An ancient caravan trade route established during the Han Dynasty for trade between the Roman Empire, the Arabic nomads, and the Chinese Empire. Silk was the main good that went west, wool and gold went east to China. The route doesn't begin anywhere, caravan roads in China were fairly decent at the time, but the trek across Asia Minor usually starts in Xi'an, Shaanxi, which was and still is a major Chinese commercial center.

The tract went northwest along the Great Wall, climbed the Pamirs Mountains and crossed Afghanistan. The goods were then shipped across the Mediterranean Sea. The road to Rome was over 4000 miles, people rarely went the whole way. One journey can take up to 3 years by caravan.

The fall of Rome caused the road to fall into disuse, there was occasional trades between China and Constantinople. Briefly revived in the Yuan Dynasty (Mongol occupation), that was when Marco Polo travelled to Dadu (Beijing) and wrote his famous journal. Today part of the road is paved for vehicle travel, for regional trade. International trade use trains and planes nowadays. A proposed United Nations plan for a southern pan-Asian highway, stretching from Shaanxi to Turkey, is an obvious waste of capital and resources.

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