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  Rise of the Silk Road

As far back as the 2nd Century BC, the vast and harsh western region was occupied by the  truculent  Hun people. To resist their frequent invasions, in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD), Emperor Wudi sent the brave and resourceful ambassador Zhang Qian to contact the ethnic groups who were separated by the harsh western region to establish an alliance. Experiencing difficulties for over 10 years, Zhang Qian failed to persuade other countries to create an alliance, but did get comprehensive knowledge about the western region. Sent for the second time, he developed extensive reports, setting up a direct trade relationship with many countries in Central, West and South Asia, and ending people's ignorance of the outside world.

Zhang Qian's long expedition to the west region was a worthy pioneering effort that inaugurated the endless communication between China and the world. Silk as a luxury was transported to ancient Rome and welcomed by noblewomen who thought silk fineries demonstrated dignity and fashion. One of the world's three religions, Buddhism, was also introduced into China in the late years of the Western Han Dynasty.

Years later, another ambassador of the Eastern Han Dynasty, Banchao led a delegation to visit the western region, furthering trade and learning.

  Heyday of the Silk Road

During the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386 - 589), some educated people immigrated west bringing advanced culture through the Silk Road. The unification of the Sui Dynasty (581 - 618) paved the way for its glory days in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), which was also the prime of Chinese feudal society.

The prosperous and powerful Tang took measures to absorb foreign cultures. This encouraged communication and trade in all kinds of commodities. With convenience, Western animals, jewelry, flavors, glassware and music added to the thriving social life; the emperors' concubines could even perform the exotic dances. The sagacious monk Tang Xuanzang took 17 years to go on a pilgrimage for Buddhist scriptures to help spread the culture. Zoroastrianism and Manichean thought began to take root in China. Islamic constructions built during those days changed the present Xinjiang Province in a distinctive way. The capital Chang'an (today's Xian) became an international metropolis.

  Decline of the Silk Road

At the decline of the Tang Dynasty, the prosperity of the Silk Road faded gradually. In the late 10th Century, the relatively weak Song Dynasty encountered the stronger northern reign of ethnic groups such as the Liao (916 - 1125), and Jin (1115 - 1234), and moved the capital south. Commerce on the sea with Southeast Asia bloomed more than that on the land. Even in this circumstance, people created and introduced the 'Four Great Inventions' – papermaking, gunpowder, printing and the compass -- as well as lacquer wares and porcelain to the West, great contributions of Chinese people to the world.

Famous Travelers on the Silk Road
Many people took important historical route along the Silk Road. They made trades or finished their missions like ambassador: 
Ban Chao, Ban Yong and Fu Jiezi, Marco Popo, Xuan Zang, and Zhang Qian.