The UNESCO Silk Roads Programme

© Avijit Ghosh / UNESCO Youth Eyes on the Silk Roads

The Silk Roads have connected civilizations and brought peoples and cultures into contact with one another from across the world for thousands of years, permitting not only an exchange of goods but an interaction of ideas and cultures that has shaped our world considerably.  In light of this enduring legacy, the UNESCO Silk Roads online platform revives and extends these historic networks in a digital space, bringing people together in an ongoing dialogue around the Silk Roads fostering a mutual understanding of the diverse and often inter-related cultures that have sprung up around them.

The historic Silk Roads are a network of trade routes across land and sea spanning much of the globe from prehistoric times until the present day, along which people of many different cultures, religions and languages met, exchanged ideas and influenced each other. It is this unique history of mutual exchange and dialogue that the Silk Roads online platform seeks to promote, in line with the 2013-2022 International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures and as part of UNESCO’s commitment to creating a culture of peace. In the words of UNESCO’s Director General (2009-2017), Irina Bokova, “promoting cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue is a most powerful way to build bridges and lay the ground for peace”.

The Silk Roads online platform therefore aims to reopen dialogue along these historic lines of communication by collecting and making accessible worldwide scholarship concerning the Silk Roads and engaging a global audience in a deeper understanding of the diversity and interdependency of the cultures and peoples along these routes. It details and explains the routes and their timeless significance, and provides a unique source of original information, scholarship and news about them, enriched by the contributions of partner institutions from all over the world and by a committee of Silk Roads experts.

The various aspects of these routes are explored through a series of themes, covering subjects ranging from festivals and creative industries along the Silk Roads, to World Cultural Heritage, Museums, Underwater Heritage and much more. These themes are also displayed visually on the platform’s interactive Silk Roads Map. The Knowledge Bank provides a unique reservoir of expert information and the latest research on the Silk Roads, in the form of articles and studies, brought together by UNESCO and its network of partners. This stands as a vital tool for all who wish to study any aspect of the routes in detail. Similarly, a list of publications displays a variety of works intended to provide a helpful guide for visitors of all levels of interest. The platform also provides details of institutions from across the world whose work relates closely to the Silk Roads.  

This online platform is committed to building active links between people from different communities along the length of these routes. Local engagement ensures the cultural vitality of Silk Roads societies, promoting sustainable development via creative industries, education and sustainable tourism. Traditional craftsmanship, such as silk weaving, social rituals like Nowruz, and sporting events such as horsemanship displays, all emerged over millennia through continual exchange and interaction along the Silk Roads. Their vitality today stands as a testimony to this remarkable history, with traditions often being passed down through generations for centuries. The platform’s commitment to such traditions will raise awareness of their importance to visitors and promote an appreciation of how these cultures and customs are linked. A plethora of World Cultural and Natural Heritages Sites, living traditions (many on UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage List), museums and movable heritage, creative products and languages enrich the regions encompassed by the Silk Roads, but it is only by bringing communities together that their similarities, as well as their unique value, can be appreciated and preserved. In this way, the legacy of the Silk Roads lives on, and they remain a crossroads of dialogue, exchange and sustainable development.

 

Get involved in the UNESCO Silk Roads Online initiative:

  • If you are living in or have visited one of the regions along the historic Silk Roads, you are invited to share your photos through the platform’s Silk Roads photo gallery. We are always pleased to promote cultural heritage from sections of the land and maritime Silk Roads, including historical sites and monuments, costumes and rituals, traditional knowledge and craftsmanship as well as relevant contemporary festivals and events. In this respect, we are happy to integrate your photos and images into our Photo Gallery.
  • If you are aware of upcoming events that are relevant to the Silk Roads taking place in your region, let us know about them at silkroads@unesco.org, so that these events can be announced and promoted through the UNESCO Silk Roads Online Platform.   
  • If you are a scholar or researcher undertaking ongoing research or have already published papers and books on any issue relevant to the Silk Roads, you may share the results of your work with Silk Roads enthusiasts around the world via the UNESCO online platform. Contact us at silkroads@unesco.org to find out more.

This platform has been developed and maintained with the support of:

Contact

UNESCO Headquarters

7 Place de Fontenoy

75007 Paris, France

Social and Human Sciences Sector

Research, Policy and Foresight Section

Silk Roads Programme

silkroads@unesco.org

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