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The Formation of the Concept of the Silk Road and Its Transmission in China

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.11, 2018

 

The Formation of the Concept of the Silk Road and Its Transmission in China

(Abstract)

 

Liu Jinbao

 

The concept of the Silk Road was first put forward by the German geographer Richthofen in 1877 with reference to the route connecting Chang’an to Central Asia. Before this term was formally adopted in China, the Chinese had called this route “the road of silk and satin, road of silk, road of silk sales, etc. Silk Road (sichouzhilu丝绸之路) was first used in China on 24 February, 1943, in the Shanghai Journal. Thereafter the concept underwent several transmutations, such as desert road, oasis road and “steppes road”—what we call networks today. Other terms referring to this route were “jade road,” “spice road,” and “road of furs.” Although silk was not the most important commodity in all periods of Chinese trade with the West, and the Chinese referred to the Silk Road in many different ways, no other expression has been able to take the place of “Silk Road.” The Belt and Road initiative has taken its name from the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road, reflecting the practical contemporary use of a historical expression.