As long as a thousand years ago, the main commercial activity between Asia and Europe took place along a tortuous route from Persia and the Black Sea in the west to China in the east, traversing central Asian deserts and the high Himalayan plateaus of Tibet. The primary currency of that trade was silk, and thus the term "silk road" refers to the paths traveled in the pursuit of commerce in silk.
The Silk Road consists of a network of both land and sea routes. Its flourishment brought not only the prized "silk" from China to the West but also established the trade of many other goods. Eastbound caravans brought gold, precious metals and stones, ivory, coral, spices, tea, paper, textiles, and chinaware, while westbound caravans transported furs, ceramics, incense, cinnamon bark and rhubarb as well as bronze weapons. Simulateneously, the silk road also served as a means through which various religious beliefs found their ways to unchartered territories.
Great Silk Road was a significant achievement in the history of world civilization.
It enabled the fruitful interaction of peoples resulting in the exchange of
culture, religion, technology, and skill.
On the way of the caravans there were rich settlements and towns-Merv and Bukhara, Samarkand and Urgench, Otrar and Chimkent, Taraz and Balasagun, Sauran and Talgar. The question when this highway began to function still has different answers. Considering separate sections of the Silk Route, the beginning of thecontact and exchanges goes back to the third-second millenia B.C. These relations were established due to exploitation of lazurite in the Badakhshan Mountains and nephrite-upstream the river Yarkend-Darya in the Khotan area.
It was but in the middle of the second century B.C. that Silk Route began to function as a regular diplomatic and commercial artery. This started in 138 B.C., when Prince Zhang-Jian, sent on his journey by the Emperor Wu-di, set out from the capital of Han to the unknown western countries, escorted by embassy caravan. Zhang-Jian returned only 13 years later. He managed to reach the regions of today's Afghanistan and pioneered a direct way from the interior regions of China to those of Central Asia. Following this way, caravans, carrying silk, set out westwards; they returned with goods from Miditerranean countries, Near and Middle East and Central Asia.