100 Merchants Retrace Silk Road Trade Route on Camelback in Epic Year-Long Journey
In a quest to repeat the traditions of ancient merchants, more than 100 tea traders are making an epic journey, crossing 15,000 kilometers on camelback and retracing the steps of the Silk Road merchants from 2,000 years ago. This ambitious expedition set out in September of last year, and this week thousands of residents turned out to see the historic spectacle as the caravan passed through an ancient market town near the Gobi Desert.
The traditional camel train departed Shaanxi province in central China in 2014, and this week the merchants, 136 camels, and 8 horses filed through Zhangye, ancient trade town along the Silk Road.
On Tuesday, the convoy reached Zhangye, an ancient market town near the Gobi Desert, where thousands of curious residents lined up the streets to witness the spectacle, reports Chinese language news site People's Daily Online.
Camels and tea merchants travel through the streets of Zhangye as they retrace the ancient Silk Road route to Kazakhstan. Image: People.cn
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The Silk Road, or Silk Route, was a 6000-kilometer-long trade network frequented from about 114 B.C. to the 1450s which linked far-flung regions of the ancient world in commerce. It was not an actual road, but a shifting path connecting a series of trade stops, villages, and cities through which merchants would pass. Routes were subject to change depending on local politics.
Extent of Silk Route/Silk Road. Red is land route and the blue is the sea/water route. Public Domain
The Silk Road bridged the East and West, allowing cultures to interact, share and trade. The trade route was frequented by pilgrims, merchants, soldiers, and nomads across continents and civilizations.
Silk was the major trade item from China, but countless other goods were traded such as raw materials and luxury items—as was religion, technology, agriculture, science, language, art, and even disease.
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Mail Online reports that the merchants journeying from China to Kazakhstan as part of a cultural initiative are bringing with them specialty Fuzhuan tea, a traditional brew native to Jingyang county. They expect to return with trade goods from Kazakhstan in March 2016.
In recent years the Chinese government has pushed to revive the ancient route by investing in high-speed train lines to improve trade links with central Asia.
Camels and tea merchants wind through the streets of Zhangye as they retrace the ancient Silk Road route to Kazakhstan. Image: People.cn
The Chang'an-Tianshan corridor of the Silk Road was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.
Silk Road countries and the Chinese government have supported initiatives to promote the heritage of the Silk Road and to bridge trade and transportation gaps between 21 st century nations. Investment in high-speed train lines is one of the steps being taken in building the "Silk Road economic belt,” according to The Guardian.
Today’s epic journey of merchants crossing those thousands of kilometers on camels, goods in hand, bridges the gap between the ancient and modern world, and brings to life the amazing history of the Silk Road network.
Featured Image: Caravan on the Silk Road (1380 AD). Public Domain
By Liz Leafloor