There are indications that he may have led expeditions as far as Kashgar in Chinese Turkestan , leading to the first known contacts between China and the West around BCE. The Greek historian Strabo writes, "they extended their empire even as far as the Seres China and the Phryni. Classical Greek philosophy syncretised with Indian philosophy. This extension came around BCE, with the embassies of the Han dynasty to Central Asia following the reports of the ambassador Zhang Qian  who was originally sent to obtain an alliance with the Yuezhi against the Xiongnu.
Zhang Qian visited directly the kingdom of Dayuan in Ferghana , the territories of the Yuezhi in Transoxiana , the Bactrian country of Daxia with its remnants of Greco-Bactrian rule, and Kangju. He also made reports on neighbouring countries that he did not visit, such as Anxi Parthia , Tiaozhi Mesopotamia , Shendu Indian subcontinent and the Wusun.
Others  say that Emperor Wu was mainly interested in fighting the Xiongnu and that major trade began only after the Chinese pacified the Hexi Corridor. The Silk Roads' origin lay in the hands of the Chinese. The soil in China lacked Selenium , a deficiency which contributed to muscular weakness and reduced growth in horses. Even after the construction of the Great Wall, nomads gathered at the gates of the wall to exchange. Soldiers sent to guard the wall were often paid in silk which they traded with the nomads.
The Chinese were also strongly attracted by the tall and powerful horses named " Heavenly horses " in the possession of the Dayuan literally the "Great Ionians", the Greek kingdoms of Central Asia , which were of capital importance in fighting the nomadic Xiongnu.
They defeated the Dayuan in the Han-Dayuan war.
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The Chinese subsequently sent numerous embassies, around ten every year, to these countries and as far as Seleucid Syria. As a rule, rather more than ten such missions went forward in the course of a year, and at the least five or six. These connections marked the beginning of the Silk Road trade network that extended to the Roman Empire.
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It has been suggested that the Chinese crossbow was transmitted to the Roman world on such occasions, although the Greek gastraphetes provides an alternative origin. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy suggest that in 36 BCE,. The Romans may have been part of Antony 's army invading Parthia. Sogdiana modern Bukhara , east of the Oxus River, on the Polytimetus River, was apparently the most easterly penetration ever made by Roman forces in Asia.
The margin of Chinese victory appears to have been their crossbows, whose bolts and darts seem easily to have penetrated Roman shields and armour. Even the rest of the nations of the world which were not subject to the imperial sway were sensible of its grandeur, and looked with reverence to the Roman people, the great conqueror of nations. Thus even Scythians and Sarmatians sent envoys to seek the friendship of Rome.
Nay, the Seres came likewise, and the Indians who dwelt beneath the vertical sun, bringing presents of precious stones and pearls and elephants, but thinking all of less moment than the vastness of the journey which they had undertaken, and which they said had occupied four years. In truth it needed but to look at their complexion to see that they were people of another world than ours.
The Han army regularly policed the trade route against nomadic bandit forces generally identified as Xiongnu. Han general Ban Chao led an army of 70, mounted infantry and light cavalry troops in the 1st century CE to secure the trade routes, reaching far west to the Tarim basin. Ban Chao expanded his conquests across the Pamirs to the shores of the Caspian Sea and the borders of Parthia.
The Silk Roads were a "complex network of trade routes" that gave people the chance to exchange goods and culture. It extended, via ports on the coasts of India and Sri Lanka , all the way to Roman -controlled ports in Roman Egypt and the Nabataean territories on the northeastern coast of the Red Sea. The earliest Roman glassware bowl found in China was unearthed from a Western Han tomb in Guangzhou , dated to the early 1st century BCE, indicating that Roman commercial items were being imported through the South China Sea.
Harper asserts that a 2nd or 3rd-century Roman gilt silver plate found in Jingyuan , Gansu , China with a central image of the Greco-Roman god Dionysus resting on a feline creature, most likely came via Greater Iran i.
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It is true that these coins were found in China, but they were deposited there in the twentieth century, not in ancient times, and therefore they do not shed light on historic contacts between China and Rome. The Roman Empire inherited eastern trade routes that were part of the Silk Road from the earlier Hellenistic powers and the Arabs.
With control of these trade routes, citizens of the Roman Empire received new luxuries and greater prosperity for the Empire as a whole.
Intercontinental trade and communication became regular, organised, and protected by the "Great Powers". Intense trade with the Roman Empire soon followed, confirmed by the Roman craze for Chinese silk supplied through the Parthians , even though the Romans thought silk was obtained from trees. Notably, Pliny the Elder knew better.
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Speaking of the bombyx or silk moth, he wrote in his Natural Histories "They weave webs, like spiders, that become a luxurious clothing material for women, called silk. Roman artisans began to replace yarn with valuable plain silk cloths from China and the Silla Kingdom in Gyeongju , Korea. I can see clothes of silk, if materials that do not hide the body, nor even one's decency, can be called clothes Wretched flocks of maids labour so that the adulteress may be visible through her thin dress, so that her husband has no more acquaintance than any outsider or foreigner with his wife's body.
The West Roman Empire, and its demand for sophisticated Asian products, crumbled in the West around the 5th century. The unification of Central Asia and Northern India within the Kushan Empire in the 1st to 3rd centuries reinforced the role of the powerful merchants from Bactria and Taxila. Byzantine Greek historian Procopius stated that two Nestorian Christian monks eventually uncovered the way silk was made.
From this revelation, monks were sent by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian ruled — as spies on the Silk Road from Constantinople to China and back to steal the silkworm eggs , resulting in silk production in the Mediterranean, particularly in Thrace in northern Greece,  and giving the Byzantine Empire a monopoly on silk production in medieval Europe. Roman Empire. It was closed after the Tibetans captured it in , but in , during Empress Wu 's period, the Silk Road reopened when the Tang reconquered the Four Garrisons of Anxi originally installed in ,  once again connecting China directly to the West for land-based trade.
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While the Turks were settled in the Ordos region former territory of the Xiongnu , the Tang government took on the military policy of dominating the central steppe. The Tang dynasty along with Turkic allies conquered and subdued Central Asia during the s and s. The Tang dynasty established a second Pax Sinica , and the Silk Road reached its golden age, whereby Persian and Sogdian merchants benefited from the commerce between East and West.
At the same time, the Chinese empire welcomed foreign cultures, making it very cosmopolitan in its urban centres. In addition to the land route, the Tang dynasty also developed the maritime Silk Route. The Silk Road represents an early phenomenon of political and cultural integration due to inter-regional trade.
In its heyday, it sustained an international culture that strung together groups as diverse as the Magyars , Armenians , and Chinese. The Silk Road reached its peak in the west during the time of the Byzantine Empire ; in the Nile- Oxus section, from the Sassanid Empire period to the Il Khanate period; and in the sinitic zone from the Three Kingdoms period to the Yuan dynasty period. Persian Sassanid coins emerged as a means of currency, just as valuable as silk yarn and textiles.
Under its strong integrating dynamics on the one hand and the impacts of change it transmitted on the other, tribal societies previously living in isolation along the Silk Road, and pastoralists who were of barbarian cultural development, were drawn to the riches and opportunities of the civilisations connected by the routes, taking on the trades of marauders or mercenaries. The Sogdians dominated the East-West trade after the 4th century up to the 8th century, with Suyab and Talas ranking among their main centres in the north. They were the main caravan merchants of Central Asia.
Their trade, with some interruptions, continued in the 9th century within the framework of the Uighur Empire , which until extended across northern Central Asia and obtained from China enormous deliveries of silk in exchange for horses.
Uzbekistan the golden middle of the Silk Road
At this time caravans of Sogdians traveling to Upper Mongolia are mentioned in Chinese sources. They played an equally important religious and cultural role. Part of the data about eastern Asia provided by Muslim geographers of the 10th century actually goes back to Sogdian data of the period — and thus shows the survival of links between east and west. However, after the end of the Uighur Empire, Sogdian trade went through a crisis. What mainly issued from Muslim Central Asia was the trade of the Samanids , which resumed the northwestern road leading to the Khazars and the Urals and the northeastern one toward the nearby Turkic tribes.
By the Umayyad era, Damascus had overtaken Ctesiphon as a major trade center until the Abbasid dynasty built the city of Baghdad , which became the most important city along the silk road. At the end of its glory, the routes brought about the largest continental empire ever, the Mongol Empire, with its political centres strung along the Silk Road Beijing in North China, Karakorum in central Mongolia, Sarmakhand in Transoxiana , Tabriz in Northern Iran, realising the political unification of zones previously loosely and intermittently connected by material and cultural goods.
The Islamic world expanded into Central Asia during the 8th century, under the Umayyad Caliphate , while its successor the Abbasid Caliphate put a halt to Chinese westward expansion at the Battle of Talas in near the Talas River in modern-day Kyrgyzstan. During the early 13th century Khwarezmia was invaded by the Mongol Empire. The Mongol ruler Genghis Khan had the once vibrant cities of Bukhara and Samarkand burned to the ground after besieging them.
The Mongol expansion throughout the Asian continent from around to helped bring political stability and re-established the Silk Road via Karakorum. It also brought an end to the dominance of the Islamic Caliphate over world trade. Because the Mongols came to control the trade routes, trade circulated throughout the region, though they never abandoned their nomadic lifestyle. The Mongol rulers wanted to establish their capital on the Central Asian steppe, so to accomplish this goal, after every conquest they enlisted local people traders, scholars, artisans to help them construct and manage their empire.
The Mongol diplomat Rabban Bar Sauma visited the courts of Europe in —88 and provided a detailed written report to the Mongols. He was not the first to bring back stories, but he was one of the most widely read. In the 13th century efforts were made at forming a Franco-Mongol alliance , with an exchange of ambassadors and failed attempts at military collaboration in the Holy Land during the later Crusades.
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