If you’ve ever heard of the Silk Road, this refers to an ancient network of Eurasian trade routes that once connected the East to the West. These were routes that emerged across both land and sea, along which silk and many other goods were imported and exported.
For many years, this was the primary source of cultural crossover between Europe and Asia. And while the Silk Road stretched all across Europe and the Middle East, it is the Asian stops of the Silk Road that are most worth the trip today.
This is where the Silk Road originated, when China opened up to trade in the first and second centuries B.C. But while goods were traded, imported, and exported in and out of Asia, it has a much greater cultural significance. The constant movement and mixing of populations also brought about the transmission of knowledge, ideas, cultures and beliefs, which had a profound impact on the history and civilizations of the Eurasian peoples.
For those with an interest in history and cultural heritage, the Silk Road is a great path to follow when travelling in China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries. Here are 3 must-see destinations you shouldn’t miss.
3 Must-See Destinations For Travel Along the Silk Road
Xian’s Terracotta Warriors
Located in the Shaanxi province of China, Xian’s terracotta warriors is a stop along the Silk Road you should’t miss. There’s a reason why millions of visitors flock here every year – the warriors are a spectacle and an archaeological feat.
One of the largest modern archaeological discoveries, the terracotta warriors located in China’s capital of Xian are a collection of 8,000 individual, life-size terracotta warriors that were created to protect the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang Di, the first ever emperor of China.
Aside from the sheer size (each warrior is about 6 ft. tall), detail (they each have their own facial expression), and number of terracotta warriors, one of the most amazing things about them is that although they were created and buried about two millennia ago, they were forgotten until 1974.
They were discovered by a group of local farmers that were digging a well.
Religion was one of the biggest exports during the era when the Silk Road was in use. Because of this, there are a lot of temples that can be found along the Silk Road.
One of the most beautiful temples that can be found along the route is in Nara, Japan. The Todai-ji Buddhist temple can be dated back to 728 and features a lot of rich, religious history.
Once a member of the Seven Great Temples in Japan, Todai-ji is a UNESCO world-heritage site and a spectacle to be beheld. One of the major draws of Todai-ji is the statue of Buddha that is featured in its Great Buddha Hall, which is actually the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world.
For more information on other great temples along the Silk Road in Japan, check out this awesome Japan travel guide book series.
Photo credits: Fredrik Rubensson
The Mogao Caves
Another great stop along the Silk Road in China are the Mogao Caves; a system of almost 500 temples that are carved into the cliffs above the Dachuan River, and stretch along the edges of the sand dunes.
Mogao caves feature over 1,000 years of beautiful Buddhist artwork, and have been recognized as having outstanding universal value by UNESCO. While once a place for Buddhists to worship, the caves are now open to the public by tour only.
Taking a tour through these caves and seeing some of the ancient paintings and carvings that they feature is an amazing history lesson, and a beautiful way to appreciate the culture of China.
These Were Just Three
There are so many amazing stops along the Silk Road, it can be hard to choose which to visit. Whether you are planning on travelling the whole route, or just picking a portion to visit, make sure to take in at least these three.
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Photo credit: Armored Terracotta Warrior by Jennifer Morrow.