Where is the Silk Road? What is its beginning and end? For many centuries, scholars have debated this very thing. Part of that is the informality of the road itself. To be sure, there was no official trade route used that was called the Silk Road. In fact, that term was later coined by German explorer and geologist Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen sometime in the mid-nineteenth century.

Even still, Silk from China was one of the main commodities traded along the desert pathways and sea lanes. A state secret in the Empire and closely guarded cultural treasure, silk was the means that many made their wealth along the road. Along with spices from India, gems from the Arabian peninsula, and ivory from the north African coast many goods were carried by caravan in the ancient world along this famous network of trade routes.

The earliest known beginning of the road was in the Han Dynasty of China (206 BC - 220 AD) and it started in the capital at that time, Chang'an (modern day Xi'an). There were three main routes: The Northern Route, Central Route, and Southern Route.

The Northern Route started in Shangdu and ran west through the northern wastes of modern Mongolia. Then it went past the Caspian and Black seas onward to Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

The Central Route ran from Chang'an (Xi'an) west through Central China's Gobi Desert to Kashgar. Then it continued west to the ancient Arab world of the middle east.

The Southern Route started in Chengdu and ran southward into Southeast Asia then west to India, Nepal, and Tibet.

Those were the three main routes overland. Combined with sea routes to North Africa, Japan, and Indonesia the Silk Road covered most of the ancient world.

It's important that we know the regions the road touched because not only were goods and services traded so were philosophies, ideas, and religions. The faiths of the people along the Silk Road in ancient times can still be seen today and has influenced generations of religious belief. Our mission is to the heart of enemy territory and to the people held captive there.

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