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The later demise of the Silk Road was caused by the development of a trade route by sea from Europe to Asia.
It was becoming easier and safer to transport goods by water rather than overland.
A stable political environment meant that trade went smoothly, a turbulent state of affairs meant that trade was hindered.
The height of the importance of the Silk Road occurred during the Tang dynasty in the seventh century, when, at that time, many favorable policies were adopted that encouraged trade.
The name `Silk Road' is relatively new in historic terms, and was actually coined by a nineteenth century German scholar named von Richthofen It is often thought that the Romans had first come in contact with silk on one of their campaigns against the Parthians in 53 B. It is said that the Romans learned from Parthian prisoners that silk came from a mysterious tribe in the east, who they referred to as the silk people, or `Seres.'Caravans heading towards China carried gold and other metals, ivory, precious stones, and glass to trade.
As trade with the West subsided, so did the traffic along the Road, and all but the best-watered oases declined.
Buddhism came to China from India, along the northern branch of the route and Christianity also made an early appearance on the scene.
Prosperous as the Silk Road was, it was always influenced by the political atmosphere of the day.
Ships had become stronger and more reliable, and the route passed through promising new markets in Southern Asia.
The overland problems of `tribal politics' between the different peoples along the route and the presence of middlemen, all taking their cut on the goods, took their toll on the Silk Road, and prompted many traders to choose the sea routes.