The Silk Road, or Silk Route, is a series of trade and cultural transmission routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East by linking traders, merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, nomads and urban dwellers from China to the Mediterranean Sea during various periods of time.
Extending 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometres), the Silk Road gets its name from the lucrative trade of Chinese silk which was carried out along its length, and began during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). The Central Asian sections of the trade routes were expanded around 114 BC by the Han dynasty, largely through the missions and explorations of Zhang Qian. They took great interest in the safety of their products being traded and extended the Great Wall to ensure the protection of the trade route.
Trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the civilizations of China, the Indian subcontinent, Persia, Europe and Arabia. It opened long-distance, political and economic interactions between the civilizations. Though silk was certainly the major trade item from China, many other goods were traded, and various technologies, religions and philosophies, as well as the bubonic plague (the "Black Death"), also traveled along the Silk Routes. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road served as a ways of cultural trade between the networking civilizations.