The Silk Road : A New History
by Valerie Hansen
Editor: Oxford University Press
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The Silk Road is also famous in world history as the Rhodes Colossus or the Suez Canal.But what exactly was it likeIt evokes a vague image of a caravan of camels loaded with silk on a dusty desert of the track, from China to Rome.The reality is different, and much more interesting-as revealed in this new storyIn The Silk Road, Valerie Hansen describes the remarkable archaeological discoveries that revolutionize our understanding of these trade routes.For centuries, files have been hidden, sometimes deliberately buried by bureaucrats to keep them safe.But the sands of the Taklamakan Desert have revealed fascinating matter, sometimes kept by illiterate inhabitants who recycle official documents to make soles of shoes or clothing for the dead.Hansen explores the seven oasis along the road, from Xi’ an to Samarkand, where merchants, envoys, pilgrims and mixed travelers in the cosmopolitan city of communities, tolerant of the religions of Buddhism to the doctrine of Zoroastrian.He was not alone, continues the road, but a chain of markets negotiated between East and West.China and the Roman Empire had very few direct exchanges.China’s main partners are the modern-day peoples of Iran, whose tombs in China reveal much about their Zoroastrian beliefs.Silk was not the most important commodity on the road; paper, invented in China before Julius Caesar was born, had a greater impact in Europe, while metals, spices, and glass were just as important as silk.Perhaps the most important of all is the road of transmitting ideas, technologies and artistic motives.The Silk Road is a fascinating archaeological history of discovery, cultural transmission, and the complexity of the chains through Central Asia and China.
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