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The China National Silk Museum, opened to the public in February 1992, is located in Hangzhou City of East China’s Zhejiang Province. It is a special museum dedicated to the exhibition of China’s more than 5,000 years of silk culture and history.

The museum completed renovation in September 2003 and has been open to the public for free since January2004.

 The “Display of Chinese Silk Culture” is the museum’s main display, divided into the Prelude Hall, the Display of Silk Stories, the Display of Silk Craft, and the temporary exhibition hall.

 The “Display of Chinese Silk Culture” won the Prize of Elaborate Works in the Sixth National Top Ten Museums (2003-2004) competition.

The Silk Road is a general term that once comprised a series of ancient trade routes connecting China with Asia, Africa and Europe. As an important link between the Eastern and Western worlds, it greatly improves the in-depth exchange of politics, economics and culture among countries along the route. The four great inventions by the Chinese (namely paper, printing, compass and gunpowder), silkworm raising and silk weaving, tea and china have also become accessible to other parts of world. At the same time, Buddhism, Nestorianism, Islam, music, and astronomy were introduced to China.

The Silk Road can be divided into two major routes: by land and by sea. The main inland routes prospered during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD) and then declined during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). The route, which was over 7,000 kilo
meters (4,943.6 miles) long, is widely considered to start from Chang’an (today’s Xian, China) traverse Gansu and Xinjiang, and extend westward to the Mediterranean area. Interestingly, the starting points changed as the political centers of the following dynasties also changed, including Luoyang , Datong, Kaifeng, and Beijing.

The routes by sea arose in the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 207 BC), flourished in the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) and the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368), and fell into decay during the middle Ming Dynasty. The principle route began in Guangzhou , Yantai, Yangzhou, Ningbo, and Quanzhou along with other coastal cities, via the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and finally reached the Mediterranean.

After several centuries of disregard, the once dormant Silk Road is once again springing to life. Tourists can explore the ancient historical sites, enjoy the gorgeous scenery along the route and appreciate mysterious attractions, such as Mogao Caves in Dunhuang and the Yumenguan Pass which was considered an important pass of the trade route. This centuries-old, international trade route awaits your adventurous undertaking.

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Transmission of Buddhism

Notably, the Buddhist faith and the Greco-Buddhist culture started to travel eastward along the Silk Road, penetrating in China from around the 1st century BC.

The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism to China started in the 1st century CE with a semi-legendary account of an embassy sent to the West by the Chinese Emperor Ming (58 – 75 CE). Extensive contacts however started in the 2nd century CE, probably as a consequence of the expansion of the Kushan empire into the Chinese territory of the Tarim Basin, with the missionary efforts of a great number of Central Asian Buddhist monks to Chinese lands. The first missionaries and translators of Buddhists scriptures into Chinese were either Parthian, Kushan, Sogdian or Kuchean.

From the 4th century onward, Chinese pilgrims also started to travel to India, the origin of Buddhism, by themselves in order to get improved access to the original scriptures, with Fa-hsien’s pilgrimage to India (395–414), and later Xuan Zang (629–644). The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism essentially ended around the 7th century with the rise of Islam in Central Asia.

Artistic transmission

Many artistic influences transited along the Silk Road, especially through the Central Asia, where Hellenistic, Iranian, Indian and Chinese influence were able to intermix. In particular Greco-Buddhist art represent one of the most vivid examples of this interaction.

Technological transfer

The period of the High Middle Ages in Europe and East Asia saw major technological advances, including the diffusion through the Silk Road of the precursor to movable type printing, gunpowder, the astrolabe, and the compass.

Korean maps such as the Kangnido and Islamic mapmaking seem to have influenced the emergence of the first European practical world maps, such as those of De Virga or Fra Mauro. Ramusio, a contemporary, states that Fra Mauro’s map is “an improved copy of the one brought from Cathay by Marco Polo”.

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