[photopress:300px_Silk_road.jpg,full,alignright]Lives there soul so dead it cannot be excited by the thought of the Silk Road? Now China will soon re-open part of the Silk Road by completing a highway across the world’s biggest sandy desert, following pretty much the path of the ancient Silk Road for the admittedly somewhat mundane reason of accessing oil fields in the western part of the country. Still, the magic of the Silk Road is there and, as a result, the project will be finished six months ahead of schedule.
The highway crosses the Takla Makan desert in the Xinjiang region and, according to Li Lixin, who heads the highway project office, it will open in June after 22 months of construction. And then, again, we can travel the Silk Road.
The original Silk Road was an interconnected series of routes through Southern Asia connecting Xi’an with Antioch, Asia Minor, as well as other points. In its heyday it covered over 8,000 km (5,000 miles).
The connection of these great civilizations was significant for China, ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, India and Rome and the Silk Road also helped to lay the foundations of the modern world.
The first major step in opening the Silk Road between the East and the West came with the expansion of Alexander the Great deep into Central Asia, as far as Ferghana at the borders of the modern-day Xinjiang region of China, where he founded in 329 BC a Greek settlement in the state of Tajikistan.
[photopress:200px_Menade.jpg,full,alignright]The Silk Road, as its name implies, brought silk to Europe. Not always with the approval all of of the citizens:
‘I can see clothes of silk, if materials that do not hide the body, nor even one’s decency, can be called clothes… Wretched flocks of maids labor so that the adulteress may be visible through her thin dress, so that her husband has no more acquaintance than any outsider or foreigner with his wife’s body.’
Seneca the Younger, c 3BC-65, Declamations Vol 1.
The new route will reduce by half the journey for rigs and oil workers from the city of Aksu to the Tarim Basin, home to a third of China’s oil reserves. The Tarim Basin, which covers 560,000 sq km, or 215,000 square miles, has estimated reserves of eight billion tons of oil.
The highway will be 424 kilometers, or 260 miles, long and cost RMB797 million, or $101 million. It will connect Aksu, on the northern rim of the Tarim Basin next to Kyrgyzstan, with Hotan in the south. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
Source: International Herald Tribune and research.
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