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Silk Road Economic Belt FAQ

Where did Silk Road begin and end?

April 28, 2020


Abstract : It is generally believed that the Silk Road started from Chang'an and the end of the Silk Road was in Daqin, the ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empire.

The Silk Road was the main transportation route connecting ancient China with Western Europe, which is as long as more than 14,000 miles. And it would take more than a year to complete a single trip along the route on foot. The Silk Road played a significant role in the economic development, political and military development of ancient China. So, where did the great Silk Road start and end?

It is generally believed that the Silk Road started from Chang'an. This is because Zhang Qian, the first person to open the Silk Road, lived in the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-24 A.D.). And at that time, the Chinese capital was Chang'an. Therefore, to some extent, it is believed that the Silk Road started from Chang'an. However, in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 A.D.-220 A.D.), Luoyang served as the capital, thus it is believed that the Silk Road started from Luoyang in this dynasty. Now on China's map, Luoyang is located in Henan Province and Chang'an in Shaanxi Province. Shaanxi is a must pass on the way from Luoyang to the Western Regions (a Han Dynasty term for the area west of Yumenguan). Therefore, where the Silk Road started is determined by the times.

The Silk Road stretches from Chang'an or Luoyang, then to Hexi Corridor, and reaches Dunhuang. At Dunhuang, the Silk Road split into two roads—the southern route and the western route. The southern route passes through Loulan, Khotan and Shache, to Pamir, Greater Yueh-chih, Parthia, and finally reaches Antiochia and Daqin. The western route passes through Yarkhoto, Qiuci, Kashgar, then to Tayuen, and finally reaches Daqin via Parthia.

Unlike the starting point, the end of the Silk Road was in Daqin. However, don't mistake Daqin here for the Daqin Empire. It was not the Daqin Empire established by the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. Instead, it is the ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empire and the near east. But in fact, ancient Chinese people did not reach Rome. In 97 A.D. during the Eastern Han Dynasty, Ban Chao led a mission consisting of about seven thousand members to the Western Regions and reached the Caspian Sea. Ban Chao stopped at the Caspian Sea and ordered his subordinate Gan Ying to go further to the West. So, Gan Ying went all the way to the west coast of the Mediterranean, and the Roman Empire just lied in another side of the sea. But Parthia was a transit point for Chinese silk trade between China and Rome, from which it reaped staggering profits. Parthia feared that the direct opening of trade routes between China and Rome would dampen their interests. Therefore, the state deterred Gan Ying by playing up the legend of yearning for land on the sea. Gan Ying thus failed to reach Rome.

Judging from the beginning and the end of the Silk Road, it can be seen that in ancient times, Chinese people had traveled through the Middle East to Europe. The Silk Road was indeed the greatest passage of its time.

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