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Silk Road

silkroad.jpg (20168 bytes)Two thousand years ago, the threads of commerce were established that connected Xian to the Middle East and Europe, opening China for the first time to the Western world. It was in 138 BC that the Han emperor Wudi sent an emissary westward, not for trade, but to seek allies to defend China against the Huns. From that time until the 14th century, caravans carrying spices, fruits, and all manner of goods from the West routinely crossed the deserts in search of silk, transforming forever China's frontier towns into cosmopolitan trading centers.

Modern-day Marco Polos may follow the path of these ancient caravans all the way from Xian, in China's interior, to Kashgar near the former Soviet border (the present border of the republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan). Numerous tour companies offer various Silk Road Tours that include one or more of the major cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Hong Kong) and then venture out across western China, where the majority of people still follow a way of life largely unchanged since the days of early traders. Tours along the Silk Road pass through areas where 12 of China's 56 ethnic minorities still live. Unlike the caravans of the past however, today you can travel in comfort via jet, train, and motorcoach.


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