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Qinghai Section, Major Trunk of Ancient Silk Road
Latest archeological findings indicate that the ancient Silk Road's Qinghai section may have been one of the busiest caravan routes used by merchants traveling between China and the Middle East.

Xu Xinguo, head of the Qinghai Research Institute for Cultural Relics and Archaeology, said that some 1,500 years ago, the Qinghai-section running west past the present-day Xining city and the Qaidam Basin to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region may have been more prosperous than the well-known route through Xi'an and the Gansu Corridor to Xinjiang.

According to Xu, many priceless archeological discoveries including two ancient Roman gold coins, scores of Sogdian silverware artifacts and more than 350 silk items falling into 130 categories have been unearthed from tombs along the Qinghai section.

As the excavation sites outnumber those discovered along the Gansu Corridor section and spans a longer time, Xu said that the Qinghai section was not just an assistant route, as most people had thought, taken by merchants only after the Gansu Corridor section was blocked by war.

Lin Meicun, an archeologist with the Peking University, said that the latest discovery of a Byzantine gold coin in the Dulan County of Qinghai Province provides more convincing evidence of past prosperity.

After having inspected the cultural relics unearthed from the Tubo tombs in Dulan, Lin now believes that the Qinghai section began to prosper around the time of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (386-589 AD) and entered its heyday in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD).

According to Xu, among the silk relics unearthed in Dulan there are 112 kinds produced in central China inhabited by the Hans and 18 from the Central and Western Asia.

Besides, many lacquer, gold and silk wares of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) as well as Persian silver coins have been excavated, indicating the then brisk trade contacts.

The 2000-year-old Silk Road, linking China with Central and Western Asia and to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean begins in the country's northwest and runs 7,000 kilometers.

(Xinhua News Agency July 3, 2002)

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