The Silk Road was a trade route that ran from China to the Mediterranean. It got its name because silk was the most important product that traveled along it in the eyes of the Europeans. The Silk Road covered more than 4,000 miles. It started to be used as a trade route during Roman times, sometime between 200 BCE and 100 CE. It remained in use until Europeans managed to sail around Africa and trade directly with the East.
The Silk Road was important not just for the trade that passed along it but for the exchange of ideas and technology that came about as a consequence of that trade. For example, paper was brought to Europe from China via this route. Going the other way, Buddhism made its way from its origin in India to East Asia where it became firmly established as the major religion of that area.