The Silk Road is not a place, but a journey – a route from the edges of the European world to the central plains of China, through high mountains and inhospitable deserts. For thousands of years, its history has been a traveller’s history, of brief encounters in desert towns, snowbound passes and nameless forts. It was the conduit that first brought Buddhism, Christianity and Islam into China, and the site of much of the ‘Great Game’ between Victorian empires. Today, its central section encompasses the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. The ancient trade routes cross the sites of several forgotten kingdoms, buried in sand and only now revealing their secrets.
Jonathan Clements takes the reader on a journey through the trackless wastes of the Taklamakan desert, its black whirlwinds and dead lakes, its shimmering mirages, lost cities and mysterious mummies, but also its iconic statues and memorable modern pop songs. He explains the truth behind odd tales of horses that sweat blood, defaced statues and missing frescoes, and Marco Polo’s stories of black gold that seeps from the earth. For travellers looking beyond their armchair, the book includes a gazetteer of important sites and travel tips, from the author himself and earlier travellers’ diaries.
An Armchair Traveller’s History of the Silk Road is available now from Haus Publishing.