As for the idea of a “Silk Road,” the term was coined by a German geographer in the late nineteenth century. Neither the Chinese nor the Romans, who constituted its two termini, were aware of the existence of such a route or even of the existence of one another. The Romans knew only that somewhere the “Seres,” the “silk people,” produced the fabric that appeared in Roman markets. The Chinese heard vague rumors of a “Great Qin” empire in the far west, a mythic realm of fantastic plants and animals. Not only were the supposed parties of trade on the “Silk Road” ignorant of one another, but no merchant ever traveled the length of such a route. China’s frontier trade and political gift-giving moved large amounts of silk into Central Asian markets, where it was sold to points further west.From Xinjiang it proceeded to the area of modern Afghanistan and India, then to Persia, and finally to the eastern provinces of the Roman empire. The transcontinental trade route was a series of regional trade routes that, in steps, transported quantities of silk from China to Rome. Each participant was conscious of only one or two steps along the way.
The book is Mark Edwards Lewis, Qin and Han, and I am starting the seventh chapter. Chapter 6 was all about the Han’s northern neighbors, the Xiongnu.