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The silk route was one of the most important trade routes of the ancient world. Used mostly by merchants to expand their fortunes the silk route was an important part of not only trade but even cultural ties and exchanges between civilizations. But how would the absence of silk route mean for the civilizations connected by these links. One obvious impact is that East Asian stuff will get more expensive and the Americas would get discovered early because there will be a lot of incentives on people like Columbus to discover shorter routes to fabled lands of riches. But what I am confused of is this geography's impact on Asia (Read China and India)

Note: The original silk route in now blocked by an extension of the Himalayas and immensely dense forests and swamps (watered by some new rivers and the Indus) on at the near foothills. And as far as the time is relevant the silk road never exists in this world it is considered by traders too bad for navigation due to heavily bandit infested areas, deserts (Arab still exists). Forests and swamps and huge mountains.

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Aify, Brythan, TrEs-2b, Thucydides, Mołot Jan 3 '17 at 10:49

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ They would make another one. How do you want to stop them? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 27 '16 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ To add with Mołot, it would probably increase the importance of a sea routes and Middle-East and Suez would see much more wars. If you really wanted to remove silk road totally, you would need to remove the nations of Middle-Asia, Middle-East and Egypt. It would no longer be about some small changes, but a radically different History. $\endgroup$ – user3644640 Dec 27 '16 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ Did the Silk Road never exist in this world, or did your mountains just appear? $\endgroup$ – SPavel Dec 27 '16 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ I feel like the implications of no silk road would be too far reaching. This is probably too broad. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Dec 27 '16 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ Can't they use boats? $\endgroup$ – Vincent Dec 27 '16 at 22:28
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The Silk Road with its caravanserais is of course a perennial romantic attraction. However, the question shows a certain degree of misunderstanding the importance of the overland Silk Road, which served more as a backup solution for those times when the maritime trade was hindered by misguided rulers. The overland route never carried more than a small quantity of luxury goods; with the exception of about seven centuries when silly Arabs blocked the maritime trade (roughly from the 8th to the 15th century) the overland route was of vastly smaller economic importance than the maritime route. For thousands of years the bulk of the trade went by sea from China to India and then by sea again to Europe (incidentally making the Indians rich).

Overland transport of goods from the Far East to Europe is much more expensive than transport by sea; before the advent of railroads, overland transport was mind-boggingly more expensive than transport by sea. The overland route from China to Europe became economically practicable only after the Arab conquerors of the Near East decided to cut the maritime trade in the 8th century; before that no sane merchant would pay for overland transport over many thousands of kilometers when they could simply charter a ship sailing from Myos Hormos or Berenice Troglodytica (both are Egyptian ports on the Red Sea with portage routes to the Nile, widely used as termini for the trade across the Arabian Sea) for Barbarikon (modern Karachi) and Barygaza (modern Baruch).

The ships lie at anchor at Barbaricum, but all their cargoes are carried up to the metropolis by the river, to the King. There are imported into this market a great deal of thin clothing, and a little spurious; figured linens, topaz, coral, storax, frankincense, vessels of glass, silver and gold plate, and a little wine. On the other hand there are exported costus, bdellium, lycium, nard, turquoise, lapis lazuli, Seric skins, cotton cloth, silk yarn, and indigo. And sailors set out thither with the Indian Etesian winds, about the month of July, that is Epiphi: it is more dangerous then, but through these winds the voyage is more direct, and sooner completed.

(From the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, or as we would say today Circumnavigation of the Arabian Sea, middle of the 1st century CE, as quoted by Wikipedia)

The real-life overland Silk Road crosses fierce mountains and some of the deadliest deserts on Earth. Forests would have been a definite improvement.

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  • $\begingroup$ Forests would not have been an improvement. Camels are excellent at crossing deserts. What pack beast is excellent at crossing forests? You don't need a team of axe-men to cross a desert. Deserts are easier. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Dec 27 '16 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ Roads can be cut through forests... They did have axes in Asia since a very long time ago. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 27 '16 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion: Horses, mules, oxen are all quite good at crossing forested regions. They can even pull wagons. Because of course your Silk-Road-through-the-forest soon becomes a road, even if it started as humans on foot carrying packs. You might consider American Indian trade routes, or things like the Ridgeway Path in Britain. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Dec 27 '16 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ "never ... with an exception of seven centuries" is a quite bold statement, as those centuries encompass a quite large portion of our history. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Dec 27 '16 at 19:12
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion: Deserts certainly do need roads, if for no other reason than to mark the easiest path between water sources. As for instance, you can still follow parts of the Oregon & Applegate trails around the Black Rock desert. You also perhaps overestimate the amount of maintenance a forest road needs. I regularly ride (horse & bike) roads in forests near here that haven't seen maintenance for decades. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Dec 28 '16 at 2:45
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The Silk Road's overland routes operated in parallel with the maritime routes. AlexP is overstating the facts when he says that the overland route was a backup solution for the maritime route. A better answer is that the overland route was strongest in times when there was a strong civilization in Central Asia to push it.

Central Asia had a series of kingdoms and empires through history and was occasionally one of the most advanced parts of the world. Specifically, during the period after the fall of the Tang in China and the decline of the Abbasid Caliphate in Mesopotamia, Central Asia could be considered the most intellectually advanced part of Earth. The combination of Persian scholars, Turkish warriors, Sogdian merchants and Arab religion made it the center of the world, as the riches of China, India, and the Middle East all poured in to trade. Many of the most famous scholars of the Islamic Middle Ages were from Central Asia, such as al-Khwarizmi, after whom algebra was named, and Avicenna, who introduced Indian decimals and Galen's anatomy to the West.

If Central Asia was rich and strong, then the overland route was worthwhile. Such was the case in the Middle Ages, from after the Arab Conquest ~800AD to the decline of the Timurids ~1450 AD. At other periods of time, there were rich cities in Central Asia, and during those times too, trade flourished. The Sogdian city states were rich from ~1AD to ~400AD when the Hepthalites and Turks invaded. This corresponded to the first trade and contacts between Han China and Rome.

If Central Asia is weak, as it appears in your alternate time line, then there is little incentive to trade there, and goods will likely not pass through. On the other hand, if India is rich, then goods will move by sea from China and Indonesia in the East, and Arabia and Persia in the West. This will make India the focus of international trade and cause the 'Silk Road' to pass by sea. This situation happened many times in history too, and was more common than a rich and powerful Central Asia. India was rich as far back as the Harappan Era (~2500-1700 BC) then after the Vedic invasion there was much commerce again in the Greco-Roman era (~200 BC-200 AD). After the Islamic invasion there was a great increase in wealth in India that persisted to the present (~1000AD to now).

In conclusion, the trade goes to where the rich middle-man is. Generally speaking, India has been richer than Central Asia, so trade went there. In your world, this is how it would be.

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    $\begingroup$ I think your answer and mine are two sides of the same coin. When there is a misguided power in the way of the maritime route trade will naturally switch to the land route, inevitably creating rich emporiums in Central Asia. When a misguided power tries to block the land route too, Vasco da Gamma circumnavigates Africa and opens a new maritime route. When the new maritime route reaches capacity China pushes for improvements of the overland route, and new railways open between China and Europe. The trade will always flow around obstacles. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 27 '16 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP "The spice must flow!" $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Dec 27 '16 at 21:00

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