However, following the disastrous An Lushan Rebellion (755–763) and the conquest of the Western Regions by the Tibetan Empire, the Tang Empire was unable to reassert its control over Central Asia. Contemporary Tang authors noted how the dynasty had gone into decline after this point. In 848 the Tang Chinese, led by the commander Zhang Yichao, were only able to reclaim the Hexi Corridor and Dunhuang in Gansu from the Tibetans. The Persian Samanid Empire (819–999) centered in Bukhara (Uzbekistan) continued the trade legacy of the Sogdians. The disruptions of trade were curtailed in that part of the world by the end of the 10th century and conquests of Central Asia by the Turkic Islamic Kara-Khanid Khanate, yet Nestorian Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and Buddhism in Central Asia virtually disappeared.
During the early 13th century Khwarezmia was invaded by the early Mongol Empire. The Mongol ruler Genghis Khan had the once vibrant cities of Bukhara and Samarkand burned to the ground after besieging them. However, in 1370 Samarkand saw a revival as the capital of the new Timurid Empire. The Turko-Mongol ruler Timur forcefully moved artisans and intellectuals from across Asia to Samarkand, making it one of the most important trade centers and cultural entrepôts of the Islamic world.
The Mongol expansion throughout the Asian continent from around 1207 to 1360 helped bring political stability and re-established the Silk Road (via Karakorum). It also brought an end to the dominance of the Islamic Caliphate over world trade. Because the Mongols came to control the trade routes, trade circulated throughout the region, though they never abandoned their nomadic lifestyle.
The Mongol rulers wanted to establish their capital on the Central Asian steppe, so to accomplish this goal, after every conquest they enlisted local people (traders, scholars, artisans) to help them construct and manage their empire.
The Mongol diplomat Rabban Bar Sauma visited the courts of Europe in 1287–88 and provided a detailed written report to the Mongols. Around the same time, the Venetian explorer Marco Polo became one of the first Europeans to travel the Silk Road to China. His tales, documented in The Travels of Marco Polo, opened Western eyes to some of the customs of the Far East. He was not the first to bring back stories, but he was one of the most widely read. He had been preceded by numerous Christian missionaries to the East, such as William of Rubruck, Benedykt Polak, Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, and Andrew of Longjumeau. Later envoys included Odoric of Pordenone, Giovanni de' Marignolli, John of Montecorvino, Niccolò de' Conti, and Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan Muslim traveller who passed through the present-day Middle East and across the Silk Road from Tabriz between 1325–54.
In the 13th century efforts were made at forming a Franco-Mongol alliance, with an exchange of ambassadors and (failed) attempts at military collaboration in the Holy Land during the later Crusades. Eventually the Mongols in the Ilkhanate, after they had destroyed the Abbasid and Ayyubid dynasties, converted to Islam and signed the 1323 Treaty of Aleppo with the surviving Muslim power, the Egyptian Mamluks.
Some studies indicate that the Black Death, which devastated Europe starting in the late 1340s, may have reached Europe from Central Asia (or China) along the trade routes of the Mongol Empire. One theory holds that Genoese traders coming from the entrepot of Trebizond in northern Turkey carried the disease to Western Europe; like many other outbreaks of plague, there is strong evidence that it originated in marmots in Central Asia and was carried westwards to the Black Sea by Silk Road traders.
Decline and disintegration
This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The fragmentation of the Mongol Empire loosened the political, cultural, and economic unity of the Silk Road. Turkmeni marching lords seized land around the western part of the Silk Road from the decaying Byzantine Empire. After the fall of the Mongol Empire, the great political powers along the Silk Road became economically and culturally separated. Accompanying the crystallisation of regional states was the decline of nomad power, partly due to the devastation of the Black Death and partly due to the encroachment of sedentary civilisations equipped with gunpowder.
The consolidation of the Ottoman and Safavid empires in the West Asia led to a revival of overland trade, interrupted sporadically by warfare between them. The silk trade continued to flourish until it was disrupted by the collapse of the Safavid Empire in the 1720s.
New Silk Road
The Eurasian Land Bridge (a railway through China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia) is sometimes referred to as the "New Silk Road". The last link in one of these two railway routes was completed in 1990, when the railway systems of China and Kazakhstan connected at Alataw Pass (Alashan Kou). In 2008 the line was used to connect the cities of Ürümqi in China's Xinjiang Province to Almaty and Astana in Kazakhstan. In October 2008 the first Trans-Eurasia Logistics train reached Hamburg from Xiangtan. Starting in July 2011 the line has been used by a freight service that connects Chongqing, China with Duisburg, Germany, cutting travel time for cargo from about 36 days by container ship to just 13 days by freight train. In 2013, Hewlett-Packard began moving large freight trains of laptop computers and monitors along this rail route. In January 2017, the service sent its first train to London. The network additionally connects to Madrid and Milan.
Belt and Road Initiative
In September 2013, during a visit to Kazakhstan, Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced a plan for a New Silk Road from China to Europe. The latest iterations of this plan, dubbed the "Belt and Road Initiative" (BRI), includes a land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, with primary points in Ürümqi, Dostyk, Astana, Gomel, the Belarussian city of Brest, and the Polish cities of Małaszewicze and Łódź—which would be hubs of logistics and transshipment to other countries of Europe.
On 15 February 2016, with a change in routing, the first train dispatched under the scheme arrived from eastern Zhejiang Province to Tehran. Though this section does not complete the Silk Road–style overland connection between China and Europe, plans are underway to extend the route past Tehran, through Istanbul, into Europe. The actual route went through Almaty, Bishkek, Samarkand, and Dushanbe.
The Silk Road consisted of several routes. As it extended westwards from the ancient commercial centres of China, the overland, intercontinental Silk Road divided into northern and southern routes bypassing the Taklamakan Desert and Lop Nur. Merchants along these routes where involved in "relay trade" in which goods changed "hands many times before reaching their final destinations."
The northern route started at Chang'an (now called Xi'an), an ancient capital of China that was moved further east during the Later Han to Luoyang. The route was defined around the 1st century BCE when Han Wudi put an end to harassment by nomadic tribes.
The northern route travelled northwest through the Chinese province of Gansu from Shaanxi Province and split into three further routes, two of them following the mountain ranges to the north and south of the Taklamakan Desert to rejoin at Kashgar, and the other going north of the Tian Shan mountains through Turpan, Talgar, and Almaty (in what is now southeast Kazakhstan). The routes split again west of Kashgar, with a southern branch heading down the Alai Valley towards Termez (in modern Uzbekistan) and Balkh (Afghanistan), while the other travelled through Kokand in the Fergana Valley (in present-day eastern Uzbekistan) and then west across the Karakum Desert. Both routes joined the main southern route before reaching ancient Merv, Turkmenistan. Another branch of the northern route turned northwest past the Aral Sea and north of the Caspian Sea, then and on to the Black Sea.
A route for caravans, the northern Silk Road brought to China many goods such as "dates, saffron powder and pistachio nuts from Persia; frankincense, aloes and myrrh from Somalia; sandalwood from India; glass bottles from Egypt, and other expensive and desirable goods from other parts of the world." In exchange, the caravans sent back bolts of silk brocade, lacquer-ware, and porcelain.
The southern route or Karakoram route was mainly a single route from China through the Karakoram mountains, where it persists in modern times as the Karakoram Highway, a paved road that connects Pakistan and China. It then set off westwards, but with southward spurs so travelers could complete the journey by sea from various points. Crossing the high mountains, it passed through northern Pakistan, over the Hindu Kush mountains, and into Afghanistan, rejoining the northern route near Merv, Turkmenistan. From Merv, it followed a nearly straight line west through mountainous northern Iran, Mesopotamia, and the northern tip of the Syrian Desert to the Levant, where Mediterranean trading ships plied regular routes to Italy, while land routes went either north through Anatolia or south to North Africa. Another branch road travelled from Herat through Susa to Charax Spasinu at the head of the Persian Gulf and across to Petra and on to Alexandria and other eastern Mediterranean ports from where ships carried the cargoes to Rome.
The southwestern route is believed to be the Ganges/Brahmaputra Delta, which has been the subject of international interest for over two millennia. Strabo, the 1st-century Roman writer, mentions the deltaic lands: "Regarding merchants who now sail from Egypt...as far as the Ganges, they are only private citizens..." His comments are interesting as Roman beads and other materials are being found at Wari-Bateshwar ruins, the ancient city with roots from much earlier, before the Bronze Age, presently being slowly excavated beside the Old Brahmaputra in Bangladesh. Ptolemy's map of the Ganges Delta, a remarkably accurate effort, showed that his informants knew all about the course of the Brahmaputra River, crossing through the Himalayas then bending westward to its source in Tibet. It is doubtless that this delta was a major international trading center, almost certainly from much earlier than the Common Era. Gemstones and other merchandise from Thailand and Java were traded in the delta and through it. Chinese archaeological writer Bin Yang and some earlier writers and archaeologists, such as Janice Stargardt, strongly suggest this route of international trade as Sichuan-Yunnan-Burma-Bangladesh route. According to Bin Yang, especially from the 12th century the route was used to ship bullion from Yunnan (gold and silver are among the minerals in which Yunnan is rich), through northern Burma, into modern Bangladesh, making use of the ancient route, known as the 'Ledo' route. The emerging evidence of the ancient cities of Bangladesh, in particular Wari-Bateshwar ruins, Mahasthangarh, Bhitagarh, Bikrampur, Egarasindhur, and Sonargaon, are believed to be the international trade centers in this route.
Maritime Silk Road or Maritime Silk Route refer to the maritime section of historic Silk Road that connects China to Southeast Asia, Indonesian archipelago, Indian subcontinent, Arabian peninsula, all the way to Egypt and finally Europe.
The trade route encompassed numbers of bodies of waters; including South China Sea, Strait of Malacca, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Bengal, Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The maritime route overlaps with historic Southeast Asian maritime trade, Spice trade, Indian Ocean trade and after 8th century – the Arabian naval trade network. The network also extend eastward to East China Sea and Yellow Sea to connect China with Korean Peninsula and Japanese archipelago.
Richard Foltz, Xinru Liu, and others have described how trading activities along the Silk Road over many centuries facilitated the transmission not just of goods but also ideas and culture, notably in the area of religions. Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam all spread across Eurasia through trade networks that were tied to specific religious communities and their institutions. Notably, established Buddhist monasteries along the Silk Road offered a haven, as well as a new religion for foreigners.
The spread of religions and cultural traditions along the Silk Roads, according to Jerry H. Bentley, also led to syncretism. One example was the encounter with the Chinese and Xiongnu nomads. These unlikely events of cross-cultural contact allowed both cultures to adapt to each other as an alternative. The Xiongnu adopted Chinese agricultural techniques, dress style, and lifestyle, while the Chinese adopted Xiongnu military techniques, some dress style, music, and dance. Perhaps most surprising of the cultural exchanges between China and the Xiongnu, Chinese soldiers sometimes defected and converted to the Xiongnu way of life, and stayed in the steppes for fear of punishment.
Transmission of Christianity
The transmission of Christianity was primarily known as Nestorianism on the Silk Road. In 781, an inscribed stele shows Nestorian Christian missionaries arriving on the Silk Road. Christianity had spread both east and west, simultaneously bringing Syriac language and evolving the forms of worship.
Transmission of Buddhism
The transmission of Buddhism to China via the Silk Road began in the 1st century CE, according to a semi-legendary account of an ambassador sent to the West by the Chinese Emperor Ming (58–75). During this period Buddhism began to spread throughout Southeast, East, and Central Asia. Mahayana, Theravada, and Tibetan Buddhism are the three primary forms of Buddhism that spread across Asia via the Silk Road.
The Buddhist movement was the first large-scale missionary movement in the history of world religions. Chinese missionaries were able to assimilate Buddhism, to an extent, to native Chinese Daoists, which brought the two beliefs together. Buddha's community of followers, the Sangha, consisted of male and female monks and laity. These people moved through India and beyond to spread the ideas of Buddha. As the number of members within the Sangha increased, it became costly so that only the larger cities were able to afford having the Buddha and his disciples visit. It is believed that under the control of the Kushans, Buddhism was spread to China and other parts of Asia from the middle of the first century to the middle of the third century. Extensive contacts started in the 2nd century, probably as a consequence of the expansion of the Kushan empire into the Chinese territory of the Tarim Basin, due to the missionary efforts of a great number of Buddhist monks to Chinese lands. The first missionaries and translators of Buddhists scriptures into Chinese were either Parthian, Kushan, Sogdian, or Kuchean.
One result of the spread of Buddhism along the Silk Road was displacement and conflict. The Greek Seleucids were exiled to Iran and Central Asia because of a new Iranian dynasty called the Parthians at the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, and as a result the Parthians became the new middle men for trade in a period when the Romans were major customers for silk. Parthian scholars were involved in one of the first ever Buddhist text translations into the Chinese language. Its main trade centre on the Silk Road, the city of Merv, in due course and with the coming of age of Buddhism in China, became a major Buddhist centre by the middle of the 2nd century. Knowledge among people on the silk roads also increased when Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty (268–239 BCE) converted to Buddhism and raised the religion to official status in his northern Indian empire.
From the 4th century CE onward, Chinese pilgrims also started to travel on the Silk Road to India to get improved access to the original Buddhist scriptures, with Fa-hsien's pilgrimage to India (395–414), and later Xuanzang (629–644) and Hyecho, who traveled from Korea to India. The travels of the priest Xuanzang were fictionalized in the 16th century in a fantasy adventure novel called Journey to the West, which told of trials with demons and the aid given by various disciples on the journey.
There were many different schools of Buddhism travelling on the Silk Road. The Dharmaguptakas and the Sarvastivadins were two of the major Nikaya schools. These were both eventually displaced by the Mahayana, also known as "Great Vehicle". This movement of Buddhism first gained influence in the Khotan region. The Mahayana, which was more of a "pan-Buddhist movement" than a school of Buddhism, appears to have begun in northwestern India or Central Asia. It formed during the 1st century BCE and was small at first, and the origins of this "Greater Vehicle" are not fully clear. Some Mahayana scripts were found in northern Pakistan, but the main texts are still believed to have been composed in Central Asia along the Silk Road. These different schools and movements of Buddhism were a result of the diverse and complex influences and beliefs on the Silk Road. With the rise of Mahayana Buddhism, the initial direction of Buddhist development changed. This form of Buddhism highlighted, as stated by Xinru Liu, "the elusiveness of physical reality, including material wealth." It also stressed getting rid of material desire to a certain point; this was often difficult for followers to understand.
During the 5th and 6th centuries CE, merchants played a large role in the spread of religion, in particular Buddhism. Merchants found the moral and ethical teachings of Buddhism an appealing alternative to previous religions. As a result, merchants supported Buddhist monasteries along the Silk Road, and in return the Buddhists gave the merchants somewhere to stay as they traveled from city to city. As a result, merchants spread Buddhism to foreign encounters as they traveled. Merchants also helped to establish diaspora within the communities they encountered, and over time their cultures became based on Buddhism. As a result, these communities became centers of literacy and culture with well-organized marketplaces, lodging, and storage. The voluntary conversion of Chinese ruling elites helped the spread of Buddhism in East Asia and led Buddhism to become widespread in Chinese society. The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism essentially ended around the 7th century with the rise of Islam in Central Asia.
Transmission of art
Many artistic influences were transmitted via the Silk Road, particularly through Central Asia, where Hellenistic, Iranian, Indian and Chinese influences could intermix. Greco-Buddhist art represents one of the most vivid examples of this interaction. Silk was also a representation of art, serving as a religious symbol. Most importantly, silk was used as currency for trade along the silk road.
These artistic influences can be seen in the development of Buddhism where, for instance, Buddha was first depicted as human in the Kushan period. Many scholars have attributed this to Greek influence. The mixture of Greek and Indian elements can be found in later Buddhist art in China and throughout countries on the Silk Road.
The production of art consisted of many different items that were traded along the Silk Roads from the East to the West. One common product, the lapis lazuli, was a blue stone with golden specks, which was used as paint after it was ground into powder.
On 22 June 2014, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named the Silk Road a World Heritage Site at the 2014 Conference on World Heritage. The United Nations World Tourism Organization has been working since 1993 to develop sustainable international tourism along the route with the stated goal of fostering peace and understanding.
Foreign language terms
|Language||Text||Transliteration (if applicable)|
|Sīchóu zhī lù|
|Sanskrit / Hindi||कौशेय मार्ग||Kausheya Maraga|
|Persian||جاده ی ابریشم||Jâdeye Abrišam|
|Punjabi||ਕੌਸ਼ਿਆ ਮਾਰਗ||Kausheya Mārg|
|Urdu||شاہراہ ریشم||shah rah resham|
|Kannada||ರೇಶ್ಮೆ ದಾರಿ||Reshme dari|
|Kawi language||Sutra dalan|
|Tamil||பட்டு வழி||Paṭṭu vaḻi|
|Uzbek||إيباك يولي||Ipak yo'li|
|Arabic||طريق الحرير||Tarīq al-Ḥarīr|
|Hebrew||דרך המשי||Derekh ha-Meshi|
|Greek||Δρόμος του μεταξιού||Drómos tou metaxioú'|
|Armenian||Մետաքսի ճանապարհ||Metaksi chanaparh|
|Tagalog language||Daang Sutla, Daang Seda|
|Somali language||وادادا وادادا||Waddada Waddada|
|Sinhala||සේද මාවත||Sedha mawatha|
A Chinese Western Han dynasty (202 BCE – 9 CE) bronze rhinoceros with gold and silver inlay
- Dvaravati–Kamboja route
- Dzungarian Gate
- Global silver trade from the 16th to 18th centuries
- Hippie trail
- History of silk
- Incense Route
- Mount Imeon
- One Belt One Road Initiative
- Pan-American Highway
- Silk Road Economic Belt
- Silk Road Fund
- Silk Road Numismatics
- Silk Road Textiles
- Steppe Route
- Tea Horse Road
- The Silk Roads
- Three hares
- Miho Museum News (Shiga, Japan) Volume 23 (March 2009). "Eurasian winds toward Silla". Archived from the original on 2016-04-09.
- Gan, Fuxi (2009). "Ancient Glass Research Along the Silk Road". Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Ancient Glass Research along the Silk Road, World Scientific ed.). p. 41. ISBN 9812833560. Archived from the original on 2018-02-27.
- Elisseeff, Vadime (2001). The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. UNESCO Publishing / Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-92-3-103652-1.
- Boulnois, Luce (2005). Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants. Hong Kong: Odyssey Books. p. 66. ISBN 962-217-721-2.
- Xinru, Liu, The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 11.
- "Republic of Korea | Silk Road". en.unesco.org. Archived from the original on 2017-02-23. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
- Jerry Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 32.
- "Ancient bottom wipers yield evidence of diseases carried along the Silk Road". The Guardian. 22 July 2016. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
- Jerry Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 33.
Compare: Hansen, Valerie (2012-10-11). The Silk Road. OUP US. p. 218. ISBN 9780195159318. Archived from the original on 2017-04-03. Retrieved 2016-07-22.
Jewish merchants have left only a few traces on the Silk Road.
- Miha Museum (Shiga, Japan), Sping Special Exhibition (14 March 2009). "Eurasian winds toward Silla". Archived from the original on 9 April 2016.
- "The Horses of the Steppe: The Mongolian Horse and the Blood-Sweating Stallions | Silk Road in Rare Books". dsr.nii.ac.jp. Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
- Waugh (2007), p. 4.
- "Approaches Old and New to the Silk Roads" Eliseeff in: The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. Paris (1998) UNESCO, Reprint: Berghahn Books (2009), pp. 1–2. ISBN 92-3-103652-1; ISBN 1-57181-221-0; ISBN 1-57181-222-9 (pbk)
- "Approaches Old and New to the Silk Roads" Vadime Eliseeff in: The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. Paris (1998) UNESCO, Reprint: Berghahn Books (2000), pp. 1–2. ISBN 92-3-103652-1; ISBN 1-57181-221-0; ISBN 1-57181-222-9 (pbk)
- Waugh, Daniel. (2007). "Richthofen's "Silk Roads": Toward the Archaeology of a Concept." The Silk Road. Volume 5, Number 1, Summer 2007, p. 4.
- Warwick Ball (2016), Rome in the East: Transformation of an Empire, 2nd edition, London & New York: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-72078-6, p. 156
- Warwick Ball (2016), Rome in the East: Transformation of an Empire, 2nd edition, London & New York: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-72078-6, p. 155.
- Warwick Ball (2016), Rome in the East: Transformation of an Empire, 2nd edition, London & New York: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-72078-6, pp. 154–56.
- Warwick Ball (2016), Rome in the East: Transformation of an Empire, 2nd edition, London & New York: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-72078-6, pp. 155–56.
- "Treasures of Ancient Altai Nomads Revealed". The Astana Times. 2012-12-10. Archived from the original on 2017-02-23. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
- "Additional Berel Burial Sites Excavated – The Astana Times". The Astana Times. 2013-08-21. Archived from the original on 2017-02-23. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
- Pollard;Rosenberg;Tignor, Elizabeth;Clifford;Robert (2011). Worlds Together Worlds Apart. New York, New York: Norton. p. 278. ISBN 9780393918472.
- Lubec, G.; J. Holauerghsrthbek; C. Feldl; B. Lubec; E. Strouhal (4 March 1993). "Use of silk in ancient Egypt". Nature. 362 (6415): 25. Bibcode:1993Natur.362...25L. doi:10.1038/362025b0. (also available here "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-20. Retrieved 2007-05-03. )
- Christopoulos, Lucas (August 2012), "Hellenes and Romans in Ancient China (240 BC – 1398 AD)," in Victor H. Mair (ed), Sino-Platonic Papers, No. 230, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, University of Pennsylvania Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, p. 31 footnote #56, ISSN 2157-9687.
- Hanks, Reuel R. (2010), Global Security Watch: Central Asia, Santa Barbara, Denver, Oxford: Praeger, p. 3.
- Mark J. Dresden (2003), "Sogdian Language and Literature", in Ehsan Yarshater, The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol III: The Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Periods, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 1219, ISBN 0-521-24699-7.
- Please refer to Royal Road.
- Christopoulos, Lucas (August 2012), "Hellenes and Romans in Ancient China (240 BC – 1398 AD)," in Victor H. Mair (ed), Sino-Platonic Papers, No. 230, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, University of Pennsylvania Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, pp. 15–16, ISSN 2157-9687.
- Prevas, John. (2004). Envy of the Gods: Alexander the Great's Ill-Fated Journey across Asia, p. 121. De Capo Press, Cambridge, Mass. ISBN 0-306-81268-1.
- "Strabo XI.XI.I". Perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 2011-07-13.
- Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 54.
- The Megalithic Portal & Megalith Map. "Silk Road, North China, C.M. Hogan, the Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham". Megalithic.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2013-10-02. Retrieved 2011-07-13.
- Yiping Zhang (2005). Story of the Silk Road. 五洲传播出版社. p. 22. ISBN 7-5085-0832-7. Archived from the original on 2018-02-27. Retrieved 2011-04-17.
- Julia Lovell (2007). The Great Wall: China Against the World, 1000 BC – AD 2000. Grove Press. p. 73. ISBN 0-8021-4297-4. Archived from the original on 2018-02-27. Retrieved 2011-04-17.
- Li & Zheng 2001, p. 254
- Di Cosmo,'Ancient China and its Enemies', 2002
- Frankenberger, W.T., ed. (1994). Selenium in the Environment. CRC Press. p. 30.
- Becker, Jasper (2008). City of Heavenly Tranquility: Beijing in the History of China. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 18.
- Liu, Xinru (2012). The Silk Roads: A Brief History with Documents. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's. p. 6.
- Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. pp. 36–37, 48. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9.
- Ebrey (1999), 70.
- R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present, Fourth Edition (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993), 133, apparently relying on Homer H. Dubs, "A Roman City in Ancient China", in Greece and Rome, Second Series, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Oct., 1957), pp. 139–48
- Ban Chao Archived 2009-06-16 at the Wayback Machine., Britannica Online Encyclopedia
- Frances Wood, The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia, University of California Press, 2004, ISBN 0520243404, p. 46
- Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 32.
- An, Jiayao. (2002), "When Glass Was Treasured in China," in Annette L. Juliano and Judith A. Lerner (eds), Silk Road Studies VII: Nomads, Traders, and Holy Men Along China's Silk Road, 79–94, Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, ISBN 2503521789, p. 83.
- Paul Halsall (2000) . Jerome S. Arkenberg, ed. "East Asian History Sourcebook: Chinese Accounts of Rome, Byzantium and the Middle East, c. 91 B.C.E. – 1643 C.E." Fordham.edu. Fordham University. Archived from the original on 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2016-09-16.
- de Crespigny, Rafe. (2007). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Leiden: Koninklijke Brill, p. 600, ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0.
- Yü, Ying-shih. (1986). "Han Foreign Relations," in Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe (eds), The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220, 377–462, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 460–461, ISBN 978-0-521-24327-8.
- An, Jiayao. (2002), "When Glass Was Treasured in China," in Annette L. Juliano and Judith A. Lerner (eds), Silk Road Studies VII: Nomads, Traders, and Holy Men Along China's Silk Road, 79–94, Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, ISBN 2503521789, pp. 83–84.
- Harper, P.O. (2002), "Iranian Luxury Vessels in China From the Late First Millennium B.C.E. to the Second Half of the First Millennium C.E.," in Annette L. Juliano and Judith A. Lerner (eds), Silk Road Studies VII: Nomads, Traders, and Holy Men Along China's Silk Road, 95–113, Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, ISBN 2503521789, pp. 106–07.
- Hansen, Valerie (2012), The Silk Road: A New History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 97–98, ISBN 978-0-19-993921-3.
- Warwick Ball (2016), Rome in the East: Transformation of an Empire, 2nd edition, London & New York: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-72078-6, p. 154.
- Helen Wang (2004) "Money on the Silk Road: The evidence from Eastern Central Asia to. c. AD 800," London: The British Museum Press, ISBN 0 7141 1806 0, p. 34.
- Gary K. Young (2001), Rome's Eastern Trade: International Commerce and Imperial Policy, 31 BC – AD 305, London & New York: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-24219-3, p. 29.
- For further information on Oc Eo, see Milton Osborne (2006), The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future, Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, revised edition, first published in 2000, ISBN 1-74114-893-6, pp. 24–25.
- Ferdinand von Richthofen, China, Berlin, 1877, Vol.I, pp. 504–510; cited in Richard Hennig, Terrae incognitae : eine Zusammenstellung und kritische Bewertung der wichtigsten vorcolumbischen Entdeckungsreisen an Hand der daruber vorliegenden Originalberichte, Band I, Altertum bis Ptolemäus, Leiden, Brill, 1944, pp. 387, 410–11; cited in Zürcher (2002), pp. 30–31.
- Xinru Liu, The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 21.
- "Strabo's Geography Book II Chapter 5 "
- Bharuch, Bharuch website, retrieved on 19 November 2013
- Barbarikon Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan website, retrieved on 19 November 2013.
- Xinru Liu, The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 40.
- Pliny the Elder, Natural Histories 11.xxvi.76
- Xinru, Liu, The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 21.
- Xinru Liu, The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 75.
- Xinru, Liu, The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 20
- Seneca the Younger (c. 3 BCE – 65 CE), Declamations Vol. I
- Sogdian Trade, Encyclopedia Iranica, (retrieved 15 June 2007) <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-11-17. Retrieved 2011-11-04. >
- "Silk Road" Archived 2013-09-06 at the Wayback Machine., LIVIUS Articles of Ancient History. 28 October 2010. Retrieved on 14 November 2010.
- Howard, Michael C. (2012), Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies, the Role of Cross Border Trade and Travel, McFarland & Company, p. 133.
- Mark J. Dresden (1981), "Introductory Note," in Guitty Azarpay, Sogdian Painting: the Pictorial Epic in Oriental Art, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, p. 9, ISBN 0-520-03765-0.
- Liu, Xinru, "The Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Interactions in Eurasia", in Michael Adas (ed), Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History, American Historical Association, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001, p. 168.
- Luttwak, Edward N. (2009). The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-03519-5, pp. 168–69.
- Bretschneider, Emil (1888), Medieval Researches from Eastern Asiatic Sources: Fragments Towards the Knowledge of the Geography and History of Central and Western Asia from the 13th to the 17th Century, Vol. 1, Abingdon: Routledge, reprinted 2000, p. 144.
- Moule, A. C., Christians in China before 1500, 94 & 103; also Pelliot, Paul in T'oung-pao 15(1914), pp. 630–36.
- Peter Jackson (2005), The Mongols and the West, 1221–1410, Pearson Education, p. 169, ISBN 0-582-36896-0.
- Kathleen Kuiper & editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (Aug 31, 2006). "Rabban bar Sauma: Mongol Envoy Archived 2016-10-11 at the Wayback Machine.." Encyclopædia Britannica (online source). Accessed 16 September 2016.
- Morris Rossabi (2014). From Yuan to Modern China and Mongolia: The Writings of Morris Rossabi. Leiden & Boston: Brill, pp. 385–86, ISBN 978-90-04-28529-3.
- Morris Rossabi (2014). From Yuan to Modern China and Mongolia: The Writings of Morris Rossabi. Leiden & Boston: Brill, pp. 386–421, ISBN 978-90-04-28529-3.
- Luttwak, Edward N. (2009). The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-03519-5, p. 169.
- Luttwak, Edward N. (2009). The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-03519-5, pp. 169–70.
- E. Bretschneider (1871). On the Knowledge Possessed by the Ancient Chinese of the Arabs and Arabian Colonies: And Other Western Countries, Mentioned in Chinese Books. Trübner & Company. pp. 25–. Archived from the original on 2018-02-27.
- Luttwak, Edward N. (2009). The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-03519-5, p. 170.
- Nishijima, Sadao (1986), "The Economic and Social History of Former Han", in Twitchett, Denis; Loewe, Michael, Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 545–607, ISBN 0-521-24327-0
- Eberhard, Wolfram (2005), A History of China, New York: Cosimo, ISBN 1-59605-566-9
- Whitfield, Susan (2004), The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith, Chicago: Serindia, ISBN 1-932476-12-1
- Ebrey, Patricia Buckley (1999), The Cambridge Illustrated History of China, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-66991-X
- Skaff, Jonathan Karem (2009). Nicola Di Cosmo, ed. Military Culture in Imperial China. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-03109-8.
- Tikhvinskiĭ, Sergeĭ Leonidovich and Leonard Sergeevich Perelomov (1981). China and her neighbours, from ancient times to the Middle Ages: a collection of essays. Progress Publishers. p. 124.
- Sun, Guangqi (1989), History of Navigation in Ancient China, Beijing: Ocean Press, ISBN 7-5027-0532-5
- Bowman, John S. (2000), Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture, New York: Columbia University Press
- Xinru Liu, The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 68.
- Simpson, Ray (2014-07-09). Aidan of Lindisfarne: Irish Flame Warms a New World. Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1-62564-762-7. Archived from the original on 2018-02-27.
- Wink, André. Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World. Brill Academic Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0-391-04173-8.
- Dybo A.V., "Chronology of Türkic languages and linguistic contacts of early Türks", Moskow, 2007, p. 786, 
- Hanks, Reuel R. (2010), Global Security Watch: Central Asia, Santa Barbara, Denver, Oxford: Praeger, p. 4.
- Ebrey, Patricia Buckley; Walthall, Anne; Palais, James B. (2006), East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-618-13384-4, p. 100.
- Gascoigne, Bamber; Gascoigne, Christina (2003), The Dynasties of China: A History, New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, an imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, ISBN 0-7867-1219-8, p. 97.
- Taenzer, Gertraud (2016), "Changing Relations between Administration, Clergy and Lay People in Eastern Central Asia: a Case Study According to the Dunhuang Manuscripts Referring to the Transition from Tibetan to Local Rule in Dunhuang, 8th–11th Centuries", in Carmen Meinert, Transfer of Buddhism Across Central Asian Networks (7th to 13th Centuries), 19–56, Leiden, Boston: Brill, pp. 35–37, ISBN 978-90-04-30741-4.
- Hanks, Reuel R. (2010), Global Security Watch: Central Asia, Santa Barbara, Denver, Oxford: Praeger, pp. 4–5.
- Sophie Ibbotson and Max Lovell-Hoare (2016), Uzbekistan, 2nd edition, Bradt Travel Guides Ltd, pp. 12–13, ISBN 978-1-78477-017-4.
- Sophie Ibbotson and Max Lovell-Hoare (2016), Uzbekistan, 2nd edition, Bradt Travel Guides Ltd, pp. 14–15, ISBN 978-1-78477-017-4.
- Xinru Liu, The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 109.
- The Pax Mongolica Archived 1999-05-05 at the Wayback Machine., by Daniel C. Waugh, University of Washington, Seattle
- J. N. Hays (2005). "Epidemics and pandemics: their impacts on human history Archived 2018-02-27 at the Wayback Machine.". p.61. ISBN 1-85109-658-2
- John Kelly, The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time (Harper: 2005). ISBN 0-06000-693-5
- Vadime Elisseeff (1998). The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. Berghahn Books. p. 300. ISBN 978-1-57181-221-6. Archived from the original on 2018-02-27.
- Kurin, Richard. "THE SILK ROAD: CONNECTING PEOPLE AND CULTURES". Festival. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
- Faroqhi, Suraiya (1994). "Crisis and Change, 1590–1699". In İnalcık, Halil; Donald Quataert. An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, 1300–1914. 2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 505–07, 524. ISBN 0-521-57455-2.
- Hansen, Valerie (2000), The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600, New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company, ISBN 0-393-97374-3, pp, 117–19
- Kathy Ceceri, The Silk Road : Explore the World's Most Famous Trade Route (White River Junction, VT: Nomad Press, 2011), 111.
- Bradsher, Keith (20 July 2013). "Hauling New Treasure Along the Silk Road". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
- "Asia-Pacific | Asia takes first step on modern 'Silk Route'". BBC News. 22 June 2009. Archived from the original on 11 October 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- "A Silk Road for the 21st century: Freight rail linking China and Germany officially begins operations". Shanghaiist. Archived from the original on 2011-09-04.
- "'China freight train' in first trip to Barking". BBC News. 2017-01-03. Archived from the original on 2017-01-04. Retrieved 2017-01-05.
- Silk Road route back in business as China train rolls into London Archived 2017-01-15 at the Wayback Machine., Tracy McVeigh, The Observer, 14 January 2017
- Cooley, Alexander (July 2015). "New Silk Route or Classic Developmental Cul-de-Sac? The Prospects and Challenges of China's OBOR Initiative". PONARS Eurasia. Archived from the original on 21 May 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
- "China plans new Silk Route across Ukraine". Russian News Agency TASS. 9 December 2013. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
- Sahoo, Pravakar (22 December 2015). "India should be part of the new Silk Route". The Hindu Business Line. Archived from the original on 27 February 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
- "China's new silk route: The long and winding road" (PDF). PricewaterhouseCoopers. February 2016. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
- "First 'Silk Road' train arrives in Tehran from China". Yahoo News. Archived from the original on 2016-02-16. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
- Strayer, Robert W. (2009). Ways of the World: A Global History. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's. p. 219.
- Ulric Killion, A Modern Chinese Journey to the West: Economic Globalisation And Dualism, (Nova Science Publishers: 2006), p.66
- Yang, Bin. (2008). Between Winds and Clouds: The Making of Yunnan. New York: Columbia University Press
- "History and Legend of Sino-Bangla Contacts". Fmprc.gov.cn. 28 September 2010. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-17.
- "Holiday". Weeklyholiday.net. Archived from the original on 2013-06-15. Retrieved 2013-04-17.
- "Maritime Silk Road". SEAArch. Archived from the original on 2014-01-05.
- Richard Foltz, Religions of the Silk Road, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition, 2010, ISBN 978-0-230-62125-1
- Xinru Liu, The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 77.
- Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 38.
- Hermes, Taylor R.; Frachetti, Michael D.; Bullion, Elissa A.; Maksudov, Farhod; Mustafokulov, Samariddin; Makarewicz, Cheryl A. (26 March 2018). "Urban and nomadic isotopic niches reveal dietary connectivities along Central Asia's Silk Roads". Scientific Reports. 8 (1). Bibcode:2018NatSR...8.5177H. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-22995-2. ISSN 2045-2322. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Frachetti, Michael D.; Smith, C. Evan; Traub, Cynthia M.; Williams, Tim (8 March 2017). "Nomadic ecology shaped the highland geography of Asia's Silk Roads". Nature. 543 (7644): 193–198. Bibcode:2017Natur.543..193F. doi:10.1038/nature21696. ISSN 0028-0836. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- "Belief Systems Along the Silk Road," Asia Society website, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-11-17. Retrieved 2016-11-17. , retrieved on November 14, 2016.
- von Le Coq, Albert. (1913). Chotscho: Facsimile-Wiedergaben der Wichtigeren Funde der Ersten Königlich Preussischen Expedition nach Turfan in Ost-Turkistan Archived 2016-09-15 at the Wayback Machine.. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer (Ernst Vohsen), im Auftrage der Gernalverwaltung der Königlichen Museen aus Mitteln des Baessler-Institutes, Tafel 19 Archived 2016-09-15 at the Wayback Machine.. (Accessed 3 September 2016).
- Ethnic Sogdians have been identified as the Caucasian figures seen in the same cave temple (No. 9). See the following source: Gasparini, Mariachiara. "A Mathematic Expression of Art: Sino-Iranian and Uighur Textile Interactions and the Turfan Textile Collection in Berlin, Archived 2017-05-25 at the Wayback Machine." in Rudolf G. Wagner and Monica Juneja (eds), Transcultural Studies, Ruprecht-Karls Universität Heidelberg, No 1 (2014), pp. 134–63. ISSN 2191-6411. See also endnote #32 Archived 2017-05-25 at the Wayback Machine.. (Accessed 3 September 2016.)
- For information on the Sogdians, an Eastern Iranian people, and their inhabitation of Turfan as an ethnic minority community during the phases of Tang Chinese (7th–8th century) and Uyghur rule (9th–13th century), see Hansen, Valerie (2012), The Silk Road: A New History, Oxford University Press, p. 98, ISBN 978-0-19-993921-3.
- Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 69,73.
- Anderson, James A. (2009). "China's Southwestern Silk Road in World History". World History Connected. 6 (1). Archived from the original on 9 February 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
- Jerry Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 16.
- Foltz, Richard C. (1999). Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St Martin's Press. p. 37.
- Xinru Liu, "The Silk Road in World History" (New york: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 51.
- Xinru Liu, "The Silk Road in World History" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 42.
- Foltz, "Religions of the Silk Road", pp. 37–58
- Foltz, Richard C. (1999). Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St Martin's Press. p. 47.
- Foltz, Richard C. (1999). Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St Martin's Press. p. 38.
- Silkroad Foundation; Adela C.Y. Lee. "Ancient Silk Road Travellers". Archived from the original on 2009-08-06.
- Foltz, Richard C. (1999). Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St Martin's Press. p. 41.
- Xinru Liu, "The Silk Road in World History" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 21.
- Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 43–44.
- Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 48.
- Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 50.
- Xinru, Liu,The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 21.
- Foltz, Richard C. (1999). Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St Martin's Press. p. 45.
- "The Silk Road and Beyond: Travel, Trade, and Transformation," Art Institute of Chicago website, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-11-14. Retrieved 2016-11-17. , retrieved on 15 November 2016.
- "Objectives". Archived from the original on 2013-03-15.
- Baines, John and Málek, Jaromir (1984): Atlas of Ancient Egypt. Oxford, Time Life Books.
- Boulnois, Luce. 2004. Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants on the Silk Road. Translated by Helen Loveday with additional material by Bradley Mayhew and Angela Sheng. Airphoto International. ISBN 962-217-720-4 hardback, ISBN 962-217-721-2 softback.
- Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. (1999). The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-66991-X.
- Foltz, Richard, Religions of the Silk Road, Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition, 2010, ISBN 978-0-230-62125-1
- Harmatta, János, ed., 1994. History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume II. The development of sedentary and nomadic civilizations: 700 BC to 250. Paris, UNESCO Publishing.
- Herodotus (5th century BCE): Histories. Translated with notes by George Rawlinson. 1996 edition. Ware, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions Limited.
- Hopkirk, Peter: Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia. The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1980, 1984. ISBN 0-87023-435-8
- Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
- Hulsewé, A. F. P. and Loewe, M. A. N. 1979. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC – 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. E. J. Brill, Leiden.
- Huyghe, Edith and Huyghe, François-Bernard: "La route de la soie ou les empires du mirage", Petite bibliothèque Payot, 2006, ISBN 2-228-90073-7
- Juliano, Annette, L. and Lerner, Judith A., et al. 2002. Monks and Merchants: Silk Road Treasures from Northwest China: Gansu and Ningxia, 4th–7th Century. Harry N. Abrams Inc., with The Asia Society. ISBN 0-8109-3478-7; ISBN 0-87848-089-7 softback.
- Klimkeit, Hans-Joach, im. 1988. Die Seidenstrasse: Handelsweg and Kulturbruecke zwischen Morgen- and Abendland. Koeln: DuMont Buchverlag.
- Klimkeit, Hans-Joachim. 1993. Gnosis on the Silk Road: Gnostic Texts from Central Asia. Trans. & presented by Hans-Joachim Klimkeit. HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-064586-5.
- Knight, E. F. 1893. Where Three Empires Meet: A Narrative of Recent Travel in: Kashmir, Western Tibet, Gilgit, and the adjoining countries. Longmans, Green, and Co., London. Reprint: Ch'eng Wen Publishing Company, Taipei. 1971.
- Li, Rongxi (translator). 1995. A Biography of the Tripiṭaka Master of the Great Ci'en Monastery of the Great Tang Dynasty. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. Berkeley, California. ISBN 1-886439-00-1
- Li, Rongxi (translator). 1995. The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. Berkeley, California. ISBN 1-886439-02-8
- Litvinsky, B. A., ed., 1996. History of civilizations of Central Asia, Volume III. The crossroads of civilizations: 250 to 750. Paris, UNESCO Publishing.
- Liu, Xinru, 2001. "Migration and Settlement of the Yuezhi-Kushan: Interaction and Interdependence of Nomadic and Sedentary Societies." Journal of World History, Volume 12, No. 2, Fall 2001. University of Hawaii Press, pp. 261–92. .
- Liu, Li, 2004, The Chinese Neolithic, Trajectories to Early States, Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press.
- Liu, Xinru (2010). The Silk Road in World History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-516174-8; ISBN 978-0-19-533810-2 (pbk).
- McDonald, Angus. 1995. The Five Foot Road: In Search of a Vanished China. HarperCollinsWest, San Francisco.
- Malkov, Artemy. 2007. The Silk Road: A mathematical model. History & Mathematics, ed. by Peter Turchin et al. Moscow: KomKniga. ISBN 978-5-484-01002-8
- Mallory, J. P. and Mair, Victor H., 2000. The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West. Thames & Hudson, London.
- Ming Pao. "Hong Kong proposes Silk Road on the Sea as World Heritage", 7 August 2005, p. A2.
- Osborne, Milton, 1975. River Road to China: The Mekong River Expedition, 1866–73. George Allen & Unwin Lt.
- Puri, B. N, 1987 Buddhism in Central Asia, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, Delhi. (2000 reprint).
- Ray, Himanshu Prabha, 2003. The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80455-8 (hardback); ISBN 0-521-01109-4 (paperback).
- Sarianidi, Viktor, 1985. The Golden Hoard of Bactria: From the Tillya-tepe Excavations in Northern Afghanistan. Harry N. Abrams, New York.
- Schafer, Edward H. 1963. The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A study of T'ang Exotics. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles. 1st paperback edition: 1985. ISBN 0-520-05462-8.
- Stein, Aurel M. 1907. Ancient Khotan: Detailed report of archaeological explorations in Chinese Turkestan, 2 vols. Clarendon Press. Oxford.
- Stein, Aurel M., 1912. Ruins of Desert Cathay: Personal narrative of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China, 2 vols. Reprint: Delhi. Low Price Publications. 1990.
- Stein, Aurel M., 1921. Serindia: Detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China, 5 vols. London & Oxford. Clarendon Press. Reprint: Delhi. Motilal Banarsidass. 1980.
- Stein Aurel M., 1928. Innermost Asia: Detailed report of explorations in Central Asia, Kan-su and Eastern Iran, 5 vols. Clarendon Press. Reprint: New Delhi. Cosmo Publications. 1981.
- Stein Aurel M., 1932 On Ancient Central Asian Tracks: Brief Narrative of Three Expeditions in Innermost Asia and Northwestern China. Reprinted with Introduction by Jeannette Mirsky. Book Faith India, Delhi. 1999.
- Thorsten, Marie. 2006 "Silk Road Nostalgia and Imagined Global Community". Comparative American Studies 3, no. 3: 343–59.
- Waugh, Daniel. (2007). "Richthofen "Silk Roads": Toward the Archeology of a Concept." The Silk Road. Volume 5, Number 1, Summer 2007, pp. 1–10. 
- von Le Coq, Albert, 1928. Buried Treasures of Turkestan. Reprint with Introduction by Peter Hopkirk, Oxford University Press. 1985.
- Whitfield, Susan, 1999. Life Along the Silk Road. London: John Murray.
- Wimmel, Kenneth, 1996. The Alluring Target: In Search of the Secrets of Central Asia. Trackless Sands Press, Palo Alto, CA. ISBN 1-879434-48-2
- Yan, Chen, 1986. "Earliest Silk Route: The Southwest Route." Chen Yan. China Reconstructs, Vol. XXXV, No. 10. October 1986, pp. 59–62.
- Yule (translator and editor), Sir Henry (1866). Cathay and the way thither: being a collection of medieval notices of China. Issue 37 of Works issued by the Hakluyt Society. Printed for the Hakluyt society.
- Boulnois, Luce. Silk Road: Monks, Warriors and Merchants on the Silk Road. Odyssey Publications, 2005. ISBN 962-217-720-4
- Bulliet, Richard W. 1975. The Camel and the Wheel. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-09130-2.
- Christian, David (2000). "Silk Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History". Journal of World History. University of Hawaii Press. 2.1 (Spring): 1.
- de la Vaissière, E., Sogdian Traders. A History, Leiden, Brill, 2005, Hardback ISBN 90-04-14252-5 Brill Publishers, French version ISBN 2-85757-064-3 on 
- Elisseeff, Vadime. Editor. 1998. The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. UNESCO Publishing. Paris. Reprint: 2000. ISBN 92-3-103652-1 softback; ISBN 1-57181-221-0; ISBN 1-57181-222-9 softback.
- Forbes, Andrew ; Henley, David (2011). China's Ancient Tea Horse Road. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN: B005DQV7Q2
- Frankopan, Peter. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (2016), Very wide ranging scholarly survey, albeit without any maps.
- Hansen, Valerie. The Silk Road: A New History (Oxford University Press; 2012) 304 pages; Combines archaeology and history in a study of seven oases
- Hallikainen, Saana: Connections from Europe to Asia and how the trading was affected by the cultural exchange (2002)
- Hill, John E. (2004). The Peoples of the West from the Weilüe 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265. Draft annotated English translation. 
- Hopkirk, Peter: The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia; Kodansha International, New York, 1990, 1992.
- Kuzmina, E. E. The Prehistory of the Silk Road. (2008) Edited by Victor H. Mair. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. ISBN 978-0-8122-4041-2
- Larsen, Jeanne. Silk Road: A Novel of Eighth-Century China. (1989; reprinted 2009)
- Levy, Scott C. (2012). "Early Modern Central Asia in World History". History Compass. 10 (11): 866–78. doi:10.1111/hic3.12004.
- Li et al. "Evidence that a West-East admixed population lived in the Tarim Basin as early as the early Bronze Age". BMC Biology 2010, 8:15.
- Liu, Xinru, and Shaffer, Lynda Norene. 2007. Connections Across Eurasia: Transportation, Communication, and Cultural Exchange on the Silk Roads. McGraw Hill, New York. ISBN 978-0-07-284351-4.
- Miller, Roy Andrew (1959): Accounts of Western Nations in the History of the Northern Chou Dynasty. University of California Press.
- Omrani, Bijan; Tredinnick, Jeremy (2010). Asia Overland: Tales of Travel on the Trans-Siberian and Silk Road. Hong Kong New York: Odyssey Distribution in the US by W.W. Norton & Co, Odyssey Publications. ISBN 962-217-811-1.
- Polo, Marco, Il Milione.
- Thubron, C., The Silk Road to China (Hamlyn, 1989)
- Tuladhar, Kamal Ratna (2011). Caravan to Lhasa: A Merchant of Kathmandu in Traditional Tibet. Kathmandu: Lijala & Tisa. ISBN 99946-58-91-3
- Watt, James C.Y.; Wardwell, Anne E. (1997). When silk was gold: Central Asian and Chinese textiles. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 0870998250.
- Weber, Olivier, Eternal Afghanistan (photographs of Reza), (Unesco-Le Chêne, 2002)
- Yap, Joseph P. Wars With the Xiongnu – A Translation From Zizhi Tongjian. AuthorHouse (2009) ISBN 978-1-4490-0604-4
- National Institute of Informatics – Digital Silk Road Project Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books
- Digital Silk Road > Toyo Bunko Archive > List of Books
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Silk Road.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Silk Road.|
- Silk Road Atlas (University of Washington)
- The Silk Road, a historical overview by Oliver Wild
- The Silk Road Journal, a freely available scholarly journal run by Daniel Waugh
- The New Silk Road – a lecture by Paul Lacourbe at TEDxDanubia 2013
- Escobar, Pepe (February 2015). Year of the Sheep, Century of the Dragon? New Silk Roads and the Chinese Vision of a Brave New (Trade) World, an essay at Tom Dispatch