The Silk Road Series

Russia and China: Through the Ages. Modern life of the ancient Silk Road

China first revealed itself to the world in the 2nd century BC with the Great Silk Road. The legendary trade route ran from the heart of the Celestial Empire all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. However, it suddenly vanished in the Middle Ages and seemed to be gone forever… until recently.

The Chinese government has decided to reach back into history with a grand initiative dubbed ‘One Belt, One Road’. The objective is to breathe new life into the ancient trading corridor to develop and enhance both economic and cultural partnerships with the other countries along the route.

Related: Infrastructure of the Silk Road. China's old trade route revival

Because Russia holds a special place among the many countries involved, a media-forum was organized to give Russian journalists a taste of modern China. Among those invited was radio and TV presenter, Anna Alabert, who is our guide as she travels the Chinese section of the modern-day Silk Road.

The first stop is Xi’an, famous for its awe-inspiring terracotta army. The 3,100 year-old city has now become a high-tech hub and home to a joint Russian-Chinese techno park symbolically named ‘The Silk Road.’

Next, we head to Lanzhou. Though the city was once considered the crown of jewel of the old Silk Road, as recently as 50 years ago it was just a humble town with little infrastructure. Today, Lanzhou has regained its status as a major transport hub and looks like a giant construction site as it evolves into a futuristic city.

Related: Economy of the Silk Road. Trade and Duty-free towns on China’s new Silk Road

On to Dunhuang, the city Marco Polo visited in the late 13th century. Travellers on the old Silk Road used to flock here to see the famous Mogao caves, which contain thousands of stunning sculptures and frescos dating from the 4th century AD. Also nearby is Yangguan, which marked China’s frontier in ancient times and served as a customs point for merchant caravans.

Last stop is the seemingly nondescript Qorghas, which has become a commercial Mecca thanks to the Silk Road revival. Dubbed a ‘duty-free town’, its wide selection of goods and remarkably low prices now attract millions of visitors from around the world. 

Watch this film in Russian