How did the Silk Road influence trade?

The Silk Roads were one of the most significant historical trade routes in the world. It does not exist as a physical path or a single route. With a distance of more than 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles), it was crucial in promoting East-West exchanges in politics, religion, and the economy.

In this article, we will show you how the Silk Road influenced trade. and how many routes it had through the years and the most famous commodities that traveled through the Silk Road.

The old Silk Road

The Silk Road took many forms in different centuries; it refers to both land-based and sea-based trade routes connecting the Far East to the Middle East and Europe.

The Han Dynasty established it in 130. In 138 B.C., Han Emperor Wu dispatched an imperial envoy, Zhang Qian, to establish contact with cultures in Central Asia. Zhang Qian's reports from his travels provided important information about the people and territories that lay along the Weswestut; these routes have long been used for the transportation of goods and services.

It was named the Silk Road after the term used by Ferdinand von Richthofen to refer to the routes.


How did the Silk Road influence trade?

The Silk Road had a huge impact on trade through the years. Silk, spices, precious metals, minerals, handicrafts, architecture, and paintings were all items sent along the Silk Road.

Not only did it serve as the greatest channel of trade, but it also functioned as a channel for the transmission of languages, arts, religious beliefs, philosophy, and science between the Far East, Arab countries, and Europe.

The Silk Road connected many cultures, with the exotic flavors of the East swiftly spreading to European cuisine. to the glassmaking techniques that spread eastward from the Islamic world to China.

Silk Road routes

The Silk Road consisted of several routes

The Northern Route

Chang'an, a significant city in central China, was the easternmost point of the northern road. More than 10 different Chinese dynasties had Chang'an as their capital.

The Chinese Emperor Wu of Han, who ruled from 141 to 87 BC, employed his army to prevent nomadic tribes from attacking travelers inside his sphere of authority. This is when the northern route first gained popularity.

The northern route from Chang'an broke into three different routes after traveling through the Chinese provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu to the northwest.

The Southern Route

Through the Karakoram Mountains, the southern route left China. As a result, it was also known as the Karakoram route. In addition to straddling the borders of Pakistan, India, and China, the Karakoram mountain range also reaches Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the northwest.

The southern route had numerous extensions leading south to the sea west of the Karakoram Mountains since many travelers preferred to continue by ship rather than trekking overland.

For those who chose not to travel to the coast, the southern route continued across Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush mountains before merging with the northern routes at Merv, Turkmenistan.

The Southwestern Route

Through the Ganges Delta, the southwest route connected China and India. Archaeological digs in this area of the delta, which served as a significant commerce hub, uncovered an amazing variety of old Roman beads and gemstones from Thailand and Java, among other items, as well as other products from all over the world.

The most important trade goods traveled through the Silk Road:


1. Silk

The most popular item on the Silk Road was silk. I mean it’s called the Silk Road for a reason. In the past, China's silk was prized in Central Asia, West Asia, Africa, and Europe.

It was the ideal overland trade item for merchant and diplomatic caravans that may have journeyed thousands of kilometers to reach their destinations.


2. Horses

Horses trade was One of the most significant and lasting transactions on the Silk Road, Horses were always necessary for China's successive dynasties. They desired superior horses to employ in battles against nomads and hostile cavalry because they believed the local breeds to be too small. In the second century BC, this is what encouraged the Han court to start regular Silk Road trading.


3. Paper

Southeast China is where paper was made of cellulose fibers that have been beaten in water, collected on a screen, and dried, was first created and then shared with the world through the Silk Road.

It was introduced to the Arabic nation During the Battle of Talas between the Tang Dynasty and the Arab armies. According to Millward, the paper-making process was first introduced to Egypt, North Africa, and Spain by the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, who also put together a paper mill in Baghdad. Then in the 12th and 13th centuries that paper made its way to Europe.

Paper documents that served as passports were carried by travelers on the Silk Road to pass through nomadic territories. In addition to the binding of writings and books that transported a completely new philosophical and religious thinking.


4. Spices

Spices were famously exported as far west as the Arabian Peninsula and the Iranian Plateau through the Silk Road, including cinnamon from Sri Lanka and cassia from China. Spices were highly valued not only due to their use in cooking, but because they were also frequently served in ritual, religious, or medical purposes.

And in addition to their relative geographic scarcity, they were highly prized commodities. Only the tropics, the south of China, Indonesia, southern India, and Sri Lanka could support the cultivation of spices.


The Silk Road had a significant role in the growth of trade across the years, it helped form what we know now as international freight. Part of the Silk Road still exists now, in the form of a paved roadway linking Pakistan with China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The Silk Road now is being revived and restored by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) together with Silk Road Member States and private sector tourism playing a unique position to develop new opportunities and tourist initiatives capable of promoting steady and healthy growth by cooperating in areas of shared interest.

Learn more about the textile exports in Egypt by reading the following article Egypt’s Textile Exports: From Pharaohs to Top Fashion

Top International trade agreements with EGYPT