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A new capital and the beginning of the Silk Road.


The Western Han Dynasty (206BC – 220CE), the third dynasty set up its capital in Xi’an, constructed its capital, Chang’an. This period is deemed to be the beginning of the Silk Road. Chang’an was the then political, economic and cultural centre of China, and the largest city of the world 5 centuries later. Han Wudi was one of the emperors  at the time. During this period, the Great Wall was repaired and extended all the way to Dunhuang, and manned after a long hiatus. Thus Chinese traders  were protected as far as the Takla Makan desert, in the Tarim Basin. Turfan and Urumchi are also located at the edge of said desert on a Northern axis, thus bypassing the Kunlun Mountain range  to the South, and to the West the Karakorum desert beyond the mountains and  the Tianshan mountain range to the North.  No one survived the Takla Makan, hence the Northern route  was the only one, given the perilous geography.  (a map of that region would be imperative})

Records detail the vigorous  trade that existed then. The Parthian and Sogdian traders who were the masters of trade between China and the Mediterranean,  were closely related linguistically and culturally. China’s export trade was sponsored by the government and not private merchants. The goods exchanged included horses, cotton, paper and gunpowder among others. Silk cocoons were also used as a currency, besides trading silk cloth.



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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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