Silk Road

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Silk Road,

ancient overland trade route linking Asia and Europe, consisting of a network of caravan routes running from China across central Asia to the shores of the Mediterranean. Its starting point was the ancient Chinese capital of Chang'an (modern Xi'anXi'an
or Sian
, city (1994 est. pop. 2,114,900), capital of Shaanxi prov., China, in the Wei River valley. Situated on the Longhai RR, China's principal east-west line, it is an important commercial, tranportation, and tourism center in a wheat- and cotton-growing area.
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), in N central China; the endpoints were a number of cities on the E Mediterranean. Some of its branches ran into S Asia; others ended at Caspian and Black Sea ports. Among the modern countries traversed by the various routes are China, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It flourished from the 2d cent. B.C. to the 15th cent. A.D., when sea routes between Europe and Asia were established, though caravan trade continued along the Silk Road into the 17th cent. and later. At different times the Silk Road was under the control of the Chinese, Turks, and Mongols, and the collapse of the Mongol Empire was also a factor in the route's lessening usage.

Traders usually traversed only a section of the route, transferring their goods to other caravans at various points along the way, and silk was only one of the commodities traded. Goods from China included gold, silver, iron, weapons, porcelain, lacquerware, tea, paper, gunpowder, and medicines; from India, slaves, animals, furs, fabrics, woods, jade and other precious stones; and from Persia, incense, foodstuffs, dyes, and silver goods. Other commodities that originated in Asia and were traded included spices, ivory, flowers, horses, jewelry, minerals, and men and women with special skills. From the West, traders brought wool and linen, vessels of bronze and glass, amber, coral, glass beads, coins and bullion, wine, and ambergris.

The Silk Road also led to the exchange of knowledge, culture, religion, and technology between the East and West. Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Zoroastrianism were among the faiths that spread along the route. Algebra, astronomy, Arabic numerals, medical techniques, architectural styles, and a host of primarily Chinese techniques and inventions, e.g., printing and papermaking, spread from East to West, while various construction techniques, seafaring methods, medicinal plants and poisons, cotton cultivation, and horse-related items such as saddles and stirrups spread from West to East.

Bibliography

See studies by P. Hopkirk (1980), I. M. Franck (1986), R. C. Foltz (1999), S. Whitfield (1999), F. Wood (2003), S. Whitfield and U. Sims-Williams, ed. (2004), L. Boulnois (2005), C. I. Beckwith (2009), and V. Hansen (2012).

Silk Road

 

the name of the caravan trade routes that connected China, through Middle Asia, with Southwest Asia and ultimately with Europe from the second century B.C. to the 16th century A.D. The main commodity transported along the Silk Road was Chinese silk.

The route began in the central regions of China and ran through Lanchou to Tunhuang, where it divided. The southern route ran through Khotan, Yarkand, and Balkh to Merv, and the northern route through Turfan, Kashgar, and Samarkand to Merv. The Silk Road then passed through Nisa, Hecatompylus, Ecbatana, and Baghdad and ended at the Mediterranean ports of Tyre and Antioch.

In the first centuries of the existence of the Silk Road, Rome and Parthia struggled for predominance in intermediary trade. In the fifth and sixth centuries, much of the Silk Road was controlled by Iranian and Sogdian merchants; in the seventh century a substantial portion of the route came under the control of Arab merchants. The importance of the Silk Road declined in the 14th century with the development of sea travel.

Silk Road

(1) An underground website for purchasing a huge assortment of merchandise, including electronics, jewelry and especially drugs, both legal and illegal. Access to Silk Road was via the Tor browser, and all transactions used Bitcoins. Branded as the "Anonymous Market" and launched in 2011, Silk Road was shut down by the FBI in October 2013, and founder Ross Ulbricht, who used the handle Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), was arrested. Re-opened a month later, Silk Road 2.0 was taken down at the end of 2014. Soon after, Diabolus Market, another dark website, renamed itself Silk Road 3.0 to take up the slack. See Tor and Bitcoin.

Short and Sweet
Lasting barely three years, Silk Road triggered the largest cybercriminal manhunt in history. The FBI, DEA, IRS and Homeland Security were all after Ulbricht, whose real identity was hidden until the very end. With more than 4,000 vendors, 100,000 buyers, 1.5 million Bitcoin transactions, a billion dollars in sales and millions in commissions to Ulbricht's own account, his Libertarian experiment (everyone should have free choice as long as nobody is harmed) was a tale of intrigue and suspense. Ulbricht was even scammed by one FBI agent who, pretending to be a drug kingpin, gained his confidence via Silk Road's chat line. After a Silk Road "customer service" employee was arrested in Utah, Ulbricht arranged to pay the FBI agent to have the man killed. The agent produced fake photos as proof, and he too was arrested later on.

While hacktivists applaud Ulbricht as a savior of the people, prosecutors demanded the maximum sentence for the creator of the world's largest "one-stop online shopping mall for illegal merchandise." In 2015, "Dread Pirate Roberts" at the age of 31 was convicted of all charges and sentenced to remain in prison for life. His appeal was denied in 2017. See hacktivist.

(2) (SilkRoad Corporation) A San Diego-based company founded in 1996 by Dr. James Palmer and Kevin Doria that developed a laser transmission technology it claimed would dramatically increase optical fiber capacity at lower cost. Said to be the first commercial application of Einstein's theory of relativity, SilkRoad Refractive Synchronization Communication (SRSC) provided bi-directional transmission of multiple data streams using only one laser and one wavelength.

Named after the ancient Persian silk trade routes that brought the riches of the Orient to Europe, SRSC was based on the principle that multiple photons can occupy the same space at the same time. It modulated multiple data streams onto the fiber by tagging each stream as a unique "3D photonic spiral" with no theoretical limit to the number of streams that could be transmitted together. Although prototype systems were impressive, the company was disbanded in 2000.
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