What were the countries along the Silk Road?

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We take a look at the countries along the Silk Road, the ancient network of trade routes that connected China with the West.

Samarkand in Uzbekistan
The city Samarkand in Uzbekistan is located along the Silk Road (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Name: Silk Road
Length: 6,400km / 4,000mi (approx.)
Established: circa AD 1270–90
Start: Xi’an, China
End: Rome, Italy

What was the Silk Road?

The historic Silk Road was a vast network of ancient trade routes or “superhighways” connecting China and the Far East with the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

The Silk Road was firmly established around 1,400 years ago during the time of Marco Polo’s travels (c. AD 1270–90).

However, its origins date back to around 300 BC when it was used to transport jade around China. By 200 BC the road had been extended and linked to the West.

By around 100 BC, it was actively being used for trade between the two civilizations.

By around 200 AD, the road – along with its western connections across the Roman road network – constituted the longest road on Earth.

Map of the locations and countries along the Silk Road
The route of the Silk Road (Encyclopædia Britannica)

The routes remained in use until 1453 AD when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with China and closed the roads.

Initially, Chinese merchants exported silk to Western customers. These goods expanded to include tea, porcelain, spices, perfumes, paper and gunpowder among other commodities.

Exports sent in the other direction (eastwards) included wool, gold, silver, horses and camels, furs and skins, honey, weapons and armour, and slaves.

Today, historians generally prefer the term “Silk Routes” or “Silk Roads” as it better reflects there was more than one thoroughfare.

The routes are also responsible for the exchange of intellectual and cultural ideas between civilisations.

A fortress in Ancient Merv
Ancient Merv in Turkmenistan is located along the Silk Road (Shutterstock)

The mixing of populations encouraged along the Silk Routes brought about widespread transmission of cultures, knowledge, ideas and beliefs.

Many academics also believe the bubonic plague was transmitted along the Silk Road, causing the Black Death pandemic during the mid-14th century.

The development of sailing technology, ship-building and the growth of ports throughout the Middle Ages, meant the Silk Routes were no longer the most practical method of trade.

Eventually, it became safer, quicker and cheaper to transport goods via sea routes as opposed to overland. As such, traffic along the Silk Road had significantly declined by the 1450s.

What were the countries along the Silk Road?

The UNESCO Silk Roads Programme lists 54 countries along the “historic land and maritime Silk Roads”. However, many of these countries were only connected via sea routes or extended road networks.

The map below shows where the original Silk Road was located. The primary route is marked in red.

A map of the extended Silk Roads network showing countries along the Silk Road
The extended Silk Roads network (UNESCO Silk Roads Programme)

These are the 54 countries along the Silk Road according to the UNESCO Silk Roads Programme.

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Armenia
  3. Azerbaijan
  4. Brunei Darussalam
  5. Cambodia
  6. China
  7. Egypt
  8. France
  9. Georgia
  10. Germany
  11. Greece
  12. India
  13. Indonesia
  14. Iran
  15. Iraq
  16. Italy
  17. Japan
  18. Jordan
  19. Kazakhstan
  20. Kenya
  21. Kuwait
  22. Kyrgyzstan
  23. Lebanon
  24. Madagascar
  25. Malaysia
  26. Mongolia
  27. Mozambique
  28. Myanmar
  29. Nepal
  30. North Korea
  31. Oman
  32. Pakistan
  33. Philippines
  34. Portugal
  35. Qatar
  36. South Korea
  37. Russia
  38. Saudi Arabia
  39. Singapore
  40. Somalia
  41. Spain
  42. Sri Lanka
  43. Sudan
  44. Syria
  45. Tajikistan
  46. Thailand
  47. Turkey
  48. Turkmenistan
  49. UAE
  50. UK
  51. Tanzania
  52. Uzbekistan
  53. Vietnam
  54. Yemen

Encyclopædia Britannica [1]
Encyclopædia Britannica [2]
UNESCO Silk Roads Programme
History Channel
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Silk Road, World History Encyclopedia

Every effort has been made to verify this information using reliable and trustworthy sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.