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Afghanistan has the benefit of a desirable geographic location, lying at a midpoint of Central Asia, with the former Chinese empires to its East and Persian empires to its West. As a result, any goods traded between western and eastern Asia would undoubtedly cross Afghanistan. The cities that were located along the Silk Roads were Balkh, Bamiyan, Herat, Badakhshan and Kabul. Afghanistan and the ruling empires during the height of the Silk Road benefitted handsomely from open trade, and maintained open trade networks during times of political stability. One of the many key goods native to Afghanistan that was widely traded along the Roads was lapis lazuli.

Afghanistan is home to over 1500 archaeological sites, and excavations have revealed evidence of both Eastern and Western influences in architecture and material goods. Afghan cities saw exchanges of Chinese silk, Persian silver, and gold from Rome. Over time, Buddhism spread to Afghanistan before arriving in China, and the Bamyan Buddhas stood as evidence. The spread of Buddhism to China was encouraged by the Kushan Dynasty, who were patrons of the religion within their territory. The constant cultural exchange also resulted in Chinese patterns influencing Islamic architecture in the 14th century, and Mongol ideas being adapted into Afghanistan’s laws. Aspects of intangible culture developed through the periods of the Silk Roads remain a part of Afghan culture today, such as hospitality, and the number of languages spoken. Since Afghanistan has no access to oceans, it saw a decline in trade when maritime technology began to develop in the 15th century and maritime routes were increasingly used due to lower costs and shorter lead times.

Silk Road On the Map

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