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The trade route known as the Silk Road began in the early 2nd century BC. It started in China and was 4,000 miles long, ending in countries on the eastern Mediterranean. The Silk Road also served other western Asian countries like India. It flourished until the 7th century AD, when sea routes were firmly established. The climate on the long trade route was severe, and included the Takliamakan (meaning “Land of Death”) desert. Here, the traders endured sweltering summers, and freezing winters. Water was scarce, and there were horrible sand storms. Other parts of the route included the Himalayan, Karakorum, Kunklun, Tianshan, and Pamir mountain ranges. Traveling was dangerous all year round, because many of the mountain passes are always covered with snow. But these early traders prevailed and introduced lovely wares to rich Europeans. Other hardships included bandits, who killed many of the traders for their expensive cargo. It often took years for the goods and their sellers to reach their destinations.

While silk was the first item transported along this route, many other items were traded between China and Europe, including: furs, finely crafted ceramics, elegant bronze, jade, lacquer, and iron. The Romans loved the fine silk fabric from China, because it was so beautiful and soft. The Chinese enjoyed sparkling glass items from Europe, as well as gold and other metals, ivory from Africa, and many other valuable items.

The most important item transported along this major trading route was not the fine and delicate goods for sale. People in India learned and embraced Buddhism from Chinese travelers. People in Asian countries also learned about Christianity and new Christian churches were established. In other words, the religious values so many people hold in various countries today are a direct result of the hearty traders who took their wares along the Silk Road.