What Is The Silk Road?

The silk road, originating in China, was a major, ancient trading route that extended thousands of kilometres across the Northern part of Asia to Eastern Europe, through countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

Although the trading of silk was its primary purpose, cultural exchanges and the spreading of ideas and technologies occurred throughout its complex network, which enabled the exchange of other items, such as food, spices and incense. Rarely would one trader travel the length of the route. Rather, exchanges would take place at large towns and cities, the nomadic trader returning with new produce to his place of origin, before setting out again with another load.

Other networks developed and southern silk routes were added to the northern one, including a maritime silk route, which linked Southern Asia with Mediterranean countries.

Said to be worth its weight in gold, silk has always been a prized commodity, its origin and existence kept secret by the Chinese until about 500BC. Worn by the nobility and the very wealthy, this precious fabric was woven from the continuous protein filaments extruded by the Bombyx Mori silkworms and wound by them into cocoons as part of their lifecycle.

The Silk Road Is Part Of Asian Culture

'Making Tracks', part of a triptych, mixed media on canvasAsian Influence - Making Tracks

This image, 'Desert Tracks' is one of a series that I painted for a Cairns exhibition, Asian Influence. One day it might become a scarf - do you think that would be a good idea?

The story behind the image investigates the pioneering role of cameleers from Afghanistan, India and other parts of Asia, in opening routes across Australia.

Travelling in groups, they brought much needed supplies to far-flung settlements and, in the process, prepared the way for more substantial roads to be built for motorised transport.

Our very own Australian Silk Road?

Silk production (sericulture) and its method of trading and transport, was an important part of Asian culture. Known as the 'Queen of Textiles', silk  has always been an expensive and luxurious fabric and, although European countries, such as Italy and France, began to grow silk and produce woven fabrics from it, its base is still firmly in China, from where silk that I use for the Spirit of Oz scarves is sourced.

Textile printing factories in China and India produce printed and dyed silk fabric and scarves, which are generally cheaper than those produced in Europe and Australia. However, I have chosen to use Australian printers because of their superior quality, due in part to highly trained staff, but also to their state-of-the-art printing machines, that can also print in small quantities. Mass production is not my aim; however, should you be interested in developing large numbers of a particular, custom made design, please just ask!

The Silk Road Today

Long gone are the camel caravans, with their precious cargoes slowly making their way through mountain passes and across endless deserts and sand dunes.

In their place, diesel powered trucks (in groups or 'caravans'?) carry on trade from oasis to towns and cities, while the speedy aeroplane flits overhead and 'deals' are done through the miracle of the internet.

If you would like to learn more about the origins of the silk road and, perhaps enjoy some real life exploring of  your own, what better source than the Chinese themselves?

Top of The Silk Road

Characteristics of Silk

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