Trade along the Silk Road during the Pre-Mongol EraThe ‘Silk Road’ is the term used for the overland trade routes in Eurasia specifically China, Central Asia, India, and Europe. The person who coined the term Silk Road was a German geographer named Ferdinand von Richthofen(Thorton). The Silk Road is not only a single route but instead composed of a string of tracks that connects the countries in central Asia to each other and to the countries in Europe. The two ends of the Silk Road are China in central Asia that is the Eastern end and Rome in Europe which is the Western end(Hansen).
The geographical range of Silk Road from the East to West includes the following civilizations and oasis cities Changan (Xi’an, China), Lanzhou, DunHuang, Kashgar, Samarkand, Tashkent, Merv, Hamadan, Baghdad, Palmyra, Tyre, and Antioch. The route from the East starts in Changan, China then proceeds to Gansu corridor and then goes by the edge of the Talikmakan in Dunhuang. Yumen Guan (Jade Gate Pass), neck of Gobi desert, Hami (Kumul) Tianshan Mountains, and northern fringes of Taklimakan are the areas passed by Silk Road in the northern route.
Turfan and Kuqa is the major oasis passed by the northern route before it reaches the foot of Pamir at Kashgar. The southern route on the other hand branched off at DunHuan to Yang Guan, Miran, hetian, Shache, and then turns north meeting the other route at Kashgar. There are also other trail branches of Silk Road like the branch of the southern route that proceeds to the city of Loulan through the eastern end of Taklimakan before the intersection with the northern route at Korla.
Then from Kashgar which is the new crossroad of Asia, the trails are again divided and these are: the trail that proceeds to the south of Caspian Sea through the Pamirs and Samarkand; the trail journeying to the south to India through Karakorum; and the further route which is subdivided from the northern route after Kuqa before traversing the Tianshan range that ends up in the Caspian Sea shores through Tashkent(Wild). The journey of merchants with their people and the travelers in Silk Road is not lucrative.
The geographical attributes of inner Asia consisted of enormous tracks of inhospitable lands. There is usually meager supply of water and huge distances separate human settlements. The driest deserts of the world are located in between the Mediterranean and China hence the travelling merchants experience extreme heat. The mountain ranges in these areas are high in altitude and have extreme weather conditions. These attributes of the trails of Silk Road make the journey of merchants tremendously difficult. The necessity of trade though enables the various members of Eurasian civilizations to traverse Silk Road and experience difficulties(Foltz). In the travels of merchants and travelers of the trails of Silk Road it was not uncommon to encounter robbers due to the huge distance between settlements.
The dry and vast deserts also serve as shelters for these robbers. The merchants in order to protect themselves and their caravan from the robbers usually have weapons for protection or travel with guards. The risks that the robbers pose are endured by the merchants but they travel with especially in long- distance trade equipped for the worst circumstances.
The extreme difficulties that were experienced by the merchants in their travel were counted in the calculation of profit in the merchant’s goods thus it was still logical to endure those difficulties because it comes with a price.