One of the world's most ancient and historically important trade routes, the Silk Road conjures up exotic images of camel caravans, windswept deserts and such legendary figures as Genghis Khan and Marco Polo. Extending from as far as the Indian kingdoms in the west to present day Xi'an in China in the east, the Silk Road had, by the third centry B.C.,already became a cross roads of Asia.
Skirting the edges of the harsh and inhospitable Taklimakan desert, the Silk Road actually had several different branches, each passing through different oasis. All roads began in Chang'an (Xi'an). The northem route wound its way through places such as Turfan and Kuqa before finally ending at Kashgar. Them route followed the lower thnges of the Taklimakan eventually reaching the same destination. Numerous other routes were also plied through out the years, reaching all the way to
Samarkand, Tashkent, India, and the Caspian Sea.
Silk was not the only commodity traveling the Silk Road. Other goods such as exotic animals, ivory and gold were also transported along the route. It was silk, though, which fascinated the Romans. Agents were sent from Rome to explore the route and to obtain the material at a lower price. The Romans, however, did not give the Silk Road its name. The term was actuallycoined by the 19th-centuryGerman scholar Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen.
丝绸并不是丝绸之路上运送的唯一商品。其他货物如奇珍异兽、象牙，及黄金等也通过丝绸之路运输。不过格外令罗马人着迷的还是丝绸。罗马派遣代理商探测这条路线，并以较低的价格购得丝绸。然而，“丝绸之路”的名称并不是罗马人起的。这个名称是19世纪时一名叫Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen的德国学者首创的。
Not long after the Tang dynasty era (618-907), when trade along the Silk Road had reached its zenith, the fearsomeGenghis Khan and his Mongol armies conquered a vast area spanning much of Central Asia. Accordingly, the Silk Road became an important communication route between different parts of the Mongol Empire. During the ruleof Kublai,more Europeans began venturing towards China along the Silk Road.The most famous of these travelers was Marco Polo, whose thoughts and
adventures were later recorded and embellished by an Italian romance writer.
During the 14th century , with the disintegration of the Mongol Empire, the isolationist policies of the Ming Dynasty and the development of the silk route by sea, the Silk Road was forced into decline. Renewed interest in it emerged among Westem scholars only near the end of the 19th century . The existence of ancient cities excited them, and an archaeological free-for-all began. These days, those seeking out treasures of the Silk Road can find them in such far-flung places as London, Delhi, and Berlin.