Historical Silk Road

The Silk Road, a joint cultural heritage

The restored Silk Road refers to the "great economic project", a legendary system of caravan trade routes used around the third century B.C. and the seventeenth century A.D. It connected China with Constantinople and Europe and along a route of 7000 km promoted economic, cultural and political exchange, becoming a prelude to modern global economy. There were two main routes connecting the east and the west. The southern route – which crossed China through Central Asia from North India and the Middle East and the western route – crossing China through the Pamir ranges and the Aral Sea up to Lower Volga and the Black Sea. With time, several different branches of the route developed. Silk wasn’t the only commodity traded. Tea, ceramic products, leather, mirrors, spices or even natural colorants or cosmetics were traded with Europe. Caravans were returning to the East with a wide variety of goods: gold and silver, textiles, precious stones, amber, linen, wine or even arable crops.

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Bazaars, handling points, stable cash settlements systems, caravanserais, inns for merchants and storage rooms were formed along the routes. In order to handle trade caravans translators, money changers, camel herdsmen, guards, tax collectors and even prostitutes were employed. Trade throughout the route, which could take several years to cross, came with a high risk. Many merchants died along the way of disease, robberies, attacks and lawlessness of rulers. The reward, on the other hand for those who dared to pass it was very high profitability.

The ancient route, which the merchants took, was a phenomenon in the process of formation of our civilization, a joint attainment of the ancient and medieval societies, contributing to further shape the life of mankind in many important aspects. The Silk Road which for 17 centuries culturally united Asian and European populations, brought about the transmission of knowledge, beliefs and innovative technology, as well as cultural and civilizational changes. It played an important role in the development of geographical sciences.

Both the Europeans and the Chinese learned about their existence, and at the end of the thirteenth century European merchants and missionaries, Marco Polo being one of the most famous, for the first time published books with their accounts of travels to distant countries. It is worth reminding that before Marco Polo, in 1245-1247, at the request of Pope Innocent IV, the Polish Franciscan Benedict the Pole came with an evangelizing mission to the Mongol capital of Karakorum.

The Silk Road declined in the sixteenth century. The cause lay in the development of the silk route by sea, thanks to which the maritime trade became more attractive from the dangerous caravan land routes.

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Expedition starts: august - september 2017
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