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The Silk Road is not only a route for Sino-West trade, but also an important channel for ethnic migration and exchange. Its formation dates back to 200 B.C. or earlier. Across the Eurasian continent, the Silk Road is a gathering place of major global cultures including Roman-Western European culture, Chinese culture, Indian culture and Semitic Islamic culture, which has played an important role in promoting human civilization and economic, cultural exchange. Originated from the beginning of the last century, studies of the Silk Road boasts a history of more than a hundred years. With the excavation of archaeological sites and the exploitation of unearthed documents, the Silk Road studies has become a frontier area of global academic research, as well as a noted discipline. A large number of noteworthy achievements have been made on such aspects as regime, ethnicity, religion, city, traffic, trade, geography andenvironment along the road, laying historical grounds for our understanding of the regions' contribution to human civilization. In 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed to jointly build a "Silk Road Economic Belt", which catalyzed the Silk Road research. In its long historical formation process, the road acquired rich ethnic, religious and cultural landscapes. Against this background, an assemblage of the historical geographic data enables us to trace the historical roots of culture involved, as well as ethnic/national interactions. This special issue on Historical Geography of the Silk Road contains seven data papers, originated from major projects of national social sciences planning programs, which as a whole provide historical data of the following four aspects.
First, traffic network of the Silk Road. This group contains three papers, dedicated to the Silk Road's most prosperous historical periods, namely, Han, Tang and Mongol-Yuan dynasties, respectively. They are: "Traffic data of the Silk Road in the Han dynasty" by Hu Yumeng et al.,1 "A dataset of traffic routes of the east-central Silk Road in the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 A.D.)" by Xu Xueqiang et al.,2 and "A GIS dataset of tourist routes along the Silk Road in the Mongol-Yuan dynasty" by Chen Jun et al.3
Second, human settlements along the Silk Road. Luo Cong et al.4 contributed a dataset of human settlements in the Shiyang River basin of Qing and Republican periods. Based on local records, geographical surveys and atlas, the authors extracted human settlement data of the river basin in fourperiods: 1657, 1749, 1934 and 1939. The historical settlements were then verified through textual research, during which their present location and life cycle were also identified. This dataset well reflects the spatial location and classification of the settlements involved. Xue Qiaofeng et al.5 dedicated a GIS dataset on the urban built-up area along the Silk Road in the Ming and Qing dynasties, which laid statistic ground for understanding urban settlements in the east-central Silk Road during 600 years, as well as their evolution. It also gives an insight into the changes of a city's location, scale, morphology, and so forth.
Third, hydrological changes of the Silk Road region. Su Raorao et al. developed a dataset of lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang region during the late Qing and Republican period.6 The authors first digitalized printed information of the 1909 Atlas of Xinjiang Province and the 1935 large-scale Military Topographic Maps of Xinjiang. The extracted data were then re-calibrated and validated against historical documents and modern satellite images of the same period. The data were finally classified and coded to form a dataset of lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang region during that specified period.
Fourth, land use along the Yangtze River Economic Belt. Li Shicheng et al.7 collected data for human activity intensity along the Yangtze River Economic Belt during seven historical periods, namely, late 1970s, late 1980s, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015. Based on land use data of the economic belt, this dataset well captures the intensity of its human activity during the specified periods, with an accuracy at least 26% higher than other datasets of its kind.
Hu Y, Yan B & Zhang P. Traffic data of the Silk Road in the Han dynasty. China Scientific Data 3(2018). DOI: 10.11922/csdata.2018.0016.zh
Xu X & Zhang P. A dataset of traffic routes along the east-central Silk Road in the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 A.D.). China Scientific Data 3(2018). DOI: 10.11922/csdata.2018.0015.zh
Chen J & Zhang P. A GIS dataset of tourist routes along the Silk Road in the Mongol-Yuan dynasty. China Scientific Data 3(2018). DOI: 10.11922/csdata.2018.0017.zh
Luo C & Zhang P. A dataset of human settlements in the Shiyang River basin of Qing and Republican periods. China Scientific Data 3(2018). DOI: 10.11922/csdata.2018.0014.zh
Xue Q, Cheng Y & Jin X. A GIS dataset of urban built-up area along the Silk Road in the Ming and Qing dynasties. China Scientific Data 3(2018). DOI: 10.11922/csdata.2018.0023.zh
Su R, Wang F & Pan W. A dataset of lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang region of the late Qing and Republican period. China Scientific Data 3(2018). DOI: 10.11922/csdata.2018.0018.zh
How to cite this article
Zhang P. Introduction to Special Issue on Historical Geographic Data of the Silk Road. China Scientific Data 3(2018). DOI: 10.11922/csdata.2018.0059.zh