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The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes which connected Europe and Asia. These connections resulted in the trading of goods, notably silk, and the spread of ideas and diseases. It started near the end of the second century during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. China’s interest in European horses and its monopoly in silk manufacturing, and Rome’s obsession with silk opened a trading network between Asia and Europe.
See the fact file below for more information on the Silk Road or alternatively, you can download our 27-page Silk Road worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
ORIGIN OF THE NAME “SILK ROAD”
- Silk was a highly valued commodity in Rome as it became an indication of social status.
- The Silk Road was the only way to procure silk in China as the country had the monopoly on manufacturing it.
- The term was coined by a German traveller and geographer, Ferdinand von Richthofen, in 1877 CE, who called it ‘Seidenstrasse’ (silk road).
- Marco Polo, a European explorer, described the trades that happened on this road but never mentioned its name.
TRADING OF GOODS
- The Silk Road comprises multiple routes that span five thousand miles from different parts of Europe and Asia.
- It was established when the Han Dynasty opened trade with the west.
- But before it was opened, there were already trades happening with Persia and Europe. They called the route the Persian Royal Road.
- The Silk Road was established when China traded their silk with other countries and it became a high-value commodity.
- China had a monopoly on silk for a long time. Its production process was tightly guarded.
- Aside from silk, many other goods were traded on the Silk Road. Marco Polo and Ferdinand von Richthofen listed gold, bronze, glassware, and textiles, to name a few.
- China’s motivation in opening the country for trading was having access to European horses.
- Horses had become a necessity in China for transporting goods and for war, especially as their enemies in the north were also using horses.
- Countries like India were able to trade cotton, fabrics, spices, semi-precious stones, dyes, and ivory in exchange for gold, furs, fur animals, bark for skin processing, cattle, manufactured goods, etc.
- Camels had also been an essential part of trading, either being used to transport goods or being traded themselves.
- The Silk Road allowed access not only for trading goods but also for exchanging innovations, religion, and, unfortunately, disease.
TRADING OF IDEAS
- Buddhism, which was starting to deteriorate in India, found a new home in China and Japan.
- Traders often create shrines and temples of their religions wherever they go so that they will be able to practice their religion even when far from home.
- Kublai Khan, the leader of the Mongol Empire who controlled the Silk Road, preferred Buddhism.
- Christianity and Judaism were spread to some countries by the Western traders.
- Intercultural exchange rituals were shared when people ate together or communicated.
- The process of making silk was also traded to the Western countries.
- he four greatest Chinese inventions spread via the Silk Road: these were the technologies for papermaking, mechanical printing techniques, gunpowder, and the compass.
PLAGUES AND DISEASES THROUGH SILK ROADS
- Sadly, not only goods, cultures, inventions, and religions were exchanged on the Silk Road. It also became an instrument to spread deadly diseases.
- The Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death, mostly affected rodents and fleas, who transferred it to people. This was said to have started in China, the largest exporter of silk to Europe.
- It killed around half of the European population over seven years from 1346.
- Modern research also mentions a disease called Chinese liver fluke.
- People contracted the parasite by eating infected fish which they concluded had come from the modern Guandong province.
DECLINE AND LEGACY OF THE SILK ROAD
- The Silk Road’s most significant contribution is the exchange of ideas and innovations in technology, science, and architecture and the adoption of different beliefs, cultures, arts, religions, and philosophies.
- The system the Silk Road established, with the exchange of ideas, goods, and culture, can be likened to modern-day globalization or the world wide web, just on a smaller scale.
- The Silk Road made the world realize the value of passing on information and exchanging goods.
- Its closing was due to merchants being forced to trade by sea, as this was a much cheaper, safer, and efficient alternative at the time.
- It also initiated the Age of Discovery because Europe was able to interact more with other parts of the world and begin a global community.
- The closure forced Europeans to explore the world and eventually conquer lands, and laid the foundation of the development of the modern world.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE SILK ROAD
- The Silk Road covered a total of over four thousand miles in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
- Some of the routes were long but safe, and others were shorter but more dangerous.
- Bandits terrorized the Silk Road. They were aware of the luxurious items the traders were carrying.
- Very few traders travelled the entire Silk Road. They went into the cities and traded along the way.
Silk Road Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Silk Road across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Silk Road worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Silk Road which was an ancient network of trade routes which connected Europe and Asia. These connections resulted in the trading of goods, notably silk, and the spread of ideas and diseases. It started near the end of the second century during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. China’s interest in European horses and its monopoly in silk manufacturing, and Rome’s obsession with silk opened a trading network between Asia and Europe.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Silk Road Facts
- Most Popular Commodities
- Ancient Globalization
- Silk Road Details
- Facts about the Silk Road
- Goods Hunt
- Spread of Buddhism
- Four Greatest Inventions
- The Plague and Epidemics
- Four Reasons for Decline
- Becoming a Trader
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.