The Silk Road was a huge complex trading network made up of many small sub networks. It was used to transport goods between China, India, Near East and Europe. By examining the different civilizations/political powers that were involved and the commodities that were traded, it is possible to see what stimulated the development of the Silk Road. It is important to look at the civilizations involved because a strong economy is required for trade to flourish. Political stability is also an important factor since trade is vulnerable to war and bandits. The second important point which must be looked at is commodities that were traded. The supply and demand for commodities is what motivates trade, analyzing the commodities traded could reveal the factors which promoted the trade of goods.
The Han Dynasty
The Han Empire was one of China's strongest empires, during this time China had its first formal encounter with the nomads of the west, this sparked the Chinese's interest in the west, and led to an important development of trade networks in the western regions of China.
The Xiongnu was a nomadic people that lived in the northwest region of Han China and have caused great problems near the borders there. They also conquered many other nomads in the western regions. One of those people was the Yueh-chih, whose descendants later became the Kushans. Through the many battles with the Xiongnu, Emperor Wudi learned that the Yueh-chih had been driven away by the Xiongnu. He then decided to send Zhang Qian westward to seek alliances against the Xiongnu in 139 B.C. (Yu, 1967, #135). Zhang Qian's journey was a long and difficult one. First he was captured by the Xiongnu and held there for more than 10 years. After his escape, he eventually reached Yueh-chih only...