Mdtt Riggsby
The name “silk road” was coined by the German geographer Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen (who was, as it happens, an uncle of that other Baron von Richthofen) in the later 19th century. The original German was “Seidenstraße,” though, like modern scholars, he used the plural as well as the singular. von Richthofen came up with the term as a way of summing up land routes through northwestern China, whereby China traded luxury goods—most frequently silk—for a variety of imports from Central Asia, including fine jade and the famous “heavenly horses” of Ferghana. It’s inadequate for a number of reasons: It wasn’t used for silk alone, it’s not a single route (rather, there was a shifting, intertwining series of routes by which goods traveled), and sea routes were likely more important anyway. However, “the silk road” is as evocative as phrases for historical phenomena come, so it caught on and hasn’t gone away.


Xu Wentao
During the reign of Han Wudi, who travelled West to the Tarim Basin and even into modern day Afganistan, to seek allies against the Xiongnu.
Unfortunately, his proposal was largely reject by the local kings, especially a Greek colony in Alexander Eschate, who was well known for their horses, which supposedly sweat blood.
The Xiongnu were excellent horse riders, so when the Greek refused Han Wudi’s offer, a force of 50k Chinese soldiers forcibly subdued the kingdom, making it a tributary.
Thus, that was the beginning of the trade between the West and East.