Why the Silk Road Was so Important

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Sep. 29, 2021

There are many world-famous accomplishments in Chinese history, like the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, and Mogao Caves in Dunhuang; and the ancient Silk Road should be counted among them.

The Silk Road constituted the earliest connection between ancient China and Asia, Europe, and Africa. It was of great significance in the promotion of world civilization and the progress of human society. Research and development of the Silk Road today will also have an incredible impact.

1. An important channel for ancient trade between East and West.

Silk Road Experience
 

Silk Road Experience

The major goods China exported to the West included silk, tea, chinaware, lacquerware, and so on, while the West exported fruit, crops, and jewelry to China, including walnuts, grapes, pomegranates, sesame, cucumbers, and amber.

2. The Silk Road provided a strategic link for ancient eastern and western cultural exchange.

The “four great inventions” of ancient China: paper, printing, magnetic compass, and gunpowder, were introduced to the West via the ancient Silk Road, creating the foundation for the development of capitalism.

And Zheng He’s 15th-century expeditions to the Western Pacific helped spread Chinese culture, promoting economic and cultural exchange with South Asia, West Asia, Europe, and North Africa through the Maritime Silk Road.

On the other hand, western-style culture also had a great influence on the Central Plains. For example, during the Tang dynasty (618-907), Kucha music was introduced to China and evolved into Buddhist music.

3. The Silk Road promoted the spread and flow of various religions.

Various religions like Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Manicheism, and Taoism were all preached along the ancient Silk Road.

Rebirth of the Silk Road

Xinjiang Local People
 

Xingjiang Local People

Both Silk Road declined during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). But in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed a grand initiative, called “the Belt and Road”, short for “the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road”.

The initiative aims to support the economic integration of Eurasia and promote communication and cooperation between countries along the Road, creating an economic circle through Asia, Europe, and Africa.

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