Silk Road Chronology

[Note: This is based on the chronologies at the Silk Road Foundation web site and in David Christian, A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia. Vol. I. Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire (Blackwell, 1998). Dates are BCE and CE, that is "before the Common Era" and "Common Era," which is the chronological equivalent to B. C. and A. D.]

4th millenium BCE    Development of nomadic pastoralism?

3000       Silk first produced in China.

6th c.       Development of Afrasiyab (the pre-Islamic city of Samarkand)

560s        Birth of Buddha.

559-486   Reigns of Cyrus and Darius; the Achaemenid Empire. Includes conquest of Central Asia.

ca. 550     Birth of Zoroaster (?); Zoroastrianism spreads in Achaemenid Empire in 5th c.

329-327   Alexander the Great in Central Asia.

238-140    Greco-Bactrian kingdom in Central Asia.

238-CE 226    Parthian Empire in western Eurasia.

221-206     Qin rule in China; terracotta army at Qin tombs, Xi'an.

206- CE 220    Han dynasties in China

2nd c.          Domestication of camel

139-125      Han general and ambassador Chang Ch'ien in Central Asia; Han conquest of Ferghana.

1st c. CE     Silk appears in Rome.

                    Buddhism spreads into Central Asia.

ca. 100         Buddhism reaches China.

2nd c.           Kushan Empire in N. India and Central Asia.

ca. 200-ca. 550   Knowledge of silk production spreads first to Central Asia and  ultimately to Constantinople.

226-642       Sassanian Empire in western Eurasia.

4th c.             First caves cut at Dunhuang.

399-413       Buddhist monk Faxian travels from China to India and back.

552-734       Turk empires in Central Asia.

618-907        T'ang dynasty.

627-643        Xuanzang travels to India and back to China.

642                Muslim armies destroy Sassanian Empire.

655                Muslim armies enter Central Asia.

750                 Establishment of Abbasid Caliphate.

751                 Arabs defeat Chinese at Battle of Talas (in area of modern Kyrgyzstan).

ca. 900           Ismail Samanid and Samanid dynasty in Central Asia, with capital at Bukhara.

2nd half 11th c.    Seljuks extend empire through Middle East into Anatolia, taking Baghdad and defeating Byzantine armies.

1206               Temujin elected "Chingis Khan" by Mongols.

1220               Mongol invasion of Khwarezm in Central Asia

1230s             Mongol capital established at Karakorum in Mongolia.

                        Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe.

1246-1247      Franciscan monk John of Plano Carpini travels to Mongolia.

1253                 Franciscan monk William of Rubruck travels to Mongolia.

1258                Mongols destroy Abbasid caliphate and take Baghdad.

1264-1368      Yuan (Mongol) rule in China, beginning with Kubilai Khan.

1271-1295       Marco Polo's travels.

1325-1354        Ibn Battuta's travels.

1368-1644        Ming Dynasty in China.

ca. 1370-1405   Tamerlane's empire, with its capital at Samarkand.

1402-1405         Embassy of Clavijo to Tamerlane.

1490s                  Europeans round Cape of Good Hope and begin sea routes for trade with South and East Asia.

16th-17th c.       Mughal Empire in India.

mid-19th c.         Russian conquest of the Central Asian khanates.

1900                    Discovery of the "secret library" of manuscripts and paintings at Dunhuang.  Soon after, European explorers and scholars such as                              Aurel Stein and Paul Pelliot remove much of the material to London and Paris.