Map of the Silk Road, by train, eastbound

Strictly speaking, the Silk Road refers to all the different overland routes leading west out of China through Central Asia to Syria and beyond. Nothing unusual in the landscape would catch the eye of someone flying overhead. The features delineating where the road went were not man-made but entirely natural – mountain passes, valleys, and springs of water in the desert. Not paved, the Silk Road was systematically mapped only in the twentieth century. No one living on these routes between 200 and 1000 CE, the peak period for the Chinese presence, ever said ‘the Silk Road.’ … The term ‘Silk Road’ did not exist before 1877, when the Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen first used it on a map. …

“Most of what we have learned from [recent historical] documents debunks the prevailing view of the Silk Road, in the sense that the ‘road’ was not an actual ‘road’ but a stretch of shifting, unmarked paths across massive expanses of deserts and mountains. In fact, the quantity of cargo transported along these treacherous routes was small. Yet the Silk Road did actually transform cultures both east and west. -Valerie Hansen, The Silk Road: A New History

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story or poem set along the Silk Road.

Journaling Prompt: Write about your favorite historical era and why it fascinates you.

Art Prompt: Caravans on the Silk Road

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about the transformation of culture through trade.

Photo Credit: Train Chartering & Private Rail Cars on Flickr

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