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The city of Dunhuang situated in North West China sits at the crossroads of two major trade routes along the Silk Road. An oasis at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert. Dunhuang was one of the first cities encountered by merchants arriving in China from the West. It was also an ancient site of Buddhist religious activity. Pilgrims would flock to the area to visit the amazing Mogao Caves located to the South of the city.

The Silk Road from China to the West passed North and South of the Talklamakan Desert, and Dunhuang was at the junction of the two routes. Also the city lies near the Western edge of the Gobi Desert and North of the Mingsha Sand Dunes (meaning gurgling sand). Dunhuang was a major resting point for merchants arriving or departing China as well as pilgrims. Its role on the Silk Road cannot be overstated. Given its geographic location, it was an important garrison town.

Traded items:

From as far away as North Eastern Europe items were traded, mainly amber. Brocade and silk from Persia, metal-ware, fragrances, incense and precious stones such as lapiz-lazuli from the region, we today call North Eastern Afghanistan. Agate  came from India, coral and pearl from Ceylon/Sri Lanka. Local production such as wool, tea, ceramics, medicine, fragrances, jade, camels, sheep, dyes, dried fruit, tools and embroidery were all exported from Dunhuang, and the records were found in scrolls written by Sogdian traders, and they date back to 405 AD to 1002 AD, proving that Dunhuang was a major trading hub during those times.



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  1. “Lords of the Horizons – A History of the Ottoman Empire”, by Jason Goodwin. Vintage. 1998
  2. “The Silk Road – A New History”, by Valerie Hansen. OUP 2012
  3. “Introduction to Byzantium, 602 -1453”, by Jonathan Harris. Routledge. 2020
  4. “The Silk Road – A very short Introduction”, by James A. Millward. OUP. 2013
  5. SERKIS, Christiane. Des Fondateurs de Religions; de certaines langues antiques. Lausanne 2020 Article inédit.
  6. “Life Along the Silk Road”, by Susan Whitfield. UCal Press 2015
  7. “Silk Roads – Peoples, Cultures, Landscapes”, Edited by Susan Whitfield. Thames and Hudson. 2019
  8. www.ChinaHighlights.com/silkroad/history

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