Maritime Silk Road History and Society

This refers to the burgeoning trade that happened between 2nd century AD and 15th Century AD across the lands from far East Asia to as far West as Greece. The term “Silk Road” was translated from the German term given it by a wealthy merchant who plied these ancient routes. 

Despite how ancient this trade route now is, it played a huge role in the current trade policies we have globally.

Maritime Silk Road History 

Maritime Silk Road map

Originally founded and run by Australian-Indonesian sailors from Southeast Asia, merchants in India, Greek-Roman merchants from East Africa, Indochina, and the Arab traders from the beyond.

The network of routes connected to China, India, Somalia, Egypt, Europe, and Southeast Asia. In 120 B.C. the Han Dynasty opened up trade lines with the West which remained useful up until 1453 A.D due to the blatant refusal of the Ottoman Empire to trade further.

Trade routes were lined with convenient trading posts, thoroughfares, and markets that made for better transport, distribution, exchange, and storage of the goods.  

There were several routes that further complicated the Silk Road. It reached across the Syrian Desert through Palmyra over to Greece and then over to Seleucia along the Tigris River which is modern-day Iraq.  

From Seleucia, they then crossed over the Zagros Mountains to present-day Iran and Turkmenistan and this opened up to more routes leading to where Afghanistan stands and further on to Mongolia and China.

These Silk Routes also led to the Gulf of Persia through which goods traveled up the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. From the cities, there were routes that led to the ports towards the Mediterranean Sea through which well got across to Europe and the Roman Empire.

Together with the Kushan Empire, the Roman Empire benefitted greatly from the Maritime Silk Road.

Maritime Silk Road Routes

This famous trade Road had two prominent routes that were frequented by merchants and traders. They were the East China Sea route and the South China Sea route. They were formed in the Chinese Qin and Han dynasties and originated from Fujian Province, Quanzhou. It survived many other Chinese rulers before coming to a halt in the Ming and Qing dynasties.

This road was highly known for trading in iron, silk, brass, and fine china from China, and they, in turn, got spices, plants and flowers, and unique treasures for their royalty.

East China Sea Silk Route 

Headed straight to Japan and Korea, this route was initially ventured in the Zhou Dynasty. The government of the time though it wise to educate some of the Korean nationals on farming practices and on sericulture. They left for their journey from the port of Bohai Bay in the Peninsula of Shandong.

Just like that, the Yellow Sea became the route through which the knowledge of silkworm farming and silk reeling skills got across from China to Korea.

In 221 BC, the then Emperor, Qin Shi Huang decided to unite the Kingdom of China and many people fled to avoid the communist regime. Many fled to Korea where they restarted their silkworm farming using the technology and practices they had been using in China. Korea’s silkworm Industry was booming.

The Japanese had envoys and monks who always brought back with them samples of blue damask silk they had acquired from the province of Zhejiang. Soon, silk became the main commodity being transported from China to Japan via sea and under the wise emperorship of the Tang Dynasty.

This trade between China and Japan flourished and during the Yuan Dynasty, they introduced the system of Shi Bo Si at many different ports to facilitate access to these exports to Japan. Sho Bo SI was the major marketing department and was set up as an administrative arm of the Chinese Dynasties.

Ming and Qing dynasties, however, influenced the decline of this route due to the Haijin ban that imposed a ban on all maritime activities.

South China Sea Silk Route 

This route was named so because it was close to the South China Sea with ports starting at Quanzhou, Guangzhou, and Ningbo.

Similar to the East route, the South started in the Qin and Han Dynasties and continued to expand through the Three Kingdoms Period, the Sui Dynasty, and in the Tang and Song Dynasties. During the Qing and Ming Dynasties, it also suffered a decline.

There was an Overland Silk Road that attempted to overtake the maritime silk route before the Sui Dynasty. In the time of Sui and Tang Dynasties, war broke out along the Overland silk road which gave way for the maritime Sea Silk Route.

New sea lanes were developed to Africa, South East Asia, Malacca, the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea owing to growth in technology and better shipbuilding skills. With this new development, the Sea Silk road prospered once more.  

Maritime Silk Road Society

This is a Chinese owned Society that was formed following a directive by the Chairperson of the New People’s Party, Mrs. Regina Ip.

The team was built to help implement and evaluate the processes and policies endeavored in the Belt and Road Initiative that was launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping.

Mrs. Ip was on a state visit to Beijing in September of 2014 and it was while at a meeting with the National Development and Reform Commission that she learned about the BRI. She learned that it had an objective to include more people, be transparent in operations, invests in mutual learning, and for all to benefit mutually from the success of the initiative.

Mrs. Ip was able to ascertain the magnitude of the opportunities that lay ahead for Hong Kong and made an executive directive to back the initiative fully. She dedicated her time to liaising with the organizing teams of representatives from all cities along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and those of the Hong Kong founding communities.

The Maritime Silk Road Society has the objective to support and assist the efforts of this ambitious endeavor. They are to be the creative link by identifying possible opportunities for Hong Kong to take advantage of and to forge and keep better relationships with other nationalities. They would also be responsible for spreading awareness of the project to get the public involved.

Official Registration

In May of 2015, the Maritime Silk Road Society was successfully registered as a society and a few positions of leadership were outlined by the founders.

1. Advisers

A group of leaders in academic, religious, political, cultural, and business fields from China, Hong Kong, and the cities along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

2. Hon. Presidents

The leaders in community and business based in Hong Kong and have a personal interest in the Belt and Road Initiative.

3. A Board of Governors

Representatives of the founding organizations, the Savantas Policy Institute, and other founder-nominated members who would act as the decision-makers.

4. Executive Committee

They would handle the day-to-day operations.

Wide Scope

In the spirit of inclusivity, the Society got together members of diverse backgrounds in academia, religious and cultural aspects to be custodians of the office and advise the board.

Society has the aim to expand China’s presence in the world by financing and overseeing massive infrastructural projects in countries that will serve the 21st century Maritime Silk Road.

There is a projected growth in trade across seas and continents which would greatly expand the Chinese market while facilitating their delivery of service. It is their view that all other industries such as tourism, technology, business, and professional services are bound to grow exponentially with this development.

China’s To-Do List

The people of China have been called upon by their leaders to embrace the spirit of the Belt and Road Initiative and to work in collaboration with the government to see to its success. They have been called upon to take up their ancestors, of the Han Dynasty, ambitious traits.

Keeping true to her word, Mrs. Ip later in July and August of 2015 held numerous meetings, briefings, and conferences with the international chamber of commerce, SME representatives, trade and logistics, tourism and technology sectors in a bid to reach more people and spread the Belt and Road Initiative across as many sectors as possible. She continued to emphasize the massive potential the initiative possessed and stressed on the need for collaboration.

In June of 2018, the Maritime Silk Road Society was incorporated and now invites members of the public to join the mission in any capacity they can. It is the society’s hope that by opening up its doors to the world, it could work with more firms and individuals who are patriotic, excited, and optimistic to explore the life-altering changes inevitable with the success of the Belt and Road Initiative.


The Maritime Silk Road seems to be making a comeback with the plans to establish a 21st Century replica of the old routes. With the great milestones achieved in technology over the years and with a dedicated Chinese Society at the helm of seeing to its success, there is no doubt that this will be an interesting development to keep an eye on.


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