History and Geography
Chapter 4 In Central Asia and Beyond. On the Silk Road
In Central Asia and Beyond. On the Silk Road
Geography of the Silk Road
Between the seventh and fourteenth centuries the Church of the East enjoyed a territorial expansion extending right across the continent of Asia, along the whole length of the Silk Road. The ancient Silk Road was a network of commercial routes that crossed Asia, principally Central Asia (modern Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) and beyond. All kinds of merchandise were transported along it, notably silk. The Silk Road was the principal commercial axis between Europe and Asia from the second century BC to the fourteenth century AD. It was along this road, from west to east, from the Mediterranean to China, on a trajectory of more than 10,000 km, that the Church of the East accomplished an extraordinary missionary expansion. The missionary monks of the Church of the East were the first Christians known to have reached Chang’an (today Xi’an), at that time the capital of China, in 635, during the patriarchate of Ishoyahb II (628–45).
In order to circumvent the very high mountains in southern Asia (the Himalayas and other chains), these missionary networks passed to the north of them, via the great commercial routes that went through staging-towns, some of which were oasis-towns, of Central Asia as far as China. In certain strategic commercial towns on the Silk Road episcopal sees were created, and then metropolitanates of provinces called ‘exterior’ in the...
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