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Silk Route
CATEGORY: site
DEFINITION: The collective name for several overland and ocean routes for silk trade between China and the Roman world, and later Byzantium, from the 1st-8th centuries AD. From Chang'an, capital of the Han Dynasty, the main route went west through the Gansu corridor into the Tarim basin at Dunhuang. There it branched into two main routes across the Central Asian deserts. After crossing the Pamirs, the two routes rejoined finally at Merv and continued via Ecbatana and Ctesiphon to Palmyra and the Mediterranean. The institutionalized traffic in silk began in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). The cities along the Silk Route flourished despite political changes. From the 9th century onwards, trade came increasingly to depend on sea routes and the main Chinese export was not silk but porcelain. Overland commerce revived only briefly during the continent-wide peace that ensued after the Mongol conquests of the 13th century, when Marco Polo followed the Silk Route to the court of the Yuan emperor Kublai Khan.
silk
CATEGORY: term
DEFINITION: Thread that can be drawn off the cocoon spun by the grub of the moth Bombyx mori and used for weaving fine cloth, which originated in China in Neolithic period. The silk industry was established by the Anyang period, c 1300-1030 BC. The Anyang oracle bones include characters for silk, silk fabrics, silkworm, and mulberry tree, and traces of silk fabrics are occasionally found preserved. Silk fabric was used as a writing surface at least as early as the 5th century BC. Both manuscripts and paintings on silk have come from Chu tombs of the 5th century BC and later. Elaborate methods of weaving were developed by the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and textiles exported in large numbers along Silk Route to Roman world and later to Byzantium. The route is the collective name for several overland and ocean routes for silk trade from the 1st-8th centuries AD. From Chang'an, capital of the Han Dynasty, the main route went west through the Gansu corridor.

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