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The Silk Road

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By running around 4,000 miles long and connecting many regions (Southern Europe, Arabia, Egypt, Persia, India, China) between the 2nd century to the end of the 14th century, the Silk Road boosted the world’s economy, assisted the sharing of ideas and knowledge for a smarter and more connected world, but also ended up destroying lives through the spread of diseases, making it a very dynamic period (both time and place) in history. Not only did the Silk Road give the rich something to spend their money on other than temples, the Silk Road provided a source of income to many people in Africa and Eurasia such as silk weavers (who couldn’t afford to buy silk themselves but spent their life making it), ordinary merchants (who sold their merchandise in towns to be passed on by other merchants), and -surprisingly- nomads. Because the nomads (like the Xiongnu) were so experienced at travelling long distances and had become immune to the various diseases they were exposed to, they made ideal transportation for goods like silk (from China), cotton textiles (from India), and spices (from Arabia). With a firm route for travel and trade set up, ideas started to flow from place to place, including those involving religion and technology such as the Chinese Four Great Inventions (papermaking, printing, gunpowder, and the compass), Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism. By passing through (what is now) both North and South Korea in 538 C.E, Buddhism was officially introduced to Japan, where it is now commonly practiced today in Buddhist temples as Mahayana. Although the Silk Road famously brought prosperity to so many people and their empires, it also brought sickness and death in the form of diseases such as measles, smallpox, and bubonic plague. The worst case of bubonic plague hit the world in 1346 and wiped out around half the population of Europe within 4 years, the plague spread from the East and was carried through the networks of the Silk Road, causing so much grief and...

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