Wednesday University Lecture Series
© 2002 Daniel C. Waugh

[Note: I illustrate this and subsequent lectures in the series with many slides and maps. Because of copyright issues and for want of time to do the scanning I do not reproduce the illustrations here. The points at which there was an illustration in the actual presentation have been marked by an asterisk (*). At least some of the images will be available on various web pages being created for Silk Road Seattle; we are planning to create a substantial atlas of Silk Road maps. I have added at the end some links and source references. A few of the items are books mentioned in response to questions from the audience.]

Lecture l

The Origins of the Silk Road

Thank you all for coming--I am overwhelmed by the response to this series and hope that you will not be disappointed.

Let me begin with a basic definition. What do I have in mind when I speak of the Silk Road? The term was coined in the 1870s by a German geographer, Ferdinand von Richthofen, who was referring to trade routes through Central Asia linking East and West (that is, China, India, and the Mediterranean world) (*). By using the term with abandon, like von Richthofen I am guilty of a certain oversimplification, for what we are to be talking about is not one road, but many routes across Eurasia in various directions, routes along which it was not just silk that was being exchanged. I use the term as a shorthand for economic and cultural exchange across Eurasia for at least some two millennia. This is world history writ large, the history of human interaction across space and time, across ecological and civilizational boundaries. It is a story of human daring to venture beyond the comfortable boundaries of familiar surroundings. The most famous of our travelers on the Silk Road, Marco Polo, boasted that prior to him "there has been no man...who has known or explored so many of the various parts of the world and of its great wonders." Every time I open a new chapter on our subject, I feel I am embarking on a similar exploration; I invite you to embark with me on a journey (*) which can last more than one lifetime.

Naturally, we must be somewhat more modest than Marco Polo, although, of course, I can promise you, as he did for his book: this series will "contain nothing but the truth." In a practical vein, the limits of five evenings force us to be selective. While some, as I shall note later, would extend the history of the "Silk Road" back to 2000 BCE or earlier and bring it practically to modern times, we will modestly confine ourselves to about a millennium and a half, and focus on the following periods:

  • Han China. (206 BCE-220 CE)
  • T'ang China (618-907)
  • The Mongol Empire (1206-1368)
  • The Timurids (1370-late 15th century).
  • The choice in part is dictated by our sources, since we have for those periods particularly striking written and artistic evidence. Perhaps more importantly, we can argue that these periods represent especially significant moments in the history of Eurasian exchange.

    There are several topics which we will be exploring: The first is interaction between nomads and sedentary peoples. Much of the written record tells the story from the perspective of people who lived in urban centers. In fact, as we will learn tonight and be reminded again when we come to the Mongols, probably the most important group responsible for exchange across Eurasia was those who really controlled the routes and provided the means of transportation, the pastoral nomads. Nomads have tended to get a bad rap in the eyes of posterity. I hope we may restore to them some of the reputation they deserve. One of best sources for learning about nomad traditions and beliefs may on the surface seem to be an improbable one, the Franciscan monks who traveled the length of the Mongol Empire in the first half of the thirteenth century. We will discuss them in Lecture 3.

    Our second important theme is in a sense the essence of the Silk Road itself: this is a story of the meeting between East and West, North and South. In fact one thing which we might want to venture at the outset is the idea not that "East is East and West is West and never the twain do meet," but, on the contrary, they always meet and probably should not be called "twain," with its implied antithesis. We are talking about globalization before the advent of the Global Economy of our era. True, the meeting rarely took place in direct fashion with someone traveling all the way from one ocean to another, but we are talking about a continuum, an array composed of incremental interactions across thousands of kilometers where at the boundaries cultures and languages came together.

    Among the features of this interaction was, of course, the exchange of goods. The Roman moralist Pliny in the first century complained that the wealth of the empire was being diminished wholesale by the insatiable appetite of Roman women for silk from the East (*). Here is one of those fashionable Romans in her silk dress, as painted by a contemporary. Later, in the eighth century, the T'ang court in China was equally obsessed with priceless exotica, but of course those coming from, among other places, Central Asia and the West. Among the items was Persian silver, which clearly served as the inspiration for T'ang porcelain, such as the ewer shown here (*). For a full range of products, I would draw to your attention the impressive list of Central Asian exports in the tenth century Arab source quoted by David Christian in the article I have linked to your syllabus. Lastly, we cannot but be impressed by the evidence from our travelers such as Clavijo, the Spanish ambassador to Tamerlane in 1403. "The markets of Samarkand (*)," he wrote,

    are amply stored with merchandise imported from distant and foreign countries. From Russia and Tartary come leathers and linens, from Cathay silk stuffs that are the finest in the whole world..with balas rubies and diamonds...also pearls, lastly rhubarb with many other spiceries...From India there are brought to Samarkand the lesser spiceries, which indeed are the most costly of the kind, such as nutmegs and cloves and mace with cinnamon...
    In short, our picture is that of a Silk Road economic exchange which involved far more than silk.

    As the Chinese scholar Xinru Liu has forcefully argued, economic exchange and religion were intimately connected throughout the history of the Silk Road. One of our famous travelers, the Chinese monk Xuanzang (*), will provide an example allowing us to explore the ways in which what we term the "religions of the book" spread through Eurasia. Since Xuanzang was a Buddhist, in the first instance our focus will be on Buddhism, but we will also note how, precisely in the seventh century when he undertook his great journey to India to the source of Buddhist law, Islam was beginning to move East and the lesser known religions of Manichaeism and Nestorian Christianity made their way to China.

    The spread of religions is a story which also involves artistic exchange. The origins of Buddhist imagery are intimately connected with the art of the Hellenic world, transmitted through a Central Asia that at least briefly had come under the sway of none other than Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE. Among the striking discoveries made by the British archeologist Aurel Stein (*) in the early twentieth century are paintings in the Buddhist sites on the edge of the Central Asian deserts in which the debt to western art is unequivocal (*). These are precisely some of the western regions described in the early Chinese chronicles you are reading and through which Xuanzang and, much later, Marco Polo traveled. We will be looking at the Buddhist art in one of its famous treasure houses, the Mogao caves at Dunhuang (*), on the eastern edge of the Taklamakan desert in Western China. And later we will see how some of the striking Islamic art of the Timurid courts (*) of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries owes a debt to China, the example here being tile work which was inspired by Chinese lacquerware.

    As we explore our several topics, we might well ask whether we should be putting so much faith in our travelers' accounts. Take the most obvious case--Marco Polo. As some of you may have heard, there is some doubt as to whether he even went to China (a matter we will discuss later in the course). The fact is, that to write history we need written records, and very often our only eyewitness material may be that recorded by travelers. Indeed, it must be read critically, but when juxtaposed to all the other available sources (often, for the early history, archaeological ones), its veracity can be tested, verified, and indeed, in some cases questioned. Much of what academic historians write about the Silk Road is little more than paraphrase of sources such as travel accounts; so we would do well to make the acquaintance of our witnesses first hand. And it is critical to realize that irrespective of the truth of the accounts--here Marco Polo is again the shining example--they inspired others. Among those others was none other than Christopher Columbus. To my mind the travelers make history come alive, even if they may be biased and more than occasionally, simply wrong.

    As we start on our journey through the history of Eurasia, we should first acquire a visual sense of the landscape along the way. Arguably before the advent of modern communications, geography and ecological zones were the critical determinants of where and how people lived, moved and interacted. Boundaries such as we know them, delineated by modern states, did not exist, but boundaries there were, either natural or manmade, and in both cases they turn out to have been quite permeable.

    Here are some impressions of the landscape which was the canvas on which the Silk Road was painted. As a sometime mountaineer, let me start where my heart is. This map (*) gives a sense of how mountains both ring and separate areas of Eurasia. And those mountains include some of the highest in the world (****). Around the year 400, a Chinese monk named Faxian traveled to India through the Karakorum and noted the dangers of the route:

    The snow rests on them both winter and summer. There are also among them venomous dragons, which, when provoked, spit forth poisonous winds, and cause showers of show and storms of sand and gravel (*). Not one in ten thousand of those who encounter these dangers escapes with his life.
    And then regarding the near vertical slopes of the Indus River gorge (*), Faxian continues:
    The way was difficult and rugged, running along a bank exceedingly precipitous which rose up there, a hill-like wall of rock (*)...When one approached the edge of it, his eyes became unsteady; and if he wished to go forward in the same direction, there was no place on which he could place his foot; and beneath were the waters of a river called the Indus. In former times men had chiseled paths along the rocks and distributed ladders on the face of them (*) the bottom of which there was a suspension bridge of ropes (*)...
    Of course, some of the passes were easier (*), and much of the routes followed steppe (*) and broad river valleys (*).

    We should in fact look on the mountains not as barriers on the Silk Road but rather as sources of life for the Silk Road. The Franciscan, John of Plano Carpini's observations from the 13th century are relevant here:

    In some parts the country is extremely mountainous, in others it is flat, but practically the whole of it is composed of very sandy gravel...[and] is completely bare of trees. Not one hundredth part of the land is fertile, nor can it bear fruit unless it be irrigated by running water....

    He is describing the Gobi (*)--that vast rocky desert (*) of northern Central Asia, which is one of the many deserts occupying huge swatches of the continent. The name of the most intimidating of all these deserts, the Taklamakan (*), is revealing--the place where he who goes in does not come out. More than the mountains, the deserts could test the traveler's will to live: Xuanzang's biographer tells us how he nearly perished on its northern fringes: "Time seems to stop..For four or five days the pilgrim and his horse struggle westward. Not a drop of water anywhere. His mouth, lips, and throat are parched by the burning heat. The evening of the fifth day the horse and rider fall down exhausted....." Without the mountains, no water; without water, no life; no fertile oases (*), no terraced fields of Central China (*).

    When Marco Polo traveled through the Hindu Kush mountains of northeast Afghanistan and beyond them the Pamirs, he noted something else of great interest for us:

    This is said [, he wrote,] to be the highest place in the world. And when he is in this high place, he finds a plain between two mountains, with a lake from which flows a very fine river. Here is the best pasturage in the world; for a lean beast grows fat here in ten days. Wild game of every sort abounds. There are great quantities of wild sheep of huge size. Their horns grow to as much as six palms in length and are never less than three or four....

    Now the important thing here is not the sheep we now know as the Marco Polo sheep (*), Ovis poli, but the fact that important areas of Inner Eurasia are ideally suited to pastoral nomadism. The nurturing landscape for the emergence of some of the great nomadic empires was often that of Mongolia (*) and Manchuria, where there was ample pasturage and water from the melting snow. Sedentary peoples relying on agriculture could not live there, but the necessities of life (for the most part) could be obtained from the animals which constituted the nomads' wealth. This was the region, north of China proper (*), where two of the greatest of these empires which will figure in our story were born--the Xiongnu and, as shown on this map, the Mongol.

    Our Chinese sources, for all their bias, provide virtually all our written information on the history of the nomadic ancestors of the Xiongnu:

    [They] removed from place to place, according to the pasturage for their flocks and herds. The bulk of their stock consisted of horses, oxen and sheep; but in smaller numbers they bred likewise camels [and] asses.... Removing their herds to find water and pasturage, they had no fixed cities...They had no written character, but performed oral contracts...On reaching manhood, when able to bend a bow, they were fully equipped and mounted on horseback. In time of peace they hunted for their living; but when harassed by war, they cultivated martial exercises.

    The Chinese chronicler continues with an account of the emergence of the first great Xiongnu leader, Maotun (209-174 BCE). To the Chinese he was a barbarian of the first order, so ruthless as to train his men to absolute obedience and then test them by ordering them to kill his father. No Confucian values of filial devotion there! Yet his success in uniting the Xiongnu forced the early Han rulers to accomodate them and sign treaties. The treaty of 174 BCE was sealed with the sending of presents:

    We hear from the envoy [, the Chinese Emperor wrote,] the great merit you have acquired by your military enterprises, in subjugating the nations; and in recognition of your arduous achievements I now beg to present you with a light figured lining imperial embroidered robe, a light long embroidered tunic, and a light variegated gown; also a golden hair comb, a gold ornamented waist-belt, and a buffalo-horn belt fastening; also ten pieces of twilled silk, thirty pieces of variegated silk, and forty pieces each of carnation satin and green silk.

    In fact, it was not long, our Chinese sources report, before the Xiongnu acquired a real craving for the luxuries of China. A eunuch from the imperial court, who accompanied a Chinese princess to be the consort of the new Xiongnu ruler, warned the latter of what was really behind the Chinese strategy of the rich tribute (in the guise of gifts):

    Now should your Highness change the national customs, and introduce a taste for Chinese luxuries...the Xiongnu will all go over to the Chinese. Suppose your people were clothed in Chinese silk, in riding about among the thorns and brush-wood their robes and tunics would be unavoidably torn and destroyed; it is evident that for strength and durability they are not to be compared to good skin garments. It will be wise also to give up Chinese table delicacies, which are neither so convenient nor so wholesome as good milk and cream.
    This betrayer of the Chinese strategy then proceeded to instruct the Xiongnu in Chinese methods of record keeping and the drawing up of documents, so that the nomadic ruler was soon able to practice one-upmanship in the nuances of diplomacy. One thing we learn from these exchanges is the importance of grain for the nomadic diet. What developed in fact into regular trade between agricultural China and the steppe world included sizeable amounts of grain.

    Thomas Barfield, who has written an important book analyzing the dynamic of the relationship between the nomads and China down through the centuries, summarizes the arrangements to which the Han had to agree as a result of their inability to defeat the Xiongnu at the start of the second century BCE:

    1. The Chinese made fixed annual payments in goods to the Hsiung-nu (which at their maximum amounted to somewhat less than 100,000 liters of grain, 200,000 liters of wine, and 92,000 meters of silk);
    2. the Han gave a princess in marriage to the Shan-yü [the Xiongnu ruler];
    3. the Hsiung-Nu and Han were ranked as co-equal states;
    4. the Great Wall was the official boundary between the two states.

    We cannot but be impressed by this scenario. Here was Han China, one of the great, rich, cultured empires of history, trying desperately to appease and subvert the Xiongnu, who, it turns out, were not just militarily powerful, but brilliant politically and astute diplomatically. As Barfield argues, precisely in such moments of equality and strength on both sides was there a symbiotic relationship. We are not simply talking about maurauding nomads as bulls for whom cities were a red flag. The quantities of silk being transported into the steppe surely did not end up merely decorating nomadic yurts and garments, although they were important to enable the Xiongnu ruler to secure the loyalty of other nomadic peoples. Undoubtedly some of the silk was traded across the nomad-held lands with their neighbors to the west. It is not unreasonable therefore to see this as the real beginning of the Silk Road.

    The time now is the long reign of Han emperor Wu-di (140-87 BCE). Unable to defeat the Xiongnu militarily, he sent an envoy to the West in search of allies amongst the other nomads (*). The envoy, Zhag Qian promptly was taken captive by the Xiongnu, but after ten years, a marriage and the birth of a son while in their hands, he escaped and continued his mission, arriving in a country the Chinese called Ta-yuan, This is what we know as Ferghana, the fertile valley tucked amongst the Pamirs in the eastern part of what is today Uzbekistan. He also traveled in the regions we know as Soghdiana (presumably in the vicinity of today's Samarkand) and to the south, Bactria, the location of one of the kingdoms that carried on the Hellenic legacy of Alexander the Great. His intelligence report, which has been preserved in the Han chronicles, caught Wu-di's attention, especially for the following passages:

    The people [of Ta-yuan] [he wrote] are permanent dwellers and given to agriculture; and in their fields they grow rice and wheat. They have wine made of grapes and many good horses. The horses sweat blood and come from the stock of the "heavenly horse." They have walled cities and houses; the large and small cities belonging to them, fully seventy in number, contain an aggregate population of several hundreds of thousands...
    Further to the West was Parthia (An-xi) which had merchants involved in long-distant trade and silver coinage. In Bactria (Da-xia), "the people are shrewd traders," and their capital "has markets for the sale of all sorts of merchandise," including cloth from India. An effort has been made to plot an approximation of Zhang Qian's world as it might have looked from the Han capital [slide right]

    While this initial mission failed to secure an alliance, it was only the beginning of Wu-di's effort to court those to his west. Zhang Qian was sent on another embassy, to the nomads known as the Wu-Sun, taking with him "gifts of gold and silk stuffs worth millions." These nomads, living in the Tian Shan mountains north of the Taklamakan Desert, also raised "heavenly horses"; in general, the horses from the West were to be much prized by the Chinese for many centuries, since they simply were unable to breed cavalry mounts of the same strength and quality. As the chronicler notes,

    the Son of Heaven had such a fancy for the horses of Ta-Yuan, ambassadors sent to procure them followed upon one another's heels all along the route. Such missions would be attended by several hundred men" [bearing lavish gifts, although] "later on, when they [the gifts] had ceased to be a novelty, they were made on a smaller scale. As a rule, rather more than ten such missions went forward in the course of a year, and at the least five or six. Those sent to distant countries would return home after eight or nine years.

    On at least one occasion, a return embassy came from Parthia (which occupied much of the Middle East, on the borders of the Roman Empire). Our chronicler also notes the discovery of considerable quantities of jade in the Kun-lun mountains near Khotan, an important town on the southern fringe of the Taklamakan. Jade (*), we should note, was highly prized in China for its spiritual qualities; perhaps this Han era jade in the Palace Museum in Beijing came from the distant Kun-lun. While we do not necessarily have to believe our Chinese source, it also speaks of technology transfer--Chinese craftsmen who deserted an embassy taught the people of Ferghana new techniques of metal casting. Later the Chinese secrets of sericulture and paper making also would find their way west.

    It was not long before embassies gave way to serious military campaigns to secure the Western Lands. Part of the Han campaign to secure the routes to the west and protect against nomadic incursions was the expansion of the Great Wall, whose initial construction dated to well before Han times. The Great Wall of our imagination is that which is seen snaking through the mountains north of Beijing, but we should not forget that the wall in Han times extended to the edges of the Taklamakan. Aurel Stein was the first to appreciate its extent, when he discovered lines of watch towers which reached well out into what by the early twentieth century was uninhabited desert. (**) Dunhuang, near one of the points where the trade routes divided to go around the desert, became in Han times a major military outpost. It continued to be an extremely important town on the Silk Road in the later T'ang era, when Chinese control was once again established in the region.

    One can see in the vicinity of Dunhuang today the impressive ruins of the watch towers (*). To the west of the city (*), as Stein's map shows in red, the remains of the fortifications are abundant. This is the place known as the Yümen Guan (the Jade Gate), where one sees long stretches of the wall itself (*), here made not of stone blocks but rather of tamped earth secured by layers of reed matting. Nearby is a garrison building (*), and a few miles away a huge supply depot (*). The watch towers were stocked with "flares" (*), that is piles of combustible material which would emit plumes of smoke when burned. Since the towers were within sight of one another, it was possible in this way for word of attacks to be transmitted almost overnight all the way back to central China. Our chronicler records, for example, "At that time the beacon fires could be distinctly seen along the border regions of the empire; so that the Hsiung-nu got little advantage by their maurading incursions." And some of them even began to submit.

    Many of those in the garrisons who manned the wall had families who lived by farming in the Dunhuang oasis. Stein's excavations in the rubbish heaps of the watch towers provided abundant material evidence of their life (*); among the most interesting discoveries were thousands of wood slips (*) with documentation of the transactions which kept this vast and expensive system of fortification going.

    The Yümen Guan was the gateway to the road which led in Han times to Lou-lan and Niya, in the kingdom of Shan-Shan (*). The first of these flourishing oasis towns was located near Lake Lop Nor and the second along one of the major rivers flowing from the Kun-Lun mountains into the desert. Both died when their water supplies dried up, sometime in the fourth century.

    Before looking at some of the artifacts, we might digress here briefly on the history of Lop-nor. So long as the rivers flowing out of the Tien-Shan continued East and emptied into the lake, Lou-lan and the central branch of the Silk Road could thrive. Geographers in the late nineteenth century, among them none other than Ferdinand von Richthofen, began to study this region in part because there was some confusion about the exact location of Lop Nor. One of his students, Sven Hedin (*), who became perhaps the most famous explorer of Central Asia in the early twentieth century, was able finally to document how the lake had "moved," probably due to the gradually shifting sand silting up it and its rivers. To about 330 CE, it was here [slide left]. It then seems to have disappeared, as shown in this map (*) reflecting firm documentation from the early eighteenth century. Then, dramatically with no human intervention, in 1921 the river flow shifted back into its former course, and the lake once again filled (*), conveniently shallow as ever for fishermen (*) to wade out and simply club their sizeable catch (*). Today (*), thanks to the extensive irrigated farming upstream, the lake again is dry, presumably this time never to recover.

    So it is here, preserved in the drifting sand of the Taklamakan (*), that one finds some of the most interesting evidence about the cities of the Silk Road around the end of the Han era. There are ruins of houses, with large beams carved from tamarisks and from the wood of the tall poplars that must have shaded the oases (*) The large beam here, now in the National Museum in Delhi, depicts a crocodile. The construction of the houses (*), using reed mats as part of the walls as seen here on your right is in fact quite similar to the techniques followed right down to modern times, as seen on your left. The ruins conceal Han-era coinage (*), beads of various semi-precious stones, seals with images of deities worshipped in the West (*)--one of these shows Zeus-- and fragments of silk, this one depicting Hermes (*). The syncretism of this meeting of cultures is evident in a fragment of cotton cloth (*), with its Chinese dragon motif and an image of what is probably the goddess Tyche.

    The area around Lou-Lan is the location of many burials, including ones which antedate by several centuries the Han era. The burials contain mummies, preserved perfectly by the salt and aridity; among them is the famous "Beauty of Lou-Lan." (*) Some of you may be familiar with her from the National Geographic and from the Nova film of a few years back. What is striking about the evidence of these burials is that the mummies often have fair hair and western features, and the woolens in which they are buried embody weaving techniques which are known from areas such as Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. Such material and other evidence from tombs of nomads in Southern Siberia suggests that in fact the routes of exchange and cultural interaction across Eurasia date far earlier than what we have been documenting from the Chinese sources as the "beginning of the Silk Road."

    Rather than look back at that earlier history now, I would conclude by anticipating our next lecture.

    The ruins at Lou-Lan and the other Taklamakan sites also contain abundant evidence of Buddhism such as the remains of stupas (*) and terracotta images (*). Already in the first centuries of the common era, Buddhism had spread into Central Asia and via the oases had made its way to China. It is no coincidence that the scenes portraying the history of Buddhism in China painted much later on the walls of the Mogao caves (*) anachronistically connect the advent of the faith with Zhang Qian's mission to the west under Emperor Wu-di in the second entury BCE. We know a great deal about the connections between places such as Lou-lan and Niya and the Buddhist centers of the south. For one thing, the documents of these Central Asian kingdoms, found in abundance in the ruins, were written in an ancient north Indian language and in the Karoshthi script (*). This was the script and languge of the Kushan Empire which straddled the routes to the south in the mountain knot of Eastern Afghanistan and presided over flourishing Buddhist centers. The Kushans' ancestors (*) were Inner Asian nomads, who had been driven west by none other than the Xiongnu, and, like them, would preside over the cultural transmission and economic exchange that is the Silk Road. Thanks to the Kushans and others who controlled what has been termed the crossroads of civilization in Central Asia, Buddhism would eventually (as the Swiss scholar Zürcher has put it) "conquer China." Xuanzang, the Buddhist pilgrim whom we will meet again in two weeks, traveled these routes and is a particularly valuable source, since much of what he described, alas, is no longer to be seen (*). "To the northeast of the royal city," he wrote, describing Bamiyan, "there is a mountain on the declivity of which is placed a stone figure of Buddha, erect, in height 140 or 150 feet. Its golden hues sparkle on every side, and its precious ornaments dazzle the eyes by their brightness."

    Thank you.



    Primary source quotations in the text have been drawn from the following:

  • Selections from the Han Narrative Histories. A. Wylie, trans.; D. Waugh, ed.
  • The Journey of Faxian to India. J. Legge, trans; D. Waugh, ed.
  • Si-yu-ki. Buddhist Records of the Western World. Translated from the Chinese of Hiuen Tsiang AD 629, by Samuel Beal (London, 1884; reprint, New Delhi, 1993). Here used for Xuanzang.
  • Christopher Dawson. Mission to Asia (Toronto, 1980). For John of Plano Carpini.
  • The Travels of Marco Polo. Tr. Ronald Latham (Harmondsworth, 1958).
  • Clavijo. Embassy to Tamerlane 1403-1406. Translated from the Spanish by Guy le Strange (NY; London, 1928)
  • Secondary sources:

  • Thomas B. Allen, "The Silk Road's Lost World," National Geographic, March 1996, pp. 44-51. Introduces the famous mummies of the Taklamakan and shows artifacts from their culture. In the same issue, "Xinjiang," pp. 2-43, with wonderful photos by Reza showing famous cities such as Kashgar and the ethnic diversity of Xinjiang, including the mountain Kazakhs.
  • Thomas J. Barfield. The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China, 221 BC to AD 1757 (Cambridge; Oxford, 1992).
  • Christoph Baumer. Southern Silk Road: In the footsteps of Sir Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin (Bangkok, 2001). Well informed, excellent maps and photos of the lost cities of the Taklamakan and their artifacts, in a lavish paperback with lousy binding. Includes discussion and maps of the "wandering lake," Lop Nor.
  • Richard W. Bulliet. The Camel and The Wheel (Cambridge; London, 1975). The classic of "camelology."
  • Feng Zhao. Treasures in Silk (Hong Kong, 1999). Elegantly illustrated volume with informative text in both Chinese and English regarding the history of silk in China.
  • Mysterious Mummies of China (Nova Video, 1998; available from WGBH, Boston).
  • Edward H. Schafer. "The Camel in China down to the Mongol Dynasty," Sinologica, Vol. 2 (1950), pp. 165-194, 263-290. Includes delightful quotations about camels from Chinese literature.
  • Aurel Stein. On Ancient Central-Asian Tracks: Brief Narrative of Three Expeditions in Innermost Asia and Northwestern China (Chicago; London, 1974). Best, short account of Stein's important discoveries.
  • Daniel C. Waugh. "Dunhuang." A first draft of some web pages on the famous Silk Road Buddhist center. A revised version of these pages will eventually be posted to Silk Road Seattle.
  • Sally Hovey Wriggins. Xuanzang: A Buddhist Pilgrim on the Silk Road (Boulder, 1996).
  • Xinru Liu. The Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Interaction in Eurasia (Washington, D. C., 1998).
  • Xinru Liu. Ancient India and Ancient China: Trade and Religious Exchanges AD 1-600 (Delhi, 1994).
  • Xinru Liu, Silk and Religion. An Exploration of Material Life and the Thought of People AD 600-1200 (Delhi, 1998).
  • The Wednesday University is jointly sponsored by the Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington and Seattle Arts and Lectures and hosted by the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington.