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Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Han Dynasty and The Silk Road

The Silk Road
Even before the Han dynasty, Chinese traders imported, or brought in, goods for sale from other lands. They also exported, or sent out, their own goods for sale in other places. However, during the time of the Han dynasty, trade with the outside world grew dramatically.

In 139 B.C. Wu Di sent an ambassador, or government representative, to talk to enemies of the Xiongnu about becoming allies. The ambassador, Zhang Qian (JAHNG CHIH»yihn), did not succeed in this. However, he did learn about some of the civilizations to the west of China. Zhang Qian came back with tales of resources unknown to the people of China. The Chinese people were especially interested in stories of magnificent horses. The stories led Chinese traders to travel in search of these horses and other goods. Most of China's trade was done by land. The trade route used the most began near the Han capital of Chang'an. It continued through the deserts and high plains of central Asia. The route finally ended at the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Chinese product most in demand was silk. In fact, it was silk that gave the trade route its nickname the Silk Road. Traders traveled west with products made from silk. They returned with lumber, horses, and other products that the Chinese people needed.

The journey on the Silk Road was sometimes dangerous. However, the profits, or money gained, more than made up for the risks. Camel caravans, or groups of traders, became common sights on the Silk Road.

Chinese traders easily found buyers for their silk. Those who bought silk directly from the Chinese traded it to others farther west. Chinese traders did not go all the way to Africa and Europe, but their goods did. What was the Silk Road?


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