Great Silk Road

The Silk Road is a great East to West trade route and vehicle for cross-culture exchange started in the second century BC. It was first traveled by the adventure of Zhang Qian started the journey to the far West for the political contact with Yuezhi, a nomadic tribe, in 138 BC. But, it was only in 1870s that the geographer, Ferdinand von Richthofen gave the name by which we now know as the Silk Road.

The general Zhang Qian was sent by Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty (206 BC- AD 220) to recruit the Yuezhi, who were the enemies of the Xiongnu in the second century BC. As Yuezhi tribe, Xiongnu was also a nomadic group who attempted to invade the Kansu province of Han Dynasty. Because the Xiongnu could not be restrained with any lasting effects, Emperor Wu decided to look for an alliance with Yuezhi who had been defeated by their enemies Xiongnu and driven to the Ili valley, the western fringes of the Taklamakan Desert. As a result, general Zhang Qian with a caravan of 100 men set out the first travel from Chang'an, the capital of Han Dynasty, to the far West of the area beyond the Great Wall.

However, in order to reach Yuezhi, Zhang Qian with his caravan had to went cross the territory of Xiongnu. Unfortunately, soon after he left China, Xiongnu captured his group. Zhang Qian and the rest of reminders were in prison for ten years, during which time he married a nomad wife who had a son with him. Due to the will of complete his original mission, Zhang Qian one day seized the chance and escaped with other reminders. He continued the journey west toward the northern Silk Road to Kashgar and Ferghana. Finally in 128 BC, Zhang Qian had reached the destination, Yuezhi. However, he was surprised by Yuezhi people. Yuezhi was living in peace and well settled in the various oases of Central Asia and no longer interested in taking their revenge on the Xiongnu.

Without the succeeding in interesting the Yuezhi in fighting the Xiongnu, Zhang Qian set off on the return journey via southern Silk Road. He was once captured by Tibetan tribes allied with Xiongnu for a year and escaped in 125 BC in returning his way back to China. Of the original party only he and another company completed the 13 years journey - the first land route between East and West that would eventually link Imperial China with Imperial Rome.

The diplomatic stalemate resulting from Zhang Qian's mission had some important consequences, as much political and military as commercial. Zhang Qian reported on some kingdoms in the West Regions, delighting Emperor Han Wudi with detailed accounts of the previously unknown kingdoms of Ferghana, Smarkand, Bokhara and others in what are now the former Soviet Union, Pakistan and Persia as well as the city of Li Kun, Rome, with their special products. These fascinating prices form the many Kingdoms of West tempted Emperor Wudi to dispatch successive missions to develop a further more political contact led by Zhang Qian in 119 BC. The mission group from China later returned with foreign products, for instances, Ferghana horses, furs and so on. At the same time, the kingdoms in Central Asia sent their own emissaries to Chang'an China. On the other hand, Alexander the Great expansion into Central Asia stopped far short of Xiongnu region resulted in Romans appear to have gained little knowledge of the Seres, Chinese. Little by little, the demands of eastern precious goods from the West were grown rapidly. The ideas of Han Wudi making peace with the West countries had established not only the diplomatic contacts and economic relations but also the exchanges of the various culture and religion between East and West.

The network of the Silk Road was soon flourished during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). However, later in 12th century, the entire communities and active oasis towns along the Silk Road were disappearing in the space, as the glacier-fed streams ran try. As well, of course, the downfall of Tang Dynasty led to political chaos and an unstable economy less able to support foreign imports.

Rugged and mountainous, Tajikistan sits at the heart of Central Asia with China to the east and the Indian subcontinent to the south. Three major Silk Road routes ran through its present day territory.

These ancient arteries were mentioned in contemporary Persian, Greek, Chinese and Arabic sources, which highlighted Tajik contributions to the commerce and culture of the time, especially between the 5th and 12th centuries. These three routes were the Sogdian, or North Road, which connected Samarkand and Kashgar; the Karategin Road between Termez and Kashgar; and the Pamir Road linking Balkh and Tashkurgan.

Besides its Silk Road sites, this robust and remote country boasts the Pamir mountain range, sometimes called 'The Roof of the World'. From here spread the three great ranges of Central Asia - the Hindu Kush, the Karakorams, and the Tien Shan.

Ancient Penjikent is a Sogdian city which flourished from the 5th to 8th centuries. It is so well preserved it has been dubbed 'Central Asia's Pompeii'. An opulent governor's palace, homes and temples can be seen. Greek, Chinese, Persian and Indian artistic influences are evident.

Ura Tyube is one of the most ancient and beautiful cities in Tajikistan and its long history includes capture by Alexander the Great. Besides a number of mosques, mausoleums and madrasas, the surrounding region also contains rich archaeological treasures, including the city of Shahristan.

The Khazrati Shoh Mausoleum located in Chorku, near Isfara, is of carved wood and dates from the 10th to 11th centuries. It is unique to Central Asia. There are also a 19th-century mosque and a modern mausoleum in the same complex.

Khujand dates back to the 7th century BC and was a key crossroads on The Silk Road with routes branching off in all directions. At its height, the city was a renowned religious centre and today the magnificent citadel, the mausoleum of Sheikh Muslihitdin and an 18th-century mosque are among the monuments which attract visitors.

The Hissar Historic and Cultural Reserve located near the capital, Dushanbe, is a fascinating archaeological complex which scholars say dates from the 15th century. Several mosques, a caravanserai, a madrasa and a mausoleum have all been excavated and are on display.

Sarazm, some 20 kilometres from Penjikent, is one of the most ancient settlements of Central Asia, dating from the Bronze Age. The Mausoleum of Khoja Nakhshron is a rare monument typifying the architecture of the 11th and 12th centuries.

Mirrajab Dodkho Madrasa is an original Koran school from the 17th century. The Mausoleum of Mukhammad Bashoro is a masterful example of ancient architecture. Dating from the 11th to 16th centuries, it is 30 kilometres from Isfara. Iskanderkul Lake is a picturesque place associated with Alexander the Great.