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The Ancient Silk Route
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The Silk Road
It was the great German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877 to use for the first time the term Silk Road. It became in time a network of approximately 8,000 km of routes by land, sea and river, crossed by caravans from Xi'an (China) crossing through Asia, the Middle East and even reached Korea, Japan and India. Silk arrived in Rome that was unaware of the composition and origin.
On the Silk Road traveled goods but also great ideas and religions, trade and cultures of great importance to the development of the civilizations of Egypt, China, India and Rome for the foundations of the modern world.

Historical Silk Routes
Some historical silk routes partially overlapping to the tourist route (green) can be here highlighted or hidden by clicking their names:
-- The ancient north silk road (blue);
-- The Loulan Route (red);
-- The Kashgar-Ladakh-Kashmir Route(yellow);
-- The Karakoram Way (red);
-- The South Buddhist Way (pale blue);
-- The Battriana Route (red).
-- Marco Polo between 1271 and 1295 undertook a journey from Venice to the East of China, then south to Malaysia and then followed the west coast of India, the Middle East and the Mediterranean Sea. Here, highlight in orange, there is only the 'small' route through the north of China;

The Xian - Kashgar (green) is one of the Silk Roads which continues on the Karakoram Highway.

The Kashgar - Rawalpindi (Karakoram Highway) (orange) is the highest international tarmac road in the world; connecting China to Pakistan through the Karakoram mountain range, surpassing the Khunjerab pass at 4693 meters.
It connects the north of Pakistan to the ancient Silk Road in about 1,200 km from Kashgar (Xinjiang, China) to Havelian in Abbottabad district in Pakistan. The continuation of the road meets the Grand Trunk Road at Hasan Abdal, west of Islamabad.

Buddhist testimonials in Xinjiang
Xinjiang is the Chinese name for the Tarim and Jung regions in contemporary north-western China, and is historically known as Serindia; it has many Buddhist shrines dating from the 5th to the 12th century with paintings of great value.
Buddhism, born in India in the sixth century BC, was the first major religion imported into China. From the 3rd century, Buddhism began to enter in the aristocracy of the empire, especially in northern China, and developed a large religious and cultural exchange through the tracks of silk caravan of Central Asia.
Later the Annals of the Wei dynasty recall that in 518 AD more than 30 thousand monasteries and temples were built in China.
Like other religions, also the Buddhism in China experienced various vicissitudes, from periods in which enjoyed the protection of the leaders in times of persecution by the emperors and bureaucrats who preferred Taoism.
Buddhism reached its peak in the Tang dynasty, which reigned from sec. VII to the beginning of X. But it was an emperor of this dynasty, Wuzong (840-'46), to proscribe Buddhism with an edict ('845) with consequent destruction of monasteries.
Since sec. X then begins a phase of slow decline.
This site shows some places where there are important evidence of Buddhism.

Terre Millenarie:
Immagini e impressioni Beirut, antichi splendori e recenti ferite Libano Siria e Giordania; da Aleppo ad Aqaba Aleppo L'antica città armena di Ani San Simeone Città Morte della Siria Serjilla Palmyra (Tadmur), la città delle mille colonne Damasco Bosra Jerash, l'antica Gerasa Gerusalemme dentro e fuori le mura Marrakesh, da Churchill a Yves Saint Laurent Petra Wadi Rum Il fascino discreto del Cairo Cina Cina-Pakistan: la via della seta The Ancient Silk Route Iran Etiopia Ethiopia, along the historic route Dancalia e Tigrai Egitto, deserto occidentale Egypt, the western desert Sudan Cina del Nord
Tutte le nostre mappe:
InOgniDove, viaggi in città e luoghi del mondo
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SempreInBici, in bicicletta fuori porta (Lombardia)

Rawalpindi: train station
The train station in Rawalpindi was built by the British in 1880.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Rawalpindi: train station
Taxi driver. [...]  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Faisal Mosque in Islamabad
The Faisal mosque is located on the hills slopes of Margallo, it is the largest in Asia and can accommodate up to 65,000 people, is shaped like a huge Bedouin tent surrounded by 4 minarets about 85 meters high. Built with the contribution of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Ablutions at Faisal Mosque  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Muztagh Ata
Muztagh Ata, or Muztagata is the second highest mountain in the side north of the Tibet plateau. It is considered an 'easy 7000' (7,546 m) for the moderate slope of the western face and the relatively dry climate in Xinjiang.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Transports on the KKH
The Karakoram Highway is constantly crossed by several trucks carrying goods between China and Pakistan.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Yurta on the Pamir plateau
The yurta is a low and wide tent, 30 square meters, that the local nomadic people dismantle and reassemble with great ease.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Lago Karakul
The lake is located along the Karakoram Highway at 3600 m and is the second highest lake in the world, in its waters are reflected the peaks of Mutzagata (7,546 m) and the chain of Kongur. It 'a salt lake of tectonic origin with an area of 380 km2 and a maximum depth of 242 m.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Karakul Lake: transportation media compared
The lake is a destination for many travelers attracted by the beauty of the landscape and the waters that range from dark green to the pale blue. Along the banks there are two Kirghizi settlements, some yurtas and a village with stone houses.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Karakul: a woman in her traditional costume  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Nanga Parbat
The Nanga Parbat massif (or Nanga Parvata) forms the western part of Himalaya. A group of isolated peaks that emerge from nowhere, surrounded by rivers Indus and Astore. Its present name means the 'naked mountain', but its original name, Diamir, instead meant 'the king of the mountains'. The highest peak, Nanga Parbat, reaching the 8126 meters.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Khunjerab check post
Check post at the Khunjerab Pass  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Khunjerab check post
Approaching the control post at the Khunjerab Pass.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Khunjerab pass
One of the most difficult and high pass in the world (5575 m), used by caravans from before the fourth century AD Until the 50s for trade between Kashmir (India) and Serindia (Xinjiang) and Tibet. Completed in 1982. With its 4693 m is the highest asphalted road of a national border in the world, and also the highest point on the Karakoram Highway. Buddhism entered Xinjiang in through this route.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Khunjerab pass
Military at the Khunjerab pass. [...]  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Khunjerab pass
Pillar that marks the border between China and Pakistan. Despite the altitude Khunjerab Pass is considered a way of facilitating communication because the presence of the winds, while at low temperatures, maintains the pass without snow, and also the slopes are not too steep.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Kunjerab plants
Ephedra monospema: succulent plant with very small root system that can enter inside the cracks of the rock. Great capacity to absorb humidity.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]


Baltit fort
Local tourists at Baltit fort. [...]  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Baltit fort  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Baltit fort
Old fort in the Hunza valley, located above Karimabad. 700 years old, assured the survival of the feudal Hunza regime. Renovated several times today has a Tibetan architecture.  [photo: Ivano Manzotti]

The Rakaposhi brilliant mountain is high 7.788m and is considered one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Won in 1958 by a British and Pakistan expedition.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Rakaposhi  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Nagar valley
Located at about 2400 meters.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Also known as Baltit, at 2.500m in height is the capital of the Hunza province. Its name comes from Prince Karim Agha Khan. In Karimabad there is the Baltit fort, former residence of the lords of the place, the Mir.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Gilgit bridge
The bridge on the impetuous Gilgit river. It is located at the end of the traditional bazaar. It's the largest bridge in Asia: 182 meters long and 2 wide, allowing traffic of a jeep at a time.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Gilgit  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Near Chilas on the KKH
Landslide on the Karakoram Highway.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Near Chilas on the KKH
Erosion on the Karakoram Highway  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Near Chilas on the KKH
Quiet picnic while waiting that the landslide will be removed.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Jayuguan fort
Liayuguan fort is the westernmost cornerstone of the whole Great Wall and was built during the Ming dynasty. Given its size is defined as the first and greatest pass below the sky.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Great Wall to Jayuguan
Western end of the Great Wall, built during the Ming dynasty.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Jayuguan fort
Detail of the roof and a view of the wall.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Kashgar - Sunday market
Old Uighurs, the descendants of ancient Turkish and Caucasian tribes.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Kashgar - Sunday market  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Kashgar - veiled Women in the bazaar  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Kashgar - Silk sales in the silk road  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Kashgar - statue of Mao
Kashgar, a city-oasis in Xinjiang. The crossroads of many routes that cross the Taklamakan desert. Nearby passed one of the major silk routes; it is the terminus of the Karakoran Highway (KKH), that stops in Islamabad (Pakistan) passing through the legendary Khunjerab Pass.

Tushuk Tash - Shipton Arch
Tushuk Tash - Perhaps the highest natural arch in the world, located three hours by car from Kashgar. Visited in 1947 by the British climber Shipton which gave him the name.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Rosa laevigata
The rosa laevigata is an Himalayan endemic spontaneous species; a botanical rose with five white petals, long supple branches that can reach 10 meters.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Ultar, 7388 meters. The southernmost peak of the Batura Muztagh which in turn is part of the chain of Karakoram. It is located 10 km NE of Karimabad with a remarkable rise from the ground to the clouds.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Khan's palace. Gaochang is an oasis, built in the 1st century BC on the northern edge of the Taklamakan. Capital of the Uighurs, very lively commercial center and a point of reference for the merchants who went along the Silk Road.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Girls on the walls of the Uighurs capital.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Grapes harvesting.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Room for drying grapes.

Mosque in Turfan
Turfan in Xinjiang is an oasis in the desert north of Takramakan. Rich of water for the system called karez (like qanat), one of the largest water projects of China.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Around the temple there is a lake shaped like a crescent moon formed by a spring of pure fresh water, seems an emerald set in the dunes. A geological wonder, since the lake has existed for hundreds of years and has never been covered by the surrounding dunes.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Local tourists in Mingsha
Ladders on the dunes for not to struggle and umbrellas for not to sweat . . .  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Local tourists in Mingsha
Chinese Dune boots  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Badain Jaran: desert
This desert is home to the highest fixed dunes in the world, some up to 500 m. formed by wind and underground water coming from melting snow by the mountains that are hundreds of km away, and filtered by the rock cracks.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Badain Jaran: desert
In the desert, there are over one hundred lakes of source water scattered among the dunes, some are fresh water and others are salty. These lakes give the name of the desert that in Mongolian language means mysterious lakes.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Tarim basin
The largest endoreic river basin of the world. Surrounded by mountain chains: Tian Shan to the north, Pamir to the west and Kunlun south. Much of the basin is occupied by the Takla Makan desert. The area is populated by Uighurs and other peoples of Central Asia, but knows a recent migration of Chinese from other regions.

Wakhan - valley
Silk Road Transit valley traveled by Marco Polo. Historically, during the winter the caravans passed through the iced river Wakhane, a dangerous move but most efficient instead of the mountain passes.  [photo: Tom Hartley]

Ancient oasis city on the Silk Road to the south of the Taklamakan where the desert of Lop Nur meets the Altun Shan mountains. 2000 years ago the oasis was near a river that was used for a sophisticated irrigation system. Today is a dusty ruin almost uninhabited.

Now a dry lake when times ago it was feed by the Tarim He river. The bottom has been explored by Sven Hedin in an expedition of 1927-35 and then by Folke Bergman in 1935. Finally it was used as a polygon for the nuclear tests in China. [...]

Extensive complex of 77 Buddhist caves of the V-IX century carved into the rock. Here Le Coq (1911-12) brought away a caravan loaded of interesting murals, brought to Berlin and then partially destroyed in the second war.  [photo: Tina Ponzellini]

Uighurs princes in chinese dresses. Mural painting of the 8th - 9th century in the cave that was No. 9 and is now in a museum in Berlin. [...] [photo: Commons Wikimedia User : Gryffindor]

Uighurs princesses in chinese dresses. Mural painting of the 8th - 9th century in the cave that was No. 9 and is now in a museum in Berlin. [...] [photo: Commons Wikimedia User : Gryffindor]

Minfeng (or New Niya)
Niya is an archaeological site which was a commercial center, an oasis in a southern branch of the silk route for trade between China and Central Asia. To be buried and preserved by the desert is considered to be the Pompeii of the East. [...]  [photo: Tangsiuje]

Point of intersection of two silk roads, starting point of the difficult passes in the Karakoram. In Uighurs language Tashkurgan means stone fortress or tower of stone. Parking point in the silk route and gateway to China.  [photo: Otebig]

Fertile oasis near the Yarkand river and located on the Taklamakan south road. Marco Polo described the oasis as five travel days long, and inhabited by Muhammad followers and some nestorian under the control of the Grand Kan nephew.
 [photo: Robert B. Shaw]

Kizil: Buddhist caves
6th century Fresco. Tocharian donors with fair eyes and hair, dressed in Sassanide style.

Yungang caves
Ancient system of caves around Datong. Excellent example of architecture carved into the rock as in Mogae and Longmen. The caves were dug mainly during the Wei dynasty, between 460 and 525, and will provide an important set of temples dedicated to Buddhism. Throughout the complex there are 252 [...]

Mogao caves
Caves of the Thousand Buddha. 492 temples in 25 km. Some of the best examples of Buddhist art accumulated for thousands of years. [...]

Mogao caves
At southeast of Dunhuang, an oasis strategically located in a religious and cultural crossroads of the Silk Road. [...]

Located in the middle of north and south silk roads. Point of trade between China and the outside world during the Han and Tang dynasties. It has been a militarily important city, now famous for the Mogae caves. From the city you can see the famous Mingsha dunes.

The Mount Longmen Caves in Luoyang
The largest collection of Buddhist sculptures in Central Asia. The first dates back to 483 during the Wei dynasty whose capital was Luoyang, the latest date from the Tang dynasty (618 - 907) whose capital was Chang'an. The Wei Dynasty moved its capital from Datong (caves of Yungang) to Luoyang.  [photo: Alex Kwok]

Capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, situated at an altitude of 3650 meters. Arrival point of the highway from Srinagar (434 km) and of the highway to Manali (473 km). Leh was an important reference point for trade routes along the Indus valley between the Tiber and Kashmir, between India and China.

Bactra was the capital of Bactria or Takharistan. Here Alessandro imprisoned and then married Rossana in 327 BC. Zoroastre was born here. Sacked by Genghis Kan in 1220 and then by Tamerlane in the 14th century, but despite all this Marco Polo was able to describe it as a great and noble [...] [photo: Commons Wikimedia User : Bluuurg]

During the Qing Dynasty (1763) the city was called Luntai or Dihua which means the enlightened. In 1954 the city was renamed Urumqi, the beautiful pasture. [photo: Michael D. Manning]
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All pictures are copyrighted by Animated Web unless otherwise noted (Alex Kwok, Commons Wikimedia User : Bluuurg, Commons Wikimedia User : Gryffindor, Ivano Manzotti, Michael D. Manning, Otebig, Robert B. Shaw, Tangsiuje, Tina Ponzellini, Tom Hartley)