Sunatullo Jonboboev

Sharofat Mamadambarova

The term Silk Road was invented by the German geographer Ferdinand von Richtofen in 1877. But the history of this route goes back to ancient times, as far as the third to second millennium BCE. Some other roads directly connected with Tajikistan existed before the Silk Road:

First was the Lapis Lazuli Route, via which Lapis Lazuli extracted in the mountains of Badakhshan was delivered to Mesopotamia, Egypt and India. This was in the third to second millennium BCE, but in the first millennium BCE the Lapis Lazuli Road turned to the East to China.

Simultaneously there was another road - the Nephrite Road. The nephrite was extracted in the upper of Yarkent Darya in Khotan. This was the second route.

The other road could be called the Steppe Road through Central Asia and Kazakstan to China (in the middle of the first millennium BCE). China had been exporting silk to the West since the sixth to fifth centuries BCE. The peoples of Central Asia - the Sogdians, Bactrians, Sakas, Scythians and Turks - played a major role in providing contact and mutual cultural understanding between West (Europe) and East (China, India).

It was through the mediation of the Sakas and the Scythian nomadic groups in 138 CE., that an ambassadorial caravan accompanied by Chejen Tszyan left the capital of Han.

We are interested here in the four branches of the Road that went through Tajikistan.

View Map of Silk Road


The SOGDIAN road

Run from Samarqand to Kokand through Penjikent, Varz (Aini), Bundjikat (Shahristan), Ura Tyube, Khojand, Kanibadam and Isfara.

The second, the third and fourth branches of the route could be called the Bactrian Road.


Was mentioned by Ptolemy. It connected Termez with Kashgar (China), and ran through Regar (Tursunzade), Gissar, Dushanbe, Andigon (Kafarnihon) , Vashgird ( Faizabad), Darband (Sarijar), Gurkand (Garm) and the Alay valley.

The KHATLON road

Branched off from the Karategin route and headed south through Nurek, Burban (Dangara), Mezic (Khovaling), Hulbuk, Parkhar, Kabadian and Balkh.

The PAMIR road

Went through Balkh to Barpanja and Khorog and further on to Shugnan, Vakhan and Murghab, and up to Tashkurgan in China.


At present scholars are considering these questions:


How did a region so pluralistic (in the cultural and confessional sense) in the past change into an uniform one, where people are sometimes suspicious of intercultural exchange?


Why are equality and unity, so important for peoples lives in post-Soviet Central Asia diametrically set against ideas of diversity?


Why do some people see in diversity the beginnings of danger and distress, but not wealth?


To understand something unknown one should translate it into an understandable language, to familiar system of signs and symbols. Similarity is recognised by similarity (Aristotle). But why does the process of understanding new civilisations usually end with the expansion of similarity?

Central Asia has always been a bridge of cultural contacts between West (Europe) and East (China). How did it come about, that at present Central Asia is on the peripheries of these contacts? (This is connected with sea and air routes, the weakening of the functions of the Silk Road and other factors).


What needs to be done if this is to be revived?


We know very little about the comprehensive culture of China and Tajikistan! But nevertheless Tajik myths tell stories, that not only were lapis lazuli and spinel brought from Tajikistan (Ferghana and Shugnan) to China, but musical instruments, natural and herbal richness for medical purposes were also exported. The herbal dog-rose, which is rich with vitamin C, is said to have been picked in the Gund valley (Shugnan) for the Chinese emperor.

Chinese myths tell of the original homeland of mankind sacred mountains, in the west of China the Kun-Lun range, next to the Pamir. This image of the world mountain in the centre of the universe tells us about the unity and relationship of human civilisations. The mountain is the image of world, a sample of the universe. Countries, peoples and civilisations are its most important components.

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