In the discussion, we shall also enquire into the salient aspects of the 'state and society' and of 'religion and culture' in these countries and the 'new great game' with 'oil and oil roads' that is being played by those countries that hat have slipped into the new shoes of the old "imperial powers". First, then, what was the "silk road"
The Silk Road had passed through the 'heart' of Asia, in the central region of the continent.1 It was the ancient route that took the trade across Asia to Europe and back and along with it, also the cultures of the East. The road was unsurpassed in the commercial and cultural contacts between the east and the west linked by 'the camel caravans and donkey trucks which trudged their way through the dust and heat of the central Asian region'. This region is an inhospitable area with very little vegetation, and almost no rainfall; and constantly visited by sandstorms which have claimed many lives. The climate is harsh; the daytime temperature in summer goes up to even 500 Celsius in the sub-sea level basin of Turfan; and in winter it comes down to below minus 20 degrees. Temperatures soar in the sun, but drop very rapidly at sundown. On the eastern and western sides of the region, the civilizations of China and the West developed. The Persian Empire was in control of the vast large area, extending from the Mediterranean Sea in the west as far as the borders of India in the east. Trade between these two neighbors strongly influenced the cultures of these regions. The Chinese exploration of the west began in 138 BC, when Zhang Qian was sent by the Han emperor on a mission to form an alliance with the Yuezhi tribe in the west. He could return only 13 years later, but brought with him important information about a new breed of horses and hitherto unknown tribes in the west. More expeditions were sent west to get horses and objects of beauty for the emperor. By this process, the route to the west was opened up. The Silk Road was not one single route, but many routes, roads, and paths that traverse in an east west direction. Some routes were well developed and relatively free from bandits, while others were less protected and suffered from plunder by bandits. As a measure of protection the Han rulers constructed forts and defensive walls along part of the route which were later combined to form the 'Great Wall' which still stands today as a testimony to human achievement and suffering at the hands of strong-minded emperors. Silk was only one of many items that were traded through this Road. Gold, precious metals, ivory, precious stones, and glass went towards China, while firs, ceramics, gun powder, jade, bronze objects, lacquer, and iron went west carried by caravans each of which consisted of 100 to 1000 camels, and each loaded with about 500 pounds of goods. The most significant 'commodity' carried along this route was not silk, but religion. Buddhism came to China from India this way as early as the first century AD, and dotted the face of Silk Road towns with monasteries and pagodas. Later, Islam made it into the heart of China and established itself as the dominant religion in Central Asia; however, its ultimate effects contributed to the Silk Road's eventual decline.