What Did the Ancient Chinese Trade?

The ancient Chinese traded luxury goods, such silk, china, spices, fabrics, animals and exotic fruits, along the Silk Road. As the name indicates, silk was the primary good exported along the Silk Road, but camels from Central Asia were also prized because of their ability to endure the dry and harsh conditions along the path.

The Han Dynasty, which lasted from 206 BC to 220 AD, significantly expanded and promoted the silk trade, though it had existed prior to their reign. However, commerce along the Silk Road reached its peak under the Yuan Dynasty, with the Mongols controlling the trade route and allowing Chinese merchants safe passage.

The Silk Road was over 4,000 miles long and consists of multiple routes of varying safety and length. Few merchants traveled the full length of the Silk Road, instead trading along the way at various cities and trade posts.

The Silk Road introduced woolen goods to ancient China, which at the time was unfamiliar with wool and flax processing and weaving. Rugs, tapestries and carpets became valuable luxury goods. Trade also introduced several agricultural crops not native to China such as grapes, onions, cucumbers, etc. In addition to goods, the Silk Road is also thought to have contributed to the spread of bubonic plague from Europe.