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The Great Silk 

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The Great Silk Road is one of the most significant achievements in the history of world civilization. Caravan road forks traversed Europe and Asia from the Mediterranean Sea to China; in ancient and medieval epochs, they had served an important means of dialogue between the cultures of East and West. It is vast historical-cultural space with plenty of routes through which international communication from China to Spain had been carried out since the 2nd century BC until the end of the 17th century AD. Till the of the 2nd century BC the way form Europe to Asia broke off at Chinese borders; the mountainous system of Asia, the Tien-Shan, Kounloun, Karakorum, Gindoukush, and the Himalayas hid the ancient Chinese civilization from the rest of the world. At the end of the 2nd century BC, The Chinese themselves began direct contacts.

Towns’ dwellers led the wide trade with India, Near and Middle East, antique world.
The antique literature had rather detailed descriptions of Great Silk Road, especially of one of its sections, which led from eastern Mediterranean shores to China. That road ran through Hierapolis at the Euphrates then crossed Mesopotamia and the Tigris further leading to Aekbethans in Midis, from south it went round the Caspian Sea, passed the ancient capital of Parthia, Gekatomil, Antioquia Margilan, Bactry and through the Komed Mountains it came to the basin of Tarim River.
By the end of the 8th century AD the capital of Arab Caliphate, Baghdad attracted the caravan roads. In Middle Ages Ancient Russia entered the geography of Great Silk Road.

Arabian merchants pioneered the Volga basin and reached the Russian North where “there is no night in summer and day in winter”. Traveling along Great Silk Road had been very long and full of obstacles and dangers. Pure time in road for caravan coming to Beijing from the northern banks of the Caspian Sea took 260 days, taking into consideration encampments the road took over a year. Principal commodity that the merchants brought from China, Central Asia was Chinese silk, precious stones, purls, exotic decoration items, expensive glazed pottery (delft), china, pepper, spices, frankincense and mire. Under Chinese and Central Asian influence sericulture, paper production, grapes, alfalfa, onion, cotton, pomegranate, walnut, fig and cucumber cultivation started to develop.

The most famous “silk road” started its motion in 138 when the first ambassador’s caravan left the capital of Han dynasty. That caravan accompanied prince Chjian Tsyan sent to western countries by Emperor U-di. This route started in Han capital in the east and finished in the capital of Rome Empire in the west. The route had two branches – south and north. Southern way ran through the frontier post of Yanguan in Dounhuan to the foot of the Kounloun Mountains; it stretched across Tsunlin range to the modern boundaries of Afghanistan and Iran spreading over Arab peninsula; finally it ended in Roman Empire.

Western way stretched from Yuimenguan frontier post to the west, then passed the Tien-Shan mountain chain across Tsunlin range, spreading over modern Central Asia; in the west it joined with south branch.
These two routes are called overland Silk Road.

Western Europe could not oppose anything to Asian goods. It settled accounts with gold and silver for eastern goods. In Middle Ages navigation development promoted sea trade. Now the way from Persian Gulf to China occupied only 120 days. Quickness of movement, opportunity for transportation more goods, relatively cheap prices of transfer decreased the importance of land Silk Road at the end of the 15th century.

Water Silk Road for centuries had stimulated growing intimacy of different cultures, mutual exchange of knowledge, mutual enrichment of languages and cultures. According to historical data, Marco Polo arrived in China by Water Silk Road. After returning to his homeland, he started to Italy from Futzan province by the same way.

Great Silk Road was destined to become not only trade road but also crossroad of two different civilizations – West and East having quite specific cultural traditions, religious beliefs and scientific and technical achievements.

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