The culture of the Silk Road

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Lanzhou is an important town on the Silk Road where civilizations of East and West blended together. [File Photo]

The Silk Road was an ancient commercial route, which wriggled across mountains, lakes and deserts, all the way from China to southern Europe.

The road starts from China's ancient capital of Chang'an (today's Xi'an in Shaanxi Province), travelling through the Hexi Corridor, Jade Gate Pass, Yang Pass, Xinjiang, Pamir high plateau, Central Asia and Western Asia, eventually leading into Europe.

The road was paved by the Chinese historic figure Zhang Qian, who set off for the first time from Chang'an to Xiyu as an envoy with Emperor Han Wudi's order to ally with the western regions in dealing with the challenge of the Xiongnu, a nomadic group involved in several wars with Zhongyuan, the territory of Emperor Wudi in the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-24 A.D.).

Unfortunately, the envoy delegate was discovered by the Xiongnu and Zhang was held hostage for 11 years before he managed to escape. He subsequently went back to Chang'an and reported his experience to Emperor Wudi. According to Zhang, people in the western region were no longer willing to fight against the Xiongnu, and instead, peaceful commercial exchanges became the mainstream.

In hearing Zhang's proposal, the Emperor Wudi sent him to Xiyu a second time in 119 A.D. to establish peaceful relations between the Western Han and the kingdoms in Xiyu. As a result, mutual commercial exchanges began between the Chinese and Central Asian peoples. In 60 A.D., the kingdoms in Xiyu began to subordinate to the Eastern Han, which then set up an administration -- Xiyu Duhu -- to take charge of the region.

In 73 A.D., Ban Chao, another early Chinese diplomat, assumed the role of administrator of Xiyu Duhu and assisted the kingdoms there to expel Xiongnu control from the area. Via the Persian Gulf, he also sent his envoy Gan Ying to the area, approximately the size of today’s Rome, to enhance the commercial and cultural exchanges along the road.

The worldly-renowned Silk Road stretched out for more than 1600 kilometers from east to west in Gansu, accounting for one fifth of its total length. The Silk Road in Gansu is full of transportation hubs which could be considered as the earliest ports open up China to the outside world. Lanzhou is an important town on the Silk Road where civilizations of East and West blended together. The abundant cultural heritage with countless tourism resources is definitely the priceless treasure of modern Lanzhou.


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