Retracing history on the Silk Road
More than 1,400 years ago, the main trading route between China and Western Asia was along the Silk Road, where endless lines of caravans would cart tons of silk goods to then-nations like Persia, Arabia and even modern-day India. It extended for more than 4,000 miles and provided the single most important connection between China and the rest of the continent.
While silk was the major trading item, merchants also exchanged profound ideas, religions and, unfortunately, the bubonic plague. Perhaps most famously, the Venetian explorer Marco Polo retraced the Silk Road in the 13th century and became the first non-Asian to do so, naturally opening the floodgates to commerce between European nations and the far East.
Today, the Silk Road is now an extensive railway system, and many stops along the way are featured on China tours. During these off-the-beaten path adventures, travelers may have the rare chance to take a ride on the back of a camel to Sand Mountain, which is located about three miles away from the city of Dunhuang. After that, they can further retrace the steps of thousands of merchants and head to the city of Kashgar, which boasts a number of bazaars that came about at the same time as the Silk Road.
Although tour participants won't have to experience anything remotely close to the hardships that merchants did so long ago, simply being on the Silk Road will remind them of the trials it took to make China a world superpower nearly a millennia in the past.