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Stretching about 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers), the Silk Road started from the ancient great China capital city Chang’an(today’s Xi’an), and later from Luoyang during East Han Dynasty. It moved westwards, via the Hexi Corridor(Wuwei, Zhangye, Dunhuang, Jiuquan…), and divided into northern, middle and southern routes bypassing the Taklimakan Desert. The southern and middle route rejoined at Kashgar, then passed though Pamir Plateau and north of Aral Sea, reached Baghdad and Damascus, moved northwestwards, finally ended at Constantinople. While the northern route moved through Turpan, Talgar, and Almaty, turned northwest past the Aral Sea and north of the Caspian Sea, then and on to the Black Sea and got to Constantinople.
The Silk Road extended more than 7,000 kilometers. While more than half of the whole length was located in China. China Silk Road routes consisted of two sections: eastern Silk Road and western Silk Road.
Silk Road started from two capital cities of Han Dynasty – Chang’an and Luoyang, moved westwards and split into northern, middle and southern routes.
The northern route started from Chang’an(from Luoyang in later Han), moved along the Wei River, reached Baoji and Longxian, climbed over Liupanshan Mountains, crossed Yellow River at Jingyuan, last got to Wuwei. This route was the earliest road which was short and lack of supply.
The middle route went from Chang’an(from Luoyang in later Han), separated from the northern route in Shanggui(today in Tianshui), passed by Liupanshan Mountains, arrived at Lanzhou, across the Yellow river, moved northwards to Wuwei. This route later became the major trade route because of short length and better supply.
The southern route left Chang’an(from Luoyang in later Han), went via Tianshui, Lintao and Linxia, crossed Yellow River in Yongjing, then passed Xining to Zhangye. This route through had good supply , but was not chose by most traders because of its long distance.
The northern and middle Silk Road route rejoined the southern route at Zhangye, moved westwards via Jiuquan and Guazhou to one of the most famous cities on the Silk Road – Dunhuang which was the end of the eastern Silk Road in China.
Yangguang and Yumenguan Pass are two gates to the West Regions. The Silk Road left Dunhuang, then divided into two routes. The northern route started from Yumenguan Pass, traveled northward to Hami, then turned west to Gaochang(today in Turpan) from which the northern route became the later middle route because a new northern route was created in more northern West during East Han Dynasty. While the southern route chose Yangguan Pass as the starting point, passed by the southern edge of Taklimakan Desert, and got to Kashgar. The middle route left Gaochang, went along the northern edge of Taklimakan Desert, and then met the southern route at Kashgar.
Due to the tough road condition and barren environment of Taklimakan Desert and Lop Nur on the southern and middle route, East Han Dynasty created another route northwestward from Dunhuang, via Hami, Barkol Lake, Jimsar, Banquan, Huocheng, to Suiye which is the final stations of northern route in China.
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