Maritime Silk Road refers to sea routes of the Silk Road through which China and foreigh countries carried cut communication,trade and cultural exchanges in ancient times. Maritime Silk Road first commenced during Eastern Zhou Period.Prior to the Tang Dynasty,Maritime Silk Road was only a supplement to the land Silk Road. In later years of Tang Dynasty,with frequent outbreaks of wars i the western Regions,access to the land Silk Road was blocked.This stimulated the Maritime Silk Road to develop.
By Song Dynasty,with the development of shipbuilding and marine technology,navigation routes to Southeast Asia,Malacca Strait,Indian Ocean,Red Sea,even the African continent were opened.Thus Maritime Silk Road became the main channel of China’s communication and exchanges with the international community.Maritime Silk Road can be divided into three major routes of east,south and west.The east route refers to the one starting from China’s coastal harbors to Korea and Japan;The South route refers to one destined for southeast Asian Countries;The west route refers to the one going to the South Asia,Arab countries and East Africa.Commodities exported through the Maritime Silk Road include four major categories of silk,porcelain,tea,bronze and ironware.Commodities imported via the Maritime Silk Road mainly include perfume,flowers and rare treasures for the imperial families to admire and enjoy.
So the Maritime Silk Road was also known as the “Sea Ceramics Route”,the “Sea Perfume Route”. In early Ming,when Zhenghe took the extensive journey to many countries in the West Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean it was the heyday of the Maritime Silk Road.During the later years of the Ming Dynasty and ensuing Qing Dynasty,the imperial court adopted a policy banning maritime trade.China’s maritime industry suffered serious decline.The Maritime Silk Road which had made great contributions to East-West exchanges gradually died out.