Silk Road Trade & Travel Encyclopedia

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

Kalakuli Lake is located near the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar.

Kan'erjing (Subterranean Canals) are distributed mainly in Turpan, Hami, and Kuqa in Xinjiang China. The canals are supplied with water from melted ice and snow of the Tianshan Mountain. Along with the Great Wall, and the Great Canal, these subterranean canals of Xinjiang are known as the three largest and most impressive man-made projects of ancient China.

Kanas Lake is located north of Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China. It is an alpine lake in the Altai Mountains and is located in the heart of the Kanas Nature Reserve, where the Kanas River winds its way.

Kangnido (Gangnido) Map (or the Honil Gangni Yeokdae Gukdo Jido, "Map of Integrated Lands and Regions of Historical Countries and Capitals") is a map of the world made in Korea in 1402.

Kanishka The Kushana king who reigned during the first half of the 2nd century CE and became a patron of Buddhism, assisting its transmission into Central Asia. More...

Karabalghasun (Ordu-Baliq, Ordu Balik) The Uighur (Uyghur) Empire was governed from a city on the Orhon River in Mongolia called Karabalghasun. A Muslim traveler, Tamim ibn Bahr, who visited the city about 821, speaks in admiring terms of this fortified town lying in a cultivated country. The Uighurs are a Turkic people who ruled over a powerful empire between 744 and 840, north of the Gobi Desert.

Karakhanids  In 999, the Karakhanid leader Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan, grandson of the tribal chief of the Karluk confederation, occupies Bukhara, the Samanid capital.

Karakhoja-Astana Ancient Tombs are part of the underground museum of Turpan, and are considered the living archives of Gaochang. Astana means capital in Uyghur. Karakhoja is the name of a legendary hero of the ancient Uygur Kingdom who protected his people from evil by killing a vicious dragon. The tombs are located 42 km southeast of Turpan city and 6 km from the Ancient City of Gaochang. The tombs and area served as the cemetery of the ancient Gaochang residents, both aristocrats and commoners. Among the excavated 456 tombs, the Gaochang king's tomb has not yet been found.

Karakorum (Kharkorum) City founded by Genghis Khan in 1220 to serve as the capital of the Mongol Empire. Areas such as the Orkhon Valley, are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. More...

Karakorum Highway The Karakoram Highway (Urdu: شاہراہ قراقرم; Chinese: 喀喇昆仑公路) is the highest paved international road in the world. It connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range, through the Khunjerab Pass, at an altitude of 4,693 m/15,397 ft. It connects China's Xinjiang region with Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan and also serves as a popular tourist attraction. Due to its high elevation and the difficult conditions in which it was constructed, it is has been referred to as the "Ninth Wonder of the World." More...

Karakorum Mountains (or Karakoram) is a large mountain range spanning the borders between Pakistan, India and China. The Karakoram is home to the highest concentration of peaks over five miles in height to be found anywhere on earth. It is located in the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan (Pakistan), Ladakh (India), and Xinjiang region, (China). It is one of the Greater Ranges of Asia, a part of the greater Himalaya while north of the actual Himalaya Range. The Karakoram is bounded on the northeast by the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, and on the north by the Pamir Mountains. The southern boundary of the Karakoram is formed, west to east, by the Gilgit, Indus, and Shyok Rivers, which separate the range from the northwestern end of the Himalaya range.


Karakum Desert Covering much of present day Turkmenistan, the Karakum Desert lies east of the Caspian Sea, with the Aral Sea to the north and the Amu Darya river and the Kyzyl Kum desert to the northeast. Also known as also Kara-Kum and Gara Gum (“Black Sand”).

Karamay (Kelamayi) is an oil producing city in Xinjiang China, located in the Junggar Basin surrounded by the Tianshan and Altai Mountains. The city is located near the "Yadan Landform" and is also known as the windy city, or ghost city. Located in the desert and Gobi, it is one of the four famous ghost cities in China. The remarkable landscape is due to floods and erosion by the strong winds which resulted in a geological phenomenon in the north-east of Lop Nur in northern Xinjiang. The unique geological wind-eroded area is therefore described as a "Ghost Town" and the "City of Demons." The word "Yadan" refers to a precipitous hillock in the Uygur language. (See Yadan Landform)

Karasahr (also Karashahr meaning 'black city' in Uyghur languages) is an ancient town on the Silk Road and capital of Yanqi Hui Autonomous County in the Bayin'gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang, in northwestern China. The Iron Gate Pass (Tiemen Pass) leading to Karashahr is about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) north of the city and because it was easily defended, played an important part in protecting the ancient Silk Roads from raiding nomads from the north. More...

Karez wells An underground irrigation system created by the local people in Xinjiang China to improve the arid land, consisting of wells, ditches, underground channels and dams. Water from melted snow is conducted from nearby mountains to the wells which are linked by underground channels. The water outlets of these channels are connected with the ditches, from which the water is used to irrigate the farms.

Kashgar (Kashi) is an oasis city, vital stop on the Silk Road, and a major crossroads. The northern and southern Silk Routes joined here as caravans departed for Central Asia, India, Pakistan and Persia. Kashgar’s livestock market (known as the Ivan Bazaar) still earns its reputation as one of the largest, most crowded, and most colorful in the world.

Ancient Tash Rabat Caravanserai Kashgar

Tomb of Mahmud Ben Housaiyin Ben Muhammad Kashgari.
In the 11th century
Kashgari compiled the first complete Turkish dictionary.
(İlk Türkçe sözlük olarak kabul edilen Divanü Lügati't-Türk'ün yazarı Kaşgarlı Mahmud'un türbesi, Kaşgar, Xinjiang, Çin)

Apak Hoja Tomb near Kashgar

Mahmud Ben Housaiyin Ben Muhammad Kashgari Ethnological information on Turkic tribes for the first time was systemized by the 11th-century Turkic philologist Mahmud al-Kashgari in the Dīwān ul-Lughat it-Turk (Dictionary of Turkic languages), also known as the Divanü Lügati't-Türk. (See Kasgar)

Khan (as a title) (sometimes spelled Han, Xan, Ke-Han, Turkic: khān Mongolian: Хаан qāān, Chinese: 可汗 or 大汗, kehan or dahan) is originally a Central Asian title for a sovereign, or military ruler, first used by Altaic-speaking nomadic tribes living to the north of China. 'Khan' is also seen as a title in the Xianbei confederation for their leader between 283–289. It is believed that the proto-Mongolian Rourans were the first people who used the titles Khagan and Khan for their emperors. It was used by the Xiongnu (whom scholars, such as Grousset, assume to be Mongol). It was adopted by the Ashina, the Göktürks (Turkic peoples) and the Mongols who used the title throughout Asia. In the middle of the sixth century, the title "Kagan - King of the Turks" was known to the Persians. It now has many equivalent meanings such as commander, leader, or ruler. Presently Khans exist mostly in South Asia and Central Asia. The female alternatives are Khatun and Khanum. More...

Khan is a roadside inn where travelers and caravans could rest. Also known as a "Caravanserai," these establishments supported the flow of commerce, information, and people across the network of trade routes. (See Caravanserai)

Khan-Atlas Margilon is the center of silk production in Uzbekistan, which produces about 20,000 metric tons of cocoons a year, making Uzbekistan the third-largest silk producer in the world. Uzbek silk production, especially tie-dyed silks known as "Khan-Atlas" (and Turkmen carpets) are well known in the region.

Silk cloth called "Khan-Atlas"

Khanbalik The Mongol capital of Kublai Khan, also called Dadu (present-day Beijing).

Khara-Khoto is a medieval Tangut city in the Ejin khoshuu of Alxa League, in western Inner Mongolia, near the former Gashun Lake. It has been identified as the city of Etzina, which appears in The Travels of Marco Polo. The city was founded in 1032 and became a thriving center of Tangut Empire trade in the 11th century. The walled fortress was first taken by Genghis Khan in 1226, but—contrary to a widely-circulated misunderstanding—the city continued to flourish under Mongol overlordship. During Kublai Khan's time, the city was expanded, reaching a size three times bigger than during the Tangut Empire. Togoontemur Khan concentrated his preparation for reconquest of China at Khara-Khoto. The city was located on the crossroads connecting Karakorum, Xanadu and Kumul.

Khiva (Uzbekistan) The city of Khiva’s fortressed walls, and Kheivak well, made it a popular Silk Road rest stop. Although the city was first recorded by Muslim travelers in the 10th century, archaeologists believe the city has existed since the 6th century. Khiva had become the capital of the Khanate of Khiva (founded in 1511). Later, the city became a center of slave trade. More...

Khorezmi (787-850) Chief mathematician in the once-great Baghdad academy of sciences, who gave his name to algorithm. The title of another of his mathematical works, Al-Jebr, reached Europe as Algebra. In the 9th to 11th centuries Samanid Central Asia produced some of history's most important thinkers.

Khotan (Hetian) A city not only on the Silk Road, but also on the Jade Road. Khotan became a centre for trade, with jade its most valuable product for 2,000 years, it supplied China with precious jade. Khotan’s modern-day Silk Center presents the entire silk-making process, from cocoon to cloth. (See Hotan, Kingdom of Khotan) More...

Khubilai Khan (See Kublai Khan)

Khyber Pass Connects Central Asia to India.

Khunjerab Pass is a high mountain pass in the Karakorum Mountains on the northern border of Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan) and the Xinjiang Autonmous Region of China. At present, the Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved border crossing in the world with an elevation of 4,693 meters (15,397 ft).

Khwarezmia is a large oasis region on the Amu Darya river delta in western Central Asia, which borders to the north the (former) Aral Sea, to the east the Kyzylkum desert, to the south the Karakum desert and to the west the Ustyurt Plateau. See Khanate of Khiva. More...

Kilwa Since ancient times, the island of Kilwa served as a trading post on the Tanzanian coast, 330 km south of capital Dar es Salaam, which connected Africa to the Indian Ocean, Asia and international trade along the maritime routes. The coast was known to Arab sailors as Azania until the 10th century. The Great Mosque is the oldest standing mosque on the East African coast according to UNESCO, which declared the city a World Heritage Site.

Kizil Caves (Qizil or Qyzyl Caves) are a set of over 200 Buddhist rock-cut caves located near Kizil Township (克孜尔乡) in Baicheng County, Xinjiang, China. The site is located on the northern bank of the Muzat River northwest of Kucha. The area was a commercial hub of the The Silk Road.

Kizilgah Beacon Tower, west of Kuqa in Xinjiang, China, is an imposing, deserted structure which is 15 meters (50 feet) high.

Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture is located in the west of Xinjiang in China, bordered by Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the north and west. In addition, it is bounded on the east by the Aksu Region and in the neighborhood of Kashgar in the south. The region is situated at the southwest foot of Tianshan Mountains and the north foot of the Kunlun Mountains and lies in the east of Pamir Plateau and northwest Tarim Basin. Mountains constitute the main framework of its terrain with basins and valleys interleaving among the mountains. Due to several rivers in the region, plains make up the main part of central Kizilsu.

Kitan An Altaic ethnic group with a pastoral nomadic culture similar to that of the Mongols. The Kitan are first mentioned in Chinese sources in the 4th century AD. The founder of China's Kitan Dynasty, or the Liao (906-1125) was Abaoji. His court adopted Chinese as an administrative language, and employed Chinese political culture in order to legitimate his dynasty. Various languages had been used by the Mongolian elite in various regions for communication and administration, such as Chaghatay and Persian, which can be considered a language of diplomacy during this period of the Silk Routes. (See "Cathay," a medieval name for China, derived from Kitan).

Kite The Chinese are believed to have invented the kite around 3,000 years ago. The earliest written account of kite flying dates back to 200 BC when, the Chinese General Han Hsin of the Han Dynasty flew a kite to measure how far his army was from the walls of a city he was attacking.

Kochi (Cochin) was a trading hub on the Kerala coast of south India since ancient times. It is believed that Jewish traders in the last centuries BCE settled in Kochi. Jews have a long history on the subcontinent, having settled in Mumbai, and other cities where distinct Jewish communities have been established. India's most prominent Jewish community—considered one of the oldest in the world east of Iran—remains the one in Kochi (although very few members of the community remain, most having long since emigrated to Israel). The Kochin Jews were an important part of the Kerala coast's spice trade, with huge warehouses containing mountains of turmeric, chilies, and pepper located directly below their family living quarters.

Kocho (Qocho) After the disintegration of the Uighur empire (744-840) located north of the Gobi Desert, Uighurs created the kingdom of Kocho (Gaochang,  c. 860-1284), whose urban centers were in the Turfan oasis north of the Taklamakan Desert astride the northern branch of the Silk Road. (see Gaochang)

Kokand was the destination of one of the first westbound Chinese caravans carrying silk in 121 B.C. The town located in the fertile Ferghana Valley of the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan, is where the silkworm business dates back centuries to the Silk Road. "Kokand" is the same as the Uzbek word for silk "cocoon."

Konjikala See Ashgabat

Konya a city along the Silk Routes of Turkey where the Rustem Pasha Kervansaray is located. It was built in 1552 during the reign of Sultan Suleyman, known as the "Suleyman the Law Maker."

The Rustem Pasha Kervansaray in Konya

Korea During the period of  "Pax Mongolica," also known as the "Mongol Peace," Korea became a compulsory ally of the Mongol-Yuan Dynasty that was established in China. During this era, referred to as a Golden Age of commerce when the Silk Road prospered, the Mongols provided security along the Eurasian routes they controlled in central & western Asia. The term "Mongol Peace," coined by Western scholars, is therefore used to describe the stabilizing effects of the conquests of the Mongol Empire on the social, cultural and economic life of the inhabitants of the vast Eurasian territory that the Mongols conquered in the 13th and 14th centuries. The phrase is also used to describe the improvements made to communication and commerce as a result of the unified Mongol administration, and the period of relative peace that followed the Mongols' vast conquests. The Silk Routes thus stretched from Turkey in the Near East to Cheju (Jeju-do) island, off the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula. Part of Cheju Island was converted to a grazing area for the Mongol cavalry that was stationed there (Mongolian words, which refer to the color of horses, are still used on the island which is now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site).

The Mongols first invaded Korea in 1218 as part of their conquest of Manchuria. After six major military campaigns launched by the Mongols between 1231-1270, Korea became a compulsory ally of the Mongol-Yuan Dynasty for approximately 80 years, when the Mongols received tribute from Korea. As a result of the Mongol conquests led by  Kublai Khan, the Mongol-Yuan Dynasty sought overseas expansion. According to historical sources, in 1265 Korean officials told the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan that conquering Japan would not be difficult. By 1274, the Koryo (Goryeo) Korean state had constructed more than 300 ships to support the Mongol invasion of Japan. The Korean port of Masan was used in the preparations to conquer Japan. The Mongols formed an alliance with the Koryo Korean state and launched an allied Mongol-Koryo invasion of Japan in 1274 (and 1281). The allied armies departed Masan, located in South Korea, with about 900 ships in an attempt to conquer Japan, however the invasion eventually failed most likely due to a severe storm that sank the Mongol fleet and navy. Several centuries later, a Japanese invasion of Korea took place in 1592, when the Japanese general Hideyoshi invaded Korea with about seven hundred ships, intending to continue on to conquer China. Over 60,000 Korean soldiers, eventually supported by over 100,000 Ming Chinese forces, successfully defended the Korean peninsula. After six years of war, the Japanese retreated. (See Masan)

Korla (Kurla, Kuerle, Kroraina) is approximately 200 kilometres (120 mi) southwest from Ürümqi, in central Xinjiang. Korla is the capital of the Bayin'gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture (which is larger than France) and is the largest prefecture in China. During the early years of the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-24AD), there were thirty-six city states and kingdoms in the western region of China and eleven of these states existed in the region of Xinjiang. Since the year 60BC, the central government began to set up protectorates to administer the area. When Korla was brought into the prefecture in 1960, the prefecture government simultaneously moved to Korla. More...

Kublai Khan (Khubilai Khan, 1215–1294) was the fifth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire from 1260 to 1294, and the founder of the Yuan Dynasty in China. During the Yuan dynasty, China (for the first time in its long history) was completely subjugated by foreign conquerors and became part of a larger political entity. Lacking experience in the administration of a complex empire, the Mongols gradually adopted Chinese political and cultural models. Ruling from Bejing, their capital in Dadu (also known as Khanbalik), the Mongol Khans increasingly assumed the role of Chinese emperors. During the 1340s and 1350s, however, internal political cohesion disintegrated as growing factionalism at court, corruption, and a succession of natural calamities led to rebellion and, finally, dynastic collapse.

Khubilai Khan - Yuan Dynasty

As the second son of Tolui and Sorghaghtani Beki, and a grandson of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan claimed the title of Khagan of the Ikh Mongol Uls (Mongol Empire) in 1260 after the death of his older brother Möngke (though his younger brother Ariq Böke was also given this title in the Mongolian capital at Karakorum). He eventually won the battle for the title in 1264. The beginning of disunity in the empire commenced with a succession war. Kublai's real power was limited to China (and Mongolia after the victory over Ariq Böke), though his influence still remained in the Ilkhanate, and to a lesser degree, in the Golden Horde, in the western parts of the Mongol Empire. His realm reached from the Pacific to the Urals, from Siberia to Afghanistan – one fifth of the world's inhabited land area.

In 1271, Kublai established the Yuan Dynasty, and assumed the role of Emperor of China. The Yuan Dynasty at that time ruled over areas of present-day Mongolia and China, and some adjacent areas. By 1279, the Yuan forces had successfully annihilated the last resistance of the Southern Song Dynasty, and Kublai thus became the first non-Chinese Emperor who conquered all of China. He was the only Mongol Khan after 1260 to win new great conquests. As the Mongol Emperor who welcomed Marco Polo to China, Kublai Khan became a legend in Europe. More...

Kucha (Kuche, Kuçar, Kuchar) Uyghur (كۇچار), Chinese Simplified: 库车; Traditional: 庫車: Also known in ancient China as: 屈支 屈茨; 龜玆; 龟兹, 丘玆 ) was an ancient Buddhist kingdom located on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin and south of the Muzat River. The area lies in present day Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang, China. More...

Kumul (See Hami)

Kunjirap Daban is a pass situated along the Pakistan-China border, south of the city of Kashgar in China.

Kunlun Mountains are one of the longest mountain chains in Asia, which form the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau south of the Tarim basin and the Gansu corridor and continues east south of the Wei River to  North China).

Kuqa (Qiuci) The city of Kuqa was an essential stop on the ancient Silk Road. Kuqa is located along the Taklamakan Desert in China. During the Tang Dynasty Kuqa was a thriving city at the peak of its cultural development.

Kuqa Temple based on Uygur architecture, was built during the Qing Dynasty in Xinjiang. The structure and complex is composed of a main tower, halls, unknown tombs, religious buildings, and rooms for religious instruction on scriptures. Each room is divided by some partition boards. The skylight was shaped like a tent. The main tower, which is 20 meters (65 feet) high, and the temple are examples of the grand and imposing style of Uygur architecture.

Kushan Empire The Kushans held power in the north and west of India and into Central Asia. They were said to be a branch of the Indo-European Yueh-Chi tribe following their mass exodus from China around 165 BC. The Yeuh Chi became the Tocharians, or Yuezhi to Central and South Asians, but it is not certain if the two peoples were one and the same, or whether they were simply closely allied. They entered Transoxiana and began to invade Bactria by 140 BC. With the death of Indo-Greek king Menander c. 130 BC, they ended Greek rule in Bactria. The Kushans settled within their conquered territory, and the region became known as Tokharistan.

Kutadgu Bilig (or Qutadğu Bilig) is a Karakhanid literary work from the 11th century written by a prominent Uyghur scholar Yusuf Has Hacib for the prince of Kashgar. The text reflects the author's and his society's beliefs and practices, and depicts interesting facets of various aspects of life in the Karakhanid Empire. Referred to as Turkic literature, the Kutadgu Bilig is also considered to belong to the body of Turkish literature. Yusuf Has Hacib was from the city of Balasaghun, the capital of the Karakhanid Empire, located near present-day Tokmok in Kyrgyzstan. He died in 1085 at the age of 66 in the Uyghur city Kashgar. A mausoleum is located where he was buried. More...

Kuitun (Kuytun) in Xinjiang China is located north of Tianshan Mountain, 130 kilometers from Shihezi, Karamay, and Baijiantan. Kuytun is almost 300 kilometers from Changji, and 300 kilometers from Toutunhe.

Kyrgyz people are first documented in early medieval Chinese sources, described as northern neighbors and sometime subjects of the Turkic steppe empire based in the area of Mongolia. The Kyrgyz were involved in the international trade route system popularly known as the Silk Road no later than the late eighth century. The early Kyrgyz lived in the upper Yenisey River valley, central Siberia. The Kyrgyz state reached its greatest expansion after defeating the Uyghur Khaganate in 840 AD. The Kyrgyz moved as far as the Tian Shan range and maintained their dominance over this territory for about 200 years. In the 12th century, however, the Kyrgyz domination had shrunk to the Altay Range and the Sayan Mountains as a result of the rise of the Mongol Empire. Modern-day Kyrgyzstan was also ruled by the first Turkic group to form a state in the territory of Central Asia, known as the Göktürks or Kök-Türks (in medieval Chinese sources they are referred to as Tujue 突厥 tú jué). The Göktürks established the first known Turkic state around 552, and expanded rapidly to rule vast territories in Central Asia. More...

Silk | Ipek