Silk Road in Tang Dynasty

Tri-color figures of horses and groom
Tri-color Figures of Horses and Groom
Along with the establishment of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) and a great prosperity in the economy, the Silk Road rose to its peak in history. Before the Anshi Rebellion (755–762), this world-famous road experienced its 'Golden Age' of development.

That this time-honored trade route reached its apex in the Tang Dynasty can be ascribed to many reasons. First, the this dynasty was the most powerful in history, and helped the economy to flourish; Chang'an became an international metropolis at that time; many foreign envoys, merchants and missionaries lived in Chang'an. Second, the emperors paid special attention to the management of the vast Western Regions. Third, the mighty countries to the west of the Tang Empire, such as Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire), Persia and Arabian Empire kept relatively stable. These countries were willing to build good relations with China. All these factors led to trade prosperity along the Silk Road and to frequent cultural exchange between the West and the East. 

Silk Road Extended through to the Mongolian Plateau in the North

In the Tang Dynasty, the Silk Road was greatly extended. During the reign of the Tang Taizong, his military force defeated the Eastern Turks in 630, established friendly relations with the Western Turks and vanquished Gaochang (Turpan), Yanqi (Qarashar) and Qiuci (now Kuche). The Tang Empire set up a Protectorate General to Pacify the West (Anxi Daduhufu) in 640, strengthening the dominion of the Western Regions. In 646, the Mobei (now Mongolian Plateau) was under the control of the Tang Dynasty by subduing the Western Turks. Then the road to Mongolian Plateau via Altai appeared, reinforcing contacts between the Mongolian Plateau and the vast Western Regions.

Silk Road Extended through to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in the South

Silk Dress in Tang Dynasty
Silk Dress in Tang Dynasty
Prior to the Tang Dynasty, a new route had opened up between Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Southern Xinjiang. In the seventh century, Tubo (the ancient name for Tibet) took power in this plateau and pioneered a route to Nepal through the Karakoram Range. In 641, the marriage between Princess Wencheng and Sontzen Gampo (the ruler of Tibet) made a great contribution to the extension of the Silk Road and cultural exchanges between China and Tibet. Therefore, this ancient road wound over the Aerchin, Karakoram Range in succession, and linked with the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Flourish of the Silk Road in Western Regions

With the unification of the Western Regions, branches of the Silk Road sprang up like mushrooms in this area, forming a complex traffic net. Four famous garrisons (Anxi Sizhen): Qiuci, Yanqi, Shule (now Kashgar) and Yutian (Hetian) became the important crossroads of this trade route. At this time, the importance of the Northern Route of the Silk Road reached its peak because it shortened the distance between the East and the West and got rid of the natural barrier of crossing Pamirs. With its prosperity, many boomtowns and market centers appeared along the Northern Route. In 702, the Protectorate General of Beiting was installed with its administration center in Tingzhou (Jimsar), managing the Northern Route of the Silk Road.

After the Anshi Rebellion broke out – the turning point of Tang Dynasty from prosperity to decline, the road started on its downhill path. The western regions were successively controlled by the Tubo (Tibetan Empire), Uyghurs (Huihu) and the Karakhan Empire.

Further Reading: Famous Traveler - Xuanzang

- Last updated on Mar. 12, 2020 -
Questions & Answers on Silk Road in Tang Dynasty
Asked by malu from USA | Mar. 26, 2019 16:20Reply
how did successful trade along the silk road help China achieve a golden age?
Answers (1)
Answered by Kevin from CANADA | Mar. 26, 2019 18:59

It enhance greatly about the economy development at that time and many products and religions like Buddhism came to China. The prosperous culture and boom economy help China become one of the most powerful countries in the world at that time.
Asked by Justin from UNITED KINGDOM | Dec. 25, 2015 19:16Reply
I have three questions concerning the Tang Dynasty and the Silk Road.
1. Why did the Tang Dynasty participate in the trade along the Silk Road?
2. Why was the Tang Dynasty's participation significant?
3. What lasting impact did the Tang Dynasty's participation have on the civilizations it exchanged with?

Thanks for your time
Answers (2)
Answered by Zac from BELGIUM | Dec. 26, 2015 02:11

Justin, I don't think that your questions can be answered with a few lines of words. First, the government particpated in the trade because they could make big trade receipts from the trades.

You know, Emperor Taizong established grand anxi frontier command to stabilize the Western Regions. His son Emperor Gaozong defeated the Western Khanates and established Beiting frontier command to stabilize Xinjiang Region. Thanks to them, the road was still unimpeded and trade activities still were prosperous. We could say that the road in the Tang Dynasty was established during the reign of Taizong and thrived during the reign of Gaozong. Without them, I don't know if the trade activities could still proceed along the road. Unfortunately, this fame trade road declined after An Shi Rebellion.
Answered by Justin from UNITED KINGDOM | Dec. 29, 2015 19:29

Thanks, I appreciate your time.
Asked by neal randolph from UNITED STATES | Nov. 05, 2015 18:47Reply
how did the tang take control of the silk road?
Answers (1)
Answered by Emma from GERMANY | Nov. 06, 2015 21:45

Neal, Emperor Taizong defeated East Turkistan in 630 AD and maintained a harmonious relationship with West Turkistan. Meanwhile, he also unified the Western Regions and etablished An Xi Frontier Commands to ensure the stability of the Western Regions. Thanks to him, the road was protected and then developed.
Asked by david from USA | Apr. 06, 2015 11:18Reply
when did china flourish in trading
Answers (2)
Answered by Ken from FINLAND | Apr. 06, 2015 19:44

It should be Tang and Han followed.
Answered by Jean from AUSTRALIA | Oct. 01, 2019 21:49

Han dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.)
Tang Dynasty (618 A.D. - 906 A.D.)
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