Silk Road Facts

Silk Road Facts include the basic information of the Silk Road, fun facts of the Silk Road and some other things you may want to know for China Silk Road Travel, such as Silk Road Routes. View our Silk Road basics when you plan the Silk Road Tours.

The Silk Road is one of the most mythical attractions in China, however, it’s rarely mentioned in North America. It’s arguably the most influential trading route of the ancients and the reason why there are so many different cultural influences between Asia, United Emirates and the West. The Silk Road facts above help us shine a light on such a mysterious reputation. 

Basic Information

  • Chinese Name: 丝绸之路
  • English Translation: Silk Road
  • Length: 4,350 miles (7,000 kilometers) with 2,485 miles (4,000 kilometers) in China
  • Silk Road Routes: Southern Silk Road, Maritime Silk Road, Grassland Silk Road
  • Flourish: The 2nd Century BC to the 1st Century AD
  • Location: From Asia to Europe passing through China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
  • Chinese Regions along the RouteShaanxiGansuQinghaiXinjiang


The Silk Road was a trade route of more than 4000 miles, which extended from Eastern Europe to China, touching on the borders of India and Persia along the way. The Silk Road began as a trade route during the Han Dynasty of 207 BC to 220BC, expanding in 114 BC, and continuing until the 1400s. In the 1500s sailing became popular for trade and the Silk Road fell away into history. The Silk Road got its name when a German geographer in 1870 named Ferdinand van Richthofen coined the term because of the popularity of the silk trade when the route was in use.

  • The Silk Road was a trade route that went from China to Eastern Europe. It went along the northern borders of China, India, and Persia and ended up in Eastern Europe near today’s Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The Silk Road earned its name from Chinese silk, a highly valued commodity that merchants transported along these trade networks.
  • Advances in technology and increased political stability caused an increase in trade. The opening of more trade routes caused travelers to exchange many things: animals, spices, ideas, and diseases.

Silk Road FAQs

Why was the Silk Road important?

The Silk Road was important because it helped to generate trade and commerce between a number of different kingdoms and empires. This helped for ideas, culture, inventions, and unique products to spread across much of the settled world.

Why is it called the Silk Road?

It was called the Silk Road because one of the major products traded was silk cloth from China. People throughout Asia and Europe prized Chinese silk for its softness and luxury. The Chinese sold silk for thousands of years and even the Romans called China the “land of silk”.

What goods were traded on the Silk Road?

Silk wasn’t the only good traded on these routes. Metals, spices, medicines, glass, leather goods, and paper all moved across Eurasia. Paper became the primary writing material for all of Eurasia, and surely had a far greater impact on human history than silk, which was used primarily for garments. Invented during the second century BCE, paper moved out of China, first into the Islamic world in the eighth century, and reached Europe via its Islamic portals in Sicily and Spain. People north of the Alps learned to make their own paper only in the late fourteenth century. Besides silk, the Chinese also exported (sold) teas, salt, sugar, porcelain, and spices. Most of what was traded was expensive luxury goods. This was because it was a long trip and merchants didn’t have a lot of room for goods. They imported, or bought, goods like cotton, ivory, wool, gold, and silver.

Read More about What goods were traded on the Silk Road?

How did people travel?

Merchants and tradesmen traveled in large caravans. They would have many guards with them. Traveling in a big group like a caravan helped in defending from bandits. Camels were popular animals for transport because much of the road was through dry and harsh land.

When were the peak years of the Silk Road trade?

The peak years of the Silk Road trade were between 500 and 800 C.E., after the fall of the Han dynasty and Constantinople replaced Rome as the center of the Roman empire. The Tang dynasty stationed troops in Central Asia and many Iranians came to the Tang territory at that time.

Read More about Silk Road FAQs

Fun Facts of the Silk Raod

  • The Silk Road was not actually a road. It was a complex route that included land and sea routes that traders had to cross in order to do business in faraway places. The actual route often changed when weather, raids, natural disasters and bandits threatened the safety of those making the journey.
  • Despite the name, silk was not the main item traded by the Chinese. Other goods included porcelain, spices, gems, perfumes, ivory, coral, gunpowder, glass beads, and furs.
  • The Europeans brought specialty items along the Silk Road to trade to the Chinese. These items often included wool, animals, slaves, jade, wine, and colored glass.
  • Caravans traveling on the route were typically guarded heavily. If a caravan was traveling without protection, it was likely to be targeted by bandits.
  • Camel wasn’t the most frequently used animal. Aside from camels, traders in Central Asia and China would use horses and yaks to carry their goods. 
  • While there were many impressive cities on the silk road, the most impressive was Samarkand. This city was at the epicenter of many Chinese routes that met and then went on to reach Europe.
  • Very few merchants traveled along the entire route. Goods were traded at many cities and trade posts along the way.
  • The most famous person from history to travel the Silk Road was Marco Polo. He was also the first person from Europe to document his experience traveling around China.
  • Not all that was traded along the Silk Road was good. It is thought that the bubonic plague, or Black Death, traveled to Europe from the Silk Road.
  • There is a modern route that has been dubbed, the New Silk Road. It is a railway line named, the Eurasian Landbridge. It runs between Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and China.

Edited by Brittany Tian/田春燕