The Silk Road: A New History

Paperback | August 6, 2015

byValerie Hansen

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The Silk Road is as iconic in world history as the Colossus of Rhodes or the Suez Canal. But what was it, exactly? It conjures up a hazy image of a caravan of camels laden with silk on a dusty desert track, reaching from China to Rome. The reality was different - and far more interesting - asrevealed in this new history.In The Silk Road, Valerie Hansen describes the remarkable archeological finds that revolutionize our understanding of these trade routes. For centuries, key records remained hidden - sometimes deliberately buried by bureaucrats for safe keeping. But the sands of the Taklamakan Desert have revealedfascinating material, sometimes preserved by illiterate locals who recycled official documents to make insoles for shoes or garments for the dead. Hansen explores seven oases along the road, from Xi'an to Samarkand, where merchants, envoys, pilgrims, and travelers mixed in cosmopolitan communities,tolerant of religions from Buddhism to Zoroastrianism. There was no single, continuous road, but a chain of markets that traded between east and west. China and the Roman Empire had very little direct trade. China's main partners were the peoples of modern-day Iran, whose tombs in China reveal muchabout their Zoroastrian beliefs. Silk was not the most important good on the road; paper, invented in China before Julius Caesar was born, had a bigger impact in Europe, while metals, spices, and glass were just as important as silk. Perhaps most significant of all was the road's transmission ofideas, technologies, and artistic motifs.The Silk Road is a fascinating story of archeological discovery, cultural transmission, and the intricate chains across Central Asia and China.

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From the Publisher

The Silk Road is as iconic in world history as the Colossus of Rhodes or the Suez Canal. But what was it, exactly? It conjures up a hazy image of a caravan of camels laden with silk on a dusty desert track, reaching from China to Rome. The reality was different - and far more interesting - asrevealed in this new history.In The Silk Roa...

Valerie Hansen is Professor of History at Yale University. Her books include The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600, Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China: How Ordinary People Used Contracts, 600-1400, Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1276, and, with Kenneth R. Curtis, Voyages in World History. To find out more about V...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:August 6, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190218428

ISBN - 13:9780190218423

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Customer Reviews of The Silk Road: A New History

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Silk Road: A New History This recent book on the story of the Silk Road was fun and engaging to read. I enjoyed learning about the different cultures that made up this important period of history.
Date published: 2015-09-19

Extra Content

Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. At the Crossroads of Central Asia: The Kingdom of Kroraina2. Gateway to the Languages of the Silk Road: Kucha and the Kizil Caves3. Midway Between China and Iran: Turfan4. Homeland of the Sogdians, the Silk Road Traders: Samarkand and Sogdiana5. The Cosmopolitan Terminus of the Silk Road: Historic Chang'an, Modern-day Xi'an6. The Time Capsule of Silk Road History: The Dunhuang Caves7. Entryway into Xinjiang for Buddhism and Islam: KhotanConclusion: The History of the Overland Routes through Central AsiaNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Valerie Hansen's The Silk Road is the most readable and reliable historical account of the fabled trade routes that cut across the center of Eurasia in medieval times. Based upon original sources and the best scholarship, the author's narrative is enriched by first-hand investigations in thefield and extensive examination of artifacts in numerous museums. Handsomely illustrated, this volume brings to life as never before the men and animals who travelled from one Central Asian oasis to the next, conveying goods, ideas, art, music, and religions." --Victor H. Mair, University of Pennsylvania