The Silk Road is a trading route that connected East and West, resulting in an assimilation of cultures in both sides. The name was derived from the primary commodity being sold since the Han dynasty (207 BCE-220 CE), later contributing to the development of civilization along East Asia, Southeast Asia, West Asia, East Africa, up to Southern Europe.
The trade route declined for various reasons from warfare to plague but the historical remains can still be seen up till now. For traveling history buffs, the Silk Road legacies are undoubtedly not to miss!
Tracing the Silk Road starts from Xi’an, just like the first traders did. Xi’an is a former imperial capital city and departure point for Chinese traders carrying silk and porcelain. You can also find the infamous terracotta soldiers here, guarding the tomb of the first Emperor of China.
From Xi’an we later move to Gansu, with its unmistakably panoramic landscape. Imagine being a merchant riding on your hose through the colorful mountains of Zhangye Danxia which resemble an abstract painting or remote Crescent Lake, a wonderful oasis adorned with traditional Chinese architecture.
Jiayuguan is home to the most western part of the Great Wall of China traversing into the desert, also the most intact part of the wall. The scenery surrounding it consists of endless desert with scarcely growing grass.
Here in Jiayuguan you could also reenact life from the Silk Road ages through activities like arrow shooting and horse riding. As you go further West you will end in Kashgar, the most westerly city of China, also home to the Sunday Market, one of the busiest market in the world.
You can time your travel to see trading activities, not much different from the Silk Road heydays, where traders buy and sell large numbers of livestock. Kashgar is also home to the Uyghur community with their own unique tradition and delicacy including their infamous hand-churned ice cream.
The vast steppe of Kazakhstan have witness trading activities for centuries during the Silk Road age. The trading activities carrying exotic goods led to the building of caravenserais (resting places for merchants) and later encouraged permanent settlements along the steppes.
Unfortunately, most remnants of the Silk Road glory in Kazakhstan now lie deteriorating in ruins withstanding time and weather. One of them the infamous ruin of Sauran. What was once the largest city in Kazakhstan built along the Syr Darya river is now abandoned leaving only half-standing stone walls. Another Ghost Town is Otrar, which was abandoned before the decline of Silk Road after it inhabitants had been murdered by Genghis Khan.
Nowadays, Otrar is home to the Arystan Bab Mausoleum, a stone building as well as pilgrimage destination. You could also see settlements of the people of Otrar, or what is left of them. Stone blocks show the typical housing layout from the past. The importance of these sites had been realized and the local government together with UNESCO is carrying programs to restore them.
Go to next article