The Silk Road Game, Classroom Activity Illustration

The Silk Road Game
Ancient China for Teachers


First, read The Silk Road

Then, divide your class into five groups. (Select two students to monitor trades.)

  • Group 1 (One): Gold 5, Food 10
  • Group 2 (Two):Silver 7, Food 3
  • Group 3 (Three): Food 10
  • Group 4 (Four): Spices 7, Food 3
  • Group 5 (Five): Silk 5, Food 10

The goal is for each group to end up with 1 gold, 1 (or more) silver, 1 (or more) spices, 1 silk.

Assign groups a position in a straight line. Group 1 is Rome. Group 5 is China. Groups 2, 3, and 4 are trading posts along the Silk Road.

Have each group create their own “goods”. Distribute pieces of cardboard or heavy paper. Keep the size relatively small but large enough to trade easily. Prior to the start of the game, check to make sure all goods have been created in the right quantity and category.

The Rules:

Each group can only trade with the group next to it. Example: Group 1 can only trade with Group 2. Group 2 can only trade with either Group 1 or Group 3.

Each turn, every group must throw away 1 food. (Food markers collected by the trade monitors.) If any group runs out of food, they starve, and the game ends.

Items can only pass via trade. They cannot be given as gifts.

1 turn:  Each group can trade once each way if they can. Groups 1 & 5 can only trade once per turn as they only have one direction to go. Groups 2, 3, and 4 can trade once with each side.

Every third turn, the teacher (Bandits) interrupts 1 trade so that trade does not get done. Nothing is taken away from the two groups involved, but no exchange of goods occurs.

For time estimation: This game takes no more than 7 turns before a group dies or wins. If they think ahead, they should be able to win.