Route of Silk Road

Silk Road Map
Silk Road Route Map (Click to enlarge)

The Silk Road was originally opened up by Zhang Qian and it gradually formed in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).

In the Han Dynasty, the ancient road originated from the historical capital of Chang'an (now Xi'an). This China trade route ran through Gansu Province via Tianshui, Lanzhou, Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquan, Jiayuguan (an important military garrison and barrier of the Great Wall) and Dunhuang along the Hexi Corridor. Dunhuang is famous for its Mogao Caves and other cultural relics. It was also a key point of the route, where the trade road divided into three main branches: the southern, the central and the northern.

The three main routes spread all over the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The Southern Route wandered west along the northern foot of the Kunlun Mountains, passing  Ruoqiang (Charkhlik), Qiemo (Cherchen), Hetian, Yecheng (Karghalik), Shache (Yarkand) and reached Kashgar (the last point of the Silk Road in China). Then this route crossed the snow-covered Pamirs, reached Pakistan and India via Kashmir; it could also reach Europe through Islamabad, Kabul, Mashhad, Baghdad and Damascus.

Statue of Travelling on Ancient Silk Road
Statue of Travelling
along the Ancient Road

The Central Route ran west along the southern foot of Tianshan Mountains, passing Loulan (now Ruoqiang), Turpan , Korla, Kuche (Kuqa), Aksu and Kashgar, afterwards went over the freezing Pamirs, wound to Mashhad via the Fergana Basin, Samarkand, Bukhara and finally joined the Southern Route.

The Northern Route went west along the northern foot of Tianshan Mountains, taking merchants westwards to Hami (Kumul), Urumqi and Yining, and then reached the areas near the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

According to some experts, the total length of the historically important trade route is about 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles), among which approximately 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) of the route are inside China's territory. Nowadays, the immemorial Silk Road spreads over the five provinces in the Northwest Territories including Shaanxi Province, Gansu Province, Qinghai Province, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The road made a great contribution to the political, economic and cultural exchange between China and Central Asia, West Asia, India, Roman and Europe.

Further Reading:
 Maritime Silk Route      Southern Silk Road

 Nowadays, the ancient road is still catching the attention of the world with its large number of historical and cultural sites, splendid natural scenery and colorful ethnic customs. Benefiting from the increasingly convenient transportation network, travelers can travel along this route more easily than before. Pack up and get a taste of the ancient oriental culture by taking one of the China routes below.

 China Delights: 10-Day Beijing - Xi'an - Guilin - Shanghai
 Classical Silk Road: 14-Day Beijing - Urumqi - Kashgar - Urumqi - Dunhuang - Xi'an - Shanghai
 Silk Road In-depth: 22-Day Beijing - Urumqi - Korla - Kuqa - Aksu - Kashgar - Hetian - Minfeng - Korla - Turpan - Dunhuang - Xi'an - Shanghai

- Last updated on May. 31, 2023 by Catherine He -
Questions & Answers on Route of Silk Road
Asked by Lily from INDIA | May. 29, 2023 14:31Reply
How long would it take you to walk between Chang'an and Turfan, assuming you walked for 12 hours per
(continued question) day?
Answers (1)
Answered by Kelvin | May. 30, 2023 00:09

The distance between the two places is around 2,500 km. Assumed one can walk for 12 hours and about 50 km per day, it takes at least 500 days by walking.
Asked by zoey | May. 10, 2023 17:36Reply
How long would traveling from lanzhou to Niya on camel back take?
Answers (1)
Answered by Harry | May. 10, 2023 20:46

Do you mean Niya in Xinjiang? The distance is above 2,500 km and riding a camel took a pretty long time. It generally took about 60-80 days.
Asked by nick from USA | Mar. 10, 2023 05:15Reply
what was the route that ancient chinese peoople took from chang hang to kashgar
Answers (1)
Answered by Olivia | Mar. 12, 2023 19:30

I think you mean Chang'an, the then capital of China. There were several routes to Kashgar. The main route is Chang'an - Hexi corridor - southern foot of Tianshan Mountains - Ruoqiang, Turpan , Korla, Kuqa, and Aksu to Kashgar.
Asked by lkbdg from USA | Feb. 06, 2016 09:34Reply
how long does it travel to travel from Xi'an, China to Delhi?
Answers (1)
Answered by Helen from CANADA | Feb. 14, 2016 19:59

Well, it is suggested to fly from Xi'an to Kunming first and it takes around 2h and 20min. Then fly to New Delhi in 5h. According to the schedules of the flights, you may also need to wait for some time at Kunming.
Asked by Amir Ali from UNITED KINGDOM | May. 09, 2015 10:46Reply
Torugart Pass to Khunjerab Pass - Travelling by own Car.
Hi Im planning a road trip where i will enter China through Torugart Pass and drive through Kashgar to Khunjerab pass. I like to know what is required in terms of documents apart from visa? Is this something you can help us with? Trip will take place in July 2015.

Many thanks.

Answers (2)
Answered by Helen from PAKISTAN | May. 10, 2015 00:51

I heard it is not enough only to hold your own driving lisence. Upon getting into China, you should head for the closest Vehicle Administration Office to get a Chinese driving lisence. Also as you will driver near the border, you may need to pally for a Border Travel Permit, but I am not sure.
Answered by Ablajan from URUMQI/CHINA | May. 12, 2015 13:57

Hi ,
You need Chinese driving lisence and probably plate number . you need a Kashgar base tour company for this lisence and permit . you have to contact before you arrive , make sure your document prepared before you arrive .
Good luck !
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