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The Great Silk Road


Longing for traveling, desire to learn the world inhere a man from time immemorial. While traveling a man has an opportunity to compare the culture of his own people with spiritual values of other peoples and countries. Each culture is unique: it can be observed by comparing cultures of the East and the West. Simultaneously we can see a certain similarity and interrelation typical to these cultures, reflected in art, science, language and even in customs. It is not out of place to mention here about the influence of the East and the West, and interdependence of these cultural areas.
So here in Uzbekistan during your itinerary you will here a lot of "THE GREAT SILK ROAD" which played a great role in the history of our country.
For many centuries peoples of the East and the West were connected by a trading route stretching from South- East Asia to the countries of the Mediterranean Sea, and only in the XIX century this road entered to the science as "THE GREAT SILK ROAD" by the German geographer and geologist Ferdinand Von Richthofen. Until that time the Road was called as "Western Meridianal Road".
Traveling the Silk Road has never been easy. Merchants would often travel at night to avoid the heat in caravans of up to 1000 camels, carrying the major commodity - silk along steppes, deserts and mountainous paths during those dangerous travels. According to the manuscripts, silk was first discovered by the Chinese. It was one of the most valuable fabrics, and its production technology was kept in secret by Chinese masters for thousands of years. It is said that once the wife of the yellow Emperor, Princess Si Ling Chi watched a silk cocoon fall from mulberry tree into her cup and unravel in the hot tea before her very eyes. And the princess tried hard to remove it from her cup, but she could not manage to do it as it was very long.
However, caravans of camels carried not only silk. For centuries from the East to the West and from the West to the East they carried a great amount of raw materials and goods made from: bronze, porcelain, wool, cobalt. Besides that the Silk Road served as a channel for spreading ideas, technologies, art and religions, promoting mutual enrichment of cultures and form tuition of a common legacy of mankind. The history of "THE GREAT SILK ROAD" numbers not less than 2 thousand years - approximately from 500 B.C. to its decline by the XVI century.
The main well - studied part of the road done by UNESCO’s representatives stretched from Italy via Turkey to Iraq and Iran, where wells and reservoirs for caravans and merchants were built; then the road led to Central Asia and over the North Pamirs to Kashqar and Yarkand where it was divided into two, passing round Takla - Makan desert from the North and South and met near Labnor Lake, then it went to steppes inhabited by nomadic people and further to China. Only in its middle part - Central Asia - the Great Silk Road got narrow and further nearer to the end it divided into many paths which led to different cities and countries. From one side they ended near the shores of Ireland and Norwegian fiords, in Portugal and Denmark, Suzdal and the Urals, from other side it stretched to Japan, to the Spices islands behind Indonesia, to Ceylon and Philippines.
The volume of trade along the Great Silk Road was amazingly large. Today archeologists still discover articles which get there from far away countries along the Great Silk Road. They are silver sauces of Sassanid period (224 - 651) in Taiga and the North Urals and Chinese porcelain sauces at the foothills of the Caucasus and nephrite in Ireland. The trading route was a busy artery of the Middle Ages, a source of goods and information and an object of discords and wars. For example, one of the reasons for the expansion marches of Chingizkhan (XIII cent.) was the desire to dominate on the Great Silk Road.
Medieval Arab historians (X th century) considered that it took 200 days to get from the Red Sea to China. Actually nobody could cover the distance so fast because any caravan had to stop in cities and oases for trading. Chinese written sources convey a very interesting story about the discovery of the eastern path of this route. In the second century B.C. an ambassador of the Khan Empire Chan Tezyan was the first to get over the mountainous paths between West China and the Eastern city of the Fergana valley - Uzgan.
Thus, two great roads were connected: one, leading from West to Central Asia, trodden by ancient Greeks and Macedonians during Alexander the Great’s marches (336 - 323 B.C.) and Seleucid military leader Antioch 1 (280 - 261 B.C.) up to the Yaksart (the Syr - Darya) and the other, leading from East from Khan Empire to Central Asia.
Ancient and ever - young cities of Central Asia like Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Merv, Termez, Khodjent, Charjou and others were important capillaries of this network. Thanks to its favorable location Uzbekistan held a central place on the Road.
The Great Silk Road passes through all our basic cities which have great tourism potentials. The most ancient part of it, built as far back as the VI th to V th centuries B.C. by Indio - Europeans, to be more specific, by Indo - Iranian tribes (scythe -sakas, sogdians, bactrians, khorezmians, massagets), connects Bukhara with Samarkand through Vabkent, Gizhduvan, Karminah.
An arrival of Turish nomadic tribes from the north - west (III - IV th centuries) heralded a new stage in the development of the Great Silk Road. They played a great role in strengthening cultural, trade and political relations between Sogd, Parthia, Khorezm on one hand and China and Eastern Turkistan on the other one. During the Samanids’ (IX - X th centuries), Khorezm Shahs’ (IX - X th) and Gaznevids’ (X - XI th centuries) rule this trading route was highly busy and important. As known, this period in the development of Central Asia came down in history as the "Eastern Renaissance". This period gave the world such scientists of encyclopedic knowledge as Khorezmi, Fergani, Farabi, Beruni, Avicenna, and others. Bukhara, Samarkand, Gurgenj (Kunya Urgench) used to be large political, scientific and cultural centers. During the Mongol conquest (XIII th century) Maveranahr’s cities were devastated. But it did not stop the movement of caravans. Passing through Syria, Iran, Iraq, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia the caravan routes led to the territory of Uzbekistan. The period of Amir Timur’s rule (1371 - 1405) is also characterized by strengthening and expansion of interstate economic, cultural and trading relations. The book "Traveling to Samarkand" by Spanish ambassador De Clavicho testify to it. He says that at that time Samarkand was "a warehouse of goods". After the Sheybanids (XVI - XVII th centuries) came to power, Shaibani Khan implemented essential economic and political reforms. Though at that period trading caravans on the Great Silk Road kept getting rare, however, international relations in Maveranahr strengthened. In the course of the Shaibanids’ rule unique architectural monuments were built too.
The subsequent years are characterized by the decline of the Great Silk Road. However, cultural and economic relations between different countries of the West and the East had never been ceased. They were maintained by other means and existed in other forms.
The Great Silk Road, which united people of the West and The East in the course of many centuries, played a great role in the creation of a common culture legacy of mankind. As it is known, the best types of silk were produced in Central Asia, particularly, in Fergana Valley. Good name of Marghilan’s silk weaving masters have been coming from ancient times. As early as in the X th century the Arab manuscript said: "all lands of Bukhara can be given for one silk curtain woven in Marghilan". Since then only the name of the city has been changed a little and its good name as of a silk - producer has grown and strengthened. Besides silk, weapons, instruments, different articles from iron and other metals made by craftsmen of Bukhara, Samarkand, Fergana and Khorezm were in demand. Thus, the Great Silk Road played a great role in the cultural exchange of peoples of countries through which it passed. A complex investigation of trading routes, conducted by UNESCO, includes the study and restoration of historical caravansarays. Nowadays, about 1500 caravan - sarays in Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, and Iran are being investigated. Since 1989 UNESCO’s delegation and scientists of Uzbekistan have been conducting investigations related to the study of caravan - sarais on the territory of Uzbekistan. Besides, Tourism Ministry of Uzbekistan put forward a proposal on the development of a joint inter - state transcontinental touristic route connecting the countries where the Great Silk Road used to pass.