China's Southwestern Silk Road in World History

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
James A. Anderson, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: As Robert Clark notes in The Global Imperative, "there is no doubt that trade networks like the Silk Road made possible the flourishing and spread of ancient civilizations to something approximating a global culture of the times."1 Goods, people and ideas all travelled along these long-distance routes spanning or circumventing the vast landmass of Eurasia. From earliest times, there have been three main routes, which connected China with the outside world.2 These were the overland routes that stretched across Eurasia from China to the Mediterranean, known collectively as the "Silk Road"; the Spice Trade shipping routes passing from the South China Sea into the Indian Ocean and beyond, known today as the "Maritime Silk Road"; and the "Southwestern Silk Road," a network of overland passages stretching from Central China through the mountainous areas of Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces into the eastern states of South Asia. Although the first two routes are better known to students of World History, the Southwestern Silk Road has a long ancestry and also played an important role in knitting the world together. Marco Polo himself wrote of his travels along the spur of this route into Tibet following the Mongol conquest of the Dali kingdom of Yunnan in the early 13th century.3 Moreover, the Southwestern Silk Road has remained relevant even through the present day. One of the main routes from Kunming into north central Myanmar was revived with the creation of the 717-mile-long "Burma Road" logistical supply line of WWII. A section of this same route carries convoys of lumber-laden trucks across the Sino-Burmese border today as part of the modern Dian-Myanmar Highway (dianmian gonglu 滇緬公路).

Additional Information

World History Connected March 2009
Language: English
Date: 2009
Silk road, East-west trade, Central China, Silk trade, Myanmar, Burma, Trade route

Email this document to