“Silk Road” refers to the great trade routes that originated in China and spread westward across Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and into Mediterranean Europe.
From the 2nd century B.C.E. until the 15th century C.E. the world’s dominant land routes adjoined China to Syria and connected with sea routes creating an East-West corridor linking Japan with Italy. These transcontinental caravans resulted not only in trade, of which silk was an important commodity, but also in tremendous cultural interchange among the peoples of the regions; interactions that fostered the sharing of ideas and the fusion of art and aesthetics.
The Silk Road spawned rich traditions of storytelling, primarily oral narrative and epic poetry. As we ourselves are storytellers, we understand the Silk Road as both a geographic polestar and a guiding metaphor for our polycultural worldview.
If we were to trace on a contemporary map the numerous trade routes connected to the historic Silk Road, the modern nation-states of this vast territory would comprise some two-thirds of the world’s population. From a political perspective, the Silk Road represents a model of interdependence and connectivity that united diverse peoples across geographically contiguous regions. This history is particularly important to us because it pre-dates the advent of European imperialism and colonialism, with its devastating strategies of conquer, divide, rule, and exploit.