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The Silk Road Illustration

The Silk Road
Ancient China for Kids

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The distance between ancient Rome and ancient China was about 4,000 miles by land. There were fierce deserts and high mountains in the way. It was a very dangerous trip. The Silk Road was a nickname for any route that any trader took from China to Rome.

For a very long time, the ancient Romans did not know who was making this wonderful fabric called silk. The Romans first discovered pieces of of silk in the goods they took from some of the people they conquered. But those people did not know where the silk was made. They had traded for the silk.

The Romans tried to find the traders as they came into villages to trade silk for other goods. But the traders hid from the Romans. They did not know who made the silk either. They had traded for it themselves. The trading along the Silk Road was a relay system. One trader would travel for while, stop and trade, and return home. The next traveler would continue, stop and trade, and return home. And so it went. No trader made the whole trip. It was too dangerous. The desert had little or no water. The mountains were brutal. Sand storms would blow up out of nowhere. The snakes were poisonous. On top of the natural barriers, there were pirates.

The Romans were frustrated. The demand for silk in Rome had grown. Rome had gold and silver and precious gems. If they couldn't conquer "The Silk People", as the Romans called these unknown people, they could trade with them. But they couldn't find them.

The Romans sent out scouts to follow the "Silk Road" and find the "Silk People". Most never returned. Those who did said they could not make it through the desert. They had to turn around and come back.

This went on for a very long time.

As the years went by, a civilization of sorts grew up along the Silk Road. Temples appeared. There were even cities built on the rare oasis. It was never easy to travel by land from China to Rome. But it was worth it. Rome traded gold and gems for China's silk and spices. But more things traveled the Silk Road than traders and goods. Ideas traveled along the Silk Road as well, ideas that changed the world.

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