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The Silk Road:
Two Thousand Years
in the Heart of Asia


Overview | Maps | Trade Goods | History | Peoples | China's Art & Culture

Eurasia's history was influenced by the flow of people and cultural innovations from east to west and west to east. The oldest pottery is found in Japan, southern China and the lower Amur River valley; pottery diffused west. The oldest copper metallury is known from southeast Iran, and copper and bronze metal working spread both east and west from there. The Silk Road linking northern China with the West played a vital role in moving trade goods, people and ideas for 2,000 years.

Use this wealth of resources on the Silk Road, a key part of Chinese culture that in turn influenced Siberian cultures.

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Silk Road:
Monks, Merchants
and Warriors


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Mapping the Silk
Road and Beyond


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Ancient China


Silk Road: Overview   [ Top ]

Silk Road is shorthand for many routes east and west across Eurasia that carried trade goods such as Chinese silk and porcelain, India's spices, Persia's silver and much more, as well as artistic and religious ideas. Learn more about the Silk Road.

The many routes of the Silk Road pass through inhospitable regions including the Taklamakan Desert and bordered by rugged high mountains. A main route of the Silk Road started at Xi'an in northern China.

Silk Road Trade Routes: detailed descriptions of routes, key oases; click on the small map to see routes, key goods exported from different areas

Broadly conceived, the Silk Road linked Nara [Japan], Xi'an [China], the nomadic peoples of Central Asia, Samarkand [Uzbekistan], Istanbul  [Turkey] and Venice [Italy].

Silk Road: Maps   [ Top ]

Silk Road Map: showing the multiple routes spreading west from China, and a closer look at three routes diverging to the west in China

Outline Map of the Silk Road with key cities, routes, bodies of water

Silk Road Atlas of Maps: maps for dynasties, empires, regions

Silk Road Map: interactive map: use your mouse to enlarge areas all across the map, use arrows to move east or west

Maps of Silk Road routes within China and across Eurasia, and a map of the western end of the ancient route

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The Silk Road:
Xi'an to


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The Silk Road
DVD Collection


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Life Along the
Silk Road


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The Silk Roads: Includes Turkey,
Syria, Iran, Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstand,
Kazakhstan, Pakistan and China

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Bronze Mirrors
from Ancient China


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Religions of the

Silk Road


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Cave Temples of

Mogao: Art and
History on the
Silk Road


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China: Its History
and Culture


Silk Road: Trade Goods & Ideas   [ Top ]

Silk Road Trade: luxury goods from Chinese silk to precious gems such as lapis lazuli and rubies from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir plus Buddhist manuscripts and sculptures were transported along these routes. Click on small map to see routes, key goods exported from different areas

Bronze Mirrors were a popular export from China that helps mark the diffusion of Chinese cultural elements

Art of the Silk Road Virtual Exhibit: introduces the idea of the Silk Road as a trade network and offers a look at the region's many cultures shown on a timeline [click names for details], examples of cultural exchanges, the religions on the Silk Road as well as trade

Silk Road: History   [ Top ]

Silk Road: a history of luxury trade and cultural exchange

History of the Silk Road began in about the 2nd century B.C. when the Chinese sought allies among peoples to the west against the Xiongnu or Huns, as well as horses from Central Asia. The Han Dynasty and later the Tang Dynasty fostered trade in silk and other goods.

Timetable of History of China, Greece, Rome leading to Silk Road trade, and another history timeline

Looking at the Silk Road from an Inner Asian perspective,the exange of goods and technologies started as early as 2500 B.C. with the movement of horses, chariots, the Indo-European languages, and metallurgy

Horses and Camels: not only were these animals key transportation, the Chinese sent silk to the livestock breeding nomads to purchase their horses and camels for Chinese armies and to prevent invasion

The Silk Road in the history of Xi'an in China and the influence of incoming trade goods and new ideas including Buddhism

Silk Road: Sampling of Peoples, Cultures   [ Top ]

Influence of Alexander the Great: to control his empire, he set up military towns and brought in Greek people and culture, 323 B.C.

The Scythians: nomadic horse people known for stunning art

The Hun Tribes or Xiongnu: their expansion in turn expanded trade

Spread of Buddhism on the Silk Road from India to Japan, more

Famous Travelers on the Silk Road: Chinese kings, generals and envoys; Korean, Chinese, Nestorian and European monks; a Muslim traveler; papal envoys to the Mongols; Marco Polo; and many others.

Silk Road: Images   [ Top ]

Photographs of Silk Road Locations:  the city of Xi'an; an area in Gansu when the Gobi meets the Taklamakan Desert; a market and mosque in Kashgar, once crossroads of Asia.

Pictures and Map of Silk Road Regions: Xi'an, Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Kashgar and more

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A History of
Chinese Civilization

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A Brief History of
Chinese Civilization

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China: Empire
and Civilization

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China: A
New History

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The Cambridge
Illustrated History
of China


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Cambridge History
of Ancient China:
From the Origins of
Civilization to 221 BC


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Guide to
Ancient Pottery


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Chinese Potter: A
Practical History of
Chinese Ceramics


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China's Imperial Past:
An Introduction to
Chinese History
and Culture


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The Manchus (The Peoples of Asia)


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The Archaeology of
Northeast China: Beyond the
Great Wall


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Radiant Stones:
Archaic Chinese



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Jades of the
Liangzhu Culture


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A Brief History of Chinese Civilization


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Rise of Civilization
in East Asia


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China: History & Timelines
  [ Top ]

star-red.gif (881 bytes) Guide to China's Culture and History: in-depth online resources including China's people

Chinese History Chronologies: a 4,000-year look at Chinese history starting with Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties, outlining both traditional dynasties as well as histories based on political, economic changes

Chinese Dynasties 2000 BC - 1911 AD: Xia, Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui, Tang, Sung, Jin, Lioa, Yuan, Ming, Qing or Manchu - and a look at the major political and cultural events of each time period

Chinese Dynasty Maps: showing territory ruled by the Zhou [NE China much like Shang], then Qin, Han, Tang, Sung, Yuan, Ming, Qing, including a map comparing Shang and Zhou regions

Guide to China's Dynasties: after the Neolithic, the dynasties from Shang to Western and Eastern Chou [Zhou] to Ch'ing - 3000 BC to 1912 AD

Shang Dynasty 1700-1050 BC: the rise of Chinese civilization begins with bronze manufacturing, military might with horse-drawn chariots and composite bows and arrows, agriculture, and complex religious rituals, early writing on oracle bones, art including jade amulets and ritual blades, with fierce monster mask of Taotie found on bronze vessels

Zhou Dynasty 1050-256 BC: the next Bronze Age period in China

Explore China's dynasties, culture, philosophy, politics in depth:
· The Shang
- earliest Yellow River culture with archaeological evidence,
   including a look at religion, rituals, bronze, oracle bones, writing

· The Chou - conquered Shang territories, built alliances; includes the
  “mandate of Heaven,” government, armies, philosophy, population growth

· The Chin - 15-year dynasty expanded south, creating the first united
   Chinese Empire; includes impact of the horse-riding steppe people

· The Han - long dynasty reunified China after wars, and fostered the
   culture known as Chinese.  At ca. 50 A.D., China attacked northern
   Hsiung Nu or Huns, sending them north and west into Russia, Europe;
   expanded the Silk Road. Also Later Han, Han Synthesis of ideas
· Later periods: The Sui, The T'ang, The Late Empire & The Sung

The Yuan - Mongol Empire, built by Ghengis Khan, by 1241 included all
  of Northern China; grandson Kublai Khan became emperor, moved his
  capital to Beijing, recaptured southern China. After a period of famine,
  a Chinese peasant led an uprising against the Yuan, drove them out and
  established the Ming Dynasty that lasted until 1644.

China: Maps   [ Top ]

star-red.gif (881 bytes) Maps of Asia and Siberia: in-depth collection of online maps

Chinese Dynasty Maps: showing territory of various rulers

Large Map of China: with provinces, cities, major rivers, and a map with provinces, and a colorful map with provinces, neighboring countries

China's Ancient Art & Culture   [ Top ]

China's Art Across the Ages:  from painted Neolithic pottery to Shang Dynasty jade mask to pottery striding horse to Han Dynasty curled-tail dog of pottery  [ see large image ] from burial of Emperor Jingdi

Pottery from Neolithic China: including a tripod vase in black pottery, in the shape of an owl - a popular image - from the Yangshao Culture, and more pottery from China's Neolithic and from Shang and Zhou Dynasties.

star-red.gif (881 bytes) See also Guide to Pottery from the earliest times in China, Japan, Siberia, as well as the Americas

Pottery from China: various Neolithic styles, including Longshan Banpo and painted pottery, plus Neolithic ceramics and pieces from Warring States period, and the horse in ancient China

Chinese Pottery & Ceramics: illustrated with examples from early Dawenkou and Longshan cultures to Song, Jin and Yuan dynasties

Chinese Artifacts: from early Neolithic stone tools and a pottery pig, to Neolithic pottery, Shang bronzes including a vessel in the shape of an owl [see pottery owl above], a Shang bronze mirror, a Zin bronze mirror in circle shape with raised dot, Han Dynasty clay warriors, much more

China's Arts - Chronologically: from Yang Shao pottery to bronze ritual vessels to jade daggers and scepters, a rare bronze vessel in owl form, a p'an or shallow vessel with beasts, and more from various dynasties, and the evolution of the pen or p'an or shallow tray

China's Art & Antiquities: painted pottery, bronze vessels, jade, paintings, and more, plus a guide to China Knowledge in arts, culture, history

China's Art & Artifacts: from bronze vessels to terra cotta figurines, Shang to Tang dynasties, plus wood and pottery figurines and artifacts such as a Han Dynasty terra cotta curled-tail dog [ see large image ]

China's Cultural Achievements 5000 BC: pottery, agriculture including foxtail and broomcorn millet, pigs, dogs, chickens, more

Cultural Images from China: various maps, images from art, archaeology, religion including Shang period oracle bones, ritual bronze vessels, more

Ancient Bronze Age of China: pictures, descriptions of wine and food vessels, decorative animals including ram's head, dragons, and the animal or beast mask called t’aot’ie, and more early bronze objects from Xia, Shang and Zhou, and the evolution of the taotie mask

Bronze Vessels: browse Art/Handicrafts to find pictures, descriptions of Shang ritual bronze vessels for food and wine: ding, li, gui, jue, jia, pan, you, zun, others, plus Shang & Tang bronzes including jue, ting

China - 5,000 Years: jade, bronze, grave goods, ceramics, painting, more - each shown from several early Chinese dynasties, including Zhou jade burial mask reminiscent of Ipiutak ivory burial mask from Bering Strait

Earliest Jadeware in China: serpentine stoneware discovered in Haicheng of Liaoning Province, 12,000 years old, may be the oldest jadeware, plus a look at jade of the Shang, Qin, Han dynasties, more

Ancient Chinese Jade - An Introduction and also including:
· Neolithic Jade as early as 7000 BC
· Shang to Western Chou Jade
· Eastern Chou to Han Jade
· Early Bi or Pi Disk and a Jade Disk with Spirit Animals

Early Jade Artifacts in China: 8,000-year old site in Inner Mongolia - Xinglonggou Ruins, Aohan Banner, Chifeng City - had jade artifacts

Enduring Art of Jade Age China: carvings of a jade stag, dagger with bird motif, masked human, more - all nephrite jade

History of Ancient Jade in China: a 6,500-year history illustrated with a jade ax and animal and bird figurines, the bi disk, cong which could have carved faces with round eyes, jade burial garments, more

Jade Objects: select "Jade & other stones" for pictures, descriptions of many Shang jades including bi disk, cong, huan. pei, later period pieces, and a carved jade mask from the Qin dynasty

China's Neolithic Art: painted pottery, jade bi disk, followed by:
· Shang Dynasty Art: 2,000-1,000 BC, pottery, bronze, jade
· Zhou & Han Dynasties: 1,000 BC - 1 AD, jade, bronze vessels, bells
· Eastern Han Dynasty: 1 - 500 AD, stoneware with celadon glaze
· Tang & Song Dynasties: 500 - 1,000 AD, tomb guardian, painting

Shang Dynasty Cultural Developments: raising of silkworms, pigs, dogs, pigs, sheep, oxen, grain-growing, bronze casting, religious rituals including dogs buried in tombs of wealthy, powerful people, and sea shells showing trade with coastal peoples, while discoveries of oracle bones with writing in East China's Shandong Province also shows cultural elements moved east

Dogs in Shang Dynasty China:  dogs were used as offerings to the gods, spirits, and were included in Shang era burials including royal ones

Treasures from a Lost Civiliation: ancient art from Sanxingdui, Sichuan, including rare bronze masks, statues, more, Shang period and later

China: 100 Treasures: selections of ancient art from different regions including bronze wine vessel, Sanxingdui bronze head, terra-cotta army of the first emperor, near X'ian, more - and an exhibit introduction

Splendors of Imperial China: selections of art from various dynasties including a treasure box with inlaid bi or pi disk

The Importance of Trade to Chinese Art

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Bronze Mirrors
from Ancient China

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Three Thousand Years
of Chinese Painting


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Jades of the
Liangzhu Culture

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The Arts
of China

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Baikal: Sacred
Sea of Siberia

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Origins of
Pottery in Asia

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