Theme 2: Asia & Americas

Chapter 9: The Silk “Road”

Shelley Rose


Ferdinand von Richthofen coined the term “Silk Road” in 1887, yet it is a misleading name for what is truly a  network of trade routes across central Asia. This network of trade routes can also include maritime trading lanes in the Indian Ocean, according to historians such a Xinru Liu. This chapter explores the development of empires and kingdoms along the trade routes of the “Silk Road” as well as the dynamic exchange of goods, ideas, and diseases fostered by these connections.


After completing this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Identify and apply the key steps of historical thinking
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the primary sources and historical development of the Silk Road
  • Understand the historical context of the Silk Road
  • Identify and analyze the territorial empires that developed around the trade routes
  • Evaluate the differences and similarities between Buddhism in South Asia and the practice of Buddhism along the “Silk Road.”

Section 1: Context

Read: Millward, The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction Chapter 1. Asia Society, “Geographic Setting of the Silk Roads”, “Silk Road: Spreading Ideas and Innovations,” “Belief Systems along the Silk Road”, Music of the Silk Roads

Section 2: Primary Sources

The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith

Buddhism on the Silk Road

Art of the Silk Road

Excerpts from Religious Texts

Section 3: Maps of the Silk Road

1st to 3rd Century CE

7th to 9th Century CE

11th to 13th Century CE

13th and 14th Centuries CE

15th Century CE

Further Background

Asia for Educators Special Topic Guide: Silk Road


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