During affluent times, a broad array of items made their way via the Silk Roads often carried in enormous camel caravans that traversed Central Asia's harsh and treacherous steppes, deserts, and oases.
Chinese women, mostly in rural areas, were in charge of every step of the innovative and difficult operation of silk production for many years. They cared for the mulberry trees that silkworms fed on; they unwound the cocoons in extremely hot water to remove the long silk fibers, and they weaved these fibers into thread and fabrics.
Elite Chinese women, as well as their men, supplied a portion of the market for these opulent fabrics that symbolized their high rank. Chinese officials felt the same way, needing large amounts of silk to sell for much-needed horses and to buy off “barbarian” invasions from the north.
The Silk Roads had a small volume of trade compared to modern global business, and its focus on luxury products limited its immediate impact on most people. Despite this, it had significant economic and societal ramifications.
The Silk Roads' importance as a cultural conduit was even more vital than their economic impact. Because of the operations of merchants along the Silk Roads, Buddhism, a cultural product of Indian civilization, spread greatly throughout Central and East Asia.
The Sogdians, a Central Asian group whose merchants created a durable network of trading with China, played a particularly important role in this process. During the second century c.e., two Sogdians living in China were influential in translating Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures into Chinese.
Conversion to Buddhism was a consensual process in the oasis cities, with no coercion from invasion or foreign administration. The inhabitants and rulers of those smart and prosperous towns, who relied on long-distance trade, saw Buddhism as a link to India's larger, wealthier, and distinguished civilization.
Buddhism evolved as it expanded across the Silk Roads from India to Central Asia, China, and beyond. Although the original faith rejected the material world, Buddhist monasteries in the Silk Roads' opulent oasis towns became heavily involved in secular matters.
Diseases, in addition to products and cultures, traversed Eurasia's trading routes, with disastrous results. Each of the Afro-Eurasian world's major population centers had acquired distinct illness patterns, treatment procedures, and, in some cases, immunity to them.
During the era 534–750 c.e., recurrent outbreaks of bubonic plague decimated the Mediterranean Sea's coastal districts, when the disease-carrying black rats arrived via seaborne trade from India, where they originated. What happened next was disastrous.
China and portions of the Islamic world saw a comparable death toll. The Central Asian steppes, which were home to numerous nomadic peoples, including the Mongols, were also devastated, undermining Mongol control and permanently shifting the balance of pastoral and agricultural peoples in favor of established farmers.