The Original Concept of the Silk Road and Richthofen's Humanistic Ideas

  • Published : 2018.12.15


The concept of the "Seidenstrassen" (Silk Road) was created by the German geographer F. von Richthofen (1833-1905) in 1877. The "Seidenstrassen" means communication between China and the Roman cultural area. To prove the route of dissemination of silk, Richthofen not only focused on geographical substantiality, based on the routes of the Chinese Zhang Qian and the Roman Ptolemy, but also on etymological, historical, and religious sources. In fact, his Silk Road concept has the trade of silk as well as the humanistic ideas of cultural exchange. It is worth noting that in his book China, Richthofen presented the Silk Road as a space-time concept that considers the length of space as well as the length of time by highlighting humanistic examples that came into modern times through the Sea Route. Later, the English term "Silk Road" appeared in 1938, the Japanese term "シルクロ-ド" (sirukurodo) in 1939, and the Korean term "실크로드" (silkrodeu) in 1952.

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Fig. 1) White line: Richthofen’s Seidenstrassen, based on Ptolemy’s map

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Fig. 2) Ptolemy’s map: North East Part of Asia

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Fig. 3) Ada Takeo’s map


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