While all efforts have been made to present an accurate account of the status of the Silk Roads in the countries covered, some part of the information provided and the analyses thereof are those of the contributors, and does not imply the expression of any opinion on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The contributors are responsible for the choice and representation of the facts contained in this portal and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organization.


Afghanistan benefits from a desirable geographic location, situated at the midpoint of Central Asia, with the former Chinese empires to its east and Persian empires to its west. As a result, goods traded between Western and Eastern Asia would undoubtedly cross Afghanistan. The cities that were located along the Silk Roads included Balkh, Bamiyan, Herat, Badakhshan and Kabul. During the height of the Silk Roads Afghanistan, and the ruling empires, benefited handsomely from open trade, and maintained trade networks during times of political stability. One of the key goods native to Afghanistan that was widely traded along the routes was lapis lazuli.

Afghanistan is home to over 1500 archaeological sites, with excavations revealing evidence of both eastern and western influences in architecture and material goods. Afghan cities saw exchanges of Chinese silk, Persian silver, and gold from Rome. Over time, Buddhism spread to Afghanistan before arriving in China, with the Bamyan Buddhas standing as evidence of the influence of Buddhism in the region. The spread of Buddhism to China was encouraged by the Kushan Dynasty, who were patrons of the religion within their territory. Constant cultural exchange also resulted in Chinese patterns influencing Islamic architecture in the 14th century, and Mongol ideas being adapted into Afghanistan’s laws. Aspects of intangible culture developed throughout the periods of the Silk Roads remain a part of Afghan culture today, such as hospitality, and the number and variety of languages spoken. Since Afghanistan is landlocked, it saw a decline in trade when maritime technology began to develop in the 15th century and maritime routes were increasingly used due to lower costs and shorter lead times.

The Silk Roads on the Map

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