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Most of the places we visited in West-China had a connection with the Silk Roads. The name Silk Roads is quite new, it was a German geographer and scientist Ferdinand von Richthofen (he was uncle to The Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen) who first used the name in 1877. Please note he used the plural form and that is correct, there are several trading routes out of China. China traded with both India and Persia as well as the eastern Mediterranian countries .
It was not only silk that was traded, goods, ideas, food, spices, musical instruments, art and art styles, horses were among the things that followed the Silk Roads. For instance the halo that came in use in Christianity in the 300s AD was used by the Scythians 800 years earlier. The chair arrived in China in the second century AD from North Africa, and it was called “barbarian chair”. We say chairman Mao, but the Chinese word actually means “master of the mat”. Paper, gun powder and firework are examples of east-to-west in addition to silk.
Very few travelled the whole distance, normally there were several trading posts where goods were bought and sold. The Sogdians, a people I had never heard of before, were important traders, and again my curiosity woke up. I will write a bit more about this people.
I have been facinated by the Silk Roads from I was a boy. Of course I had this picture in my head about caravans using months from China to the Mediterranian, like Marco Polo did going east. But I found out it is more complicated and I recently found a book that answered a lot of my questions. It is a book in a large series “A Very short introduction to ……….” a lot of topics (about 300) among them the Silk Road by James A. Millward. on Oxford University Press. Strongly recommended and if the other books are just as interesting look them up! http://www.oup.co.uk/general/vsi/.
We visited Kashgar on the western edge of the Taklamakan desert, then took the road south of the desert to Hutan (there are several different spellings and names on this city). Then we crossed the desert on a new highway to Kuqa (again different way to spell the name) on the northern edge and followed that through Korla to Turpan to the east. From there to Urumqi and home. I found all this places interesting and they had places in the surroundings that were among the highlights of the tour. So I will write more about them in separate chapters.
We walked on one of the original Silk Roads near Korla. The reason I can say that with certainty is that it is through a narrow valley and that was the only way. It was also a place called the Iron Gate at the end of the valley where they collected taxes from the caravans. So here is a picture fra a part of the Silk Road.