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《丝绸之路新史》通过大量惊人的考古发现,彻底改变了人们对这条商路的惯常理解。几个世纪以来,尽管大量关键材料仍然尚未发掘,但是塔克拉玛干沙漠已经出土了许多迷人的东西。既有官员刻意埋藏保存的文书,也有目不识丁的当地居民利用官方文书做成的鞋垫和寿衣。作者探讨了丝路上从长安到撒马尔罕的七座绿洲,那里聚集着商人、使节、朝圣者和旅客,信仰着从佛教到祆教的不同宗教,有着非常宽容的国际化氛围。 " 《丝绸之路新史》通过大量惊人的考古发现,彻底改变了人们对这条商路的惯常理解。几个世纪以来,尽管大量关键材料仍然尚未发掘,但是塔克拉玛干沙漠已经出土了许多迷人的东西。既有官员刻意埋藏保存的文书,也有目不识丁的当地居民利用官方文书做成的鞋垫和寿衣。作者探讨了丝路上从长安到撒马尔罕的七座绿洲,那里聚集着商人、使节、朝圣者和旅客,信仰着从佛教到祆教的不同宗教,有着非常宽容的国际化氛围。 "


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《丝绸之路新史》通过大量惊人的考古发现,彻底改变了人们对这条商路的惯常理解。几个世纪以来,尽管大量关键材料仍然尚未发掘,但是塔克拉玛干沙漠已经出土了许多迷人的东西。既有官员刻意埋藏保存的文书,也有目不识丁的当地居民利用官方文书做成的鞋垫和寿衣。作者探讨了丝路上从长安到撒马尔罕的七座绿洲,那里聚集着商人、使节、朝圣者和旅客,信仰着从佛教到祆教的不同宗教,有着非常宽容的国际化氛围。 " 《丝绸之路新史》通过大量惊人的考古发现,彻底改变了人们对这条商路的惯常理解。几个世纪以来,尽管大量关键材料仍然尚未发掘,但是塔克拉玛干沙漠已经出土了许多迷人的东西。既有官员刻意埋藏保存的文书,也有目不识丁的当地居民利用官方文书做成的鞋垫和寿衣。作者探讨了丝路上从长安到撒马尔罕的七座绿洲,那里聚集着商人、使节、朝圣者和旅客,信仰着从佛教到祆教的不同宗教,有着非常宽容的国际化氛围。 "

30 review for The Silk Road: A New History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kaśyap

    A history of the Silk Road based mainly on the archaeological sources and textual analysis. The book is divided into seven chapters one each for the oasis towns of Niya, Loulan, Kucha, Turfan, Samarkand, Chang’an, Dunhuang, and Khotan. Six of them are in modern day north-west china and Samarkand is in modern day Uzbekistan. The author uses all the recent archaeological finds to show us the cultural, economic and social history of these Silk Road communities. The book starts from the earliest evi A history of the Silk Road based mainly on the archaeological sources and textual analysis. The book is divided into seven chapters one each for the oasis towns of Niya, Loulan, Kucha, Turfan, Samarkand, Chang’an, Dunhuang, and Khotan. Six of them are in modern day north-west china and Samarkand is in modern day Uzbekistan. The author uses all the recent archaeological finds to show us the cultural, economic and social history of these Silk Road communities. The book starts from the earliest evidence available, from about second century CE and ends with the first millennium CE, at which point the advent of Islam made the once diverse communities homogenous. This book disabuses us of the romantic notion of the Silk Road. Of long train of caravans traveling long distances carrying exotic goods from East to west. Most of the evidence rather points towards a more localised, small-scale trade made small groups of itinerant traders. The goods reached west through trickle trade rather than merchants directly travelling from China to Rome. Rather than trade, the most important aspects of the Silk Road was the cultural exchange of ideas. The oasis towns of the Silk Road were a cultural milieu of multiple migrant communities from India, Iran and central Asia. The library cave at Dunhuang gives us a good idea of the rich linguistic and cultural diversity in the Silk Road communities. Number of texts on Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Nestorianism, Manichaeism and even some on Judaism were found here. Through the exchange of religions, art, languages and new technologies, the Silk Road did play a very important role in shaping the modern world. One interesting aspect for me is that the author doubts the prevailing notion of the Kushana’s that they were one of the five branches of the Tocharian speaking nomadic Yuezhi tribes who migrated from China, based on the evidence of the Gandhari prakrit speaking people who later migrated to Niya. She says that we can only be certain that the Yuezhi were in Bactria in 138 BCE and that the claims for their earlier migrations from the Tarim Basin area are only speculative. This is a highly readable account with a narrative structure and some amusing stories and anecdotes dotted within. Some excellent illustrations and maps are also provided. The main downside of this text is that it focuses only on the trade routes to China and not on the trade routes to India.Another issue comes with the author focusing only on the archaeological sources and the surviving texts. The uneven nature of the surviving evidence available makes for an uneven narrative.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matt Brady

    This is probably more for academic study and experts than a casual reader. Ancient customs records definitely provide a historian with a wealth of information, but they don't make for a compelling story. Still, I did learn a fair bit, certainly can't say it wasn't educational, and there's probably a lot here for a silk road scholar, if that's a thing exists (which it probably does since one wrote this book) This is probably more for academic study and experts than a casual reader. Ancient customs records definitely provide a historian with a wealth of information, but they don't make for a compelling story. Still, I did learn a fair bit, certainly can't say it wasn't educational, and there's probably a lot here for a silk road scholar, if that's a thing exists (which it probably does since one wrote this book)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    Several years ago now I was at the International Dunhuang Project conference and Valerie Hansen was there and talked about this book she was in the process of writing. The assumption about the silk road has always been that it was a major trade route between Europe and China, where Europe got it's silk from. This book takes apart that myth and looks at the reality of life in the small trading communities along the silk road. It examines their religious beliefs and their lives. It draws on texts Several years ago now I was at the International Dunhuang Project conference and Valerie Hansen was there and talked about this book she was in the process of writing. The assumption about the silk road has always been that it was a major trade route between Europe and China, where Europe got it's silk from. This book takes apart that myth and looks at the reality of life in the small trading communities along the silk road. It examines their religious beliefs and their lives. It draws on texts that have been discovered in archaeological finds over the past century. It is a totally fascinating study and offers real insight into the lives of the people living in those communities. Hansen shows how most of the trade that went on was local trade with small quantities of goods. The only large trader was the Chinese government paying their troops. What is more astonishing is the level of historical detail found in little scraps of paper. Religious beliefs that haven't survived elsewhere, letters from women, accounts, all manner of things enable Hansen to recreate life in these areas. This book is a very interesting account of life in Central Asia and one I would very highly recommend.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Olive

    The only part of this book that actually matched with the title was the conclusion. A more suitable title may have been "The Myth of the Silk Road" or better still "A Comprehensive study of Documents Found Along the Silk Road." Even this would be slightly misleading as a majority of the book focuses on the history of a few cities on the edge of the Chinese sphere of influence. In fact, a majority of the book feels more like a history of China text than anything related to the Silk Road. This is The only part of this book that actually matched with the title was the conclusion. A more suitable title may have been "The Myth of the Silk Road" or better still "A Comprehensive study of Documents Found Along the Silk Road." Even this would be slightly misleading as a majority of the book focuses on the history of a few cities on the edge of the Chinese sphere of influence. In fact, a majority of the book feels more like a history of China text than anything related to the Silk Road. This is partially due to the author's poor decision to focus on one city per chapter. As a road entails movement, it felt off to be staying in one place. It also led to a lot of repetition and confusion as she covered the same information and time periods since the cities often interacted with each other. Basically, it felt like she stung together about 20 academic papers that she had written in the past with sentences about how the Silk Road did not exist. To make matters worse, the first few chapters came across as a pissed off rebuttal of someone else's theory that Rome was a major player in the Silk Road. It was actually funny to me because as a lay person with only rudimentary knowledge of the Silk Road, I had never once thought that it was primarily between China and Rome.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    This is not a history of the Silk Road, or at least one that is remotely interesting. It is a collection of and description of documents, and throws innumerable terms and names at you that you cannot possibly know or recognize unless you are a brilliant scholar of the geography of China and the Middle East. Hansen skips around the time frame of the Silk Road not only across chapters, but within her chapters she takes time to tell stories and pour out information that is muddling and occasionally This is not a history of the Silk Road, or at least one that is remotely interesting. It is a collection of and description of documents, and throws innumerable terms and names at you that you cannot possibly know or recognize unless you are a brilliant scholar of the geography of China and the Middle East. Hansen skips around the time frame of the Silk Road not only across chapters, but within her chapters she takes time to tell stories and pour out information that is muddling and occasionally irrelevant. The author clearly did years of research, and the information is very thorough - but it's not for beginners, something you might expect from a book simply called The Silk Road. Perhaps if the information was presented differently and more focus was put on the key factors about the Silk Road, the history could have been conveyed in a much more appealing and direct way.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Koit

    This is a very thoughtful and research-based look into the myth of the Silk Road, focussing on a number of settlements in the vicinity of the Taklamakan. The strength of this book is in the wide base it covers and in the fact that the claims it makes -- such as re-evaluating the importance of the Silk Road commercially and politically -- are supported by as much evidence as is possible.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Serena (thebookunicorns)

    What if I were to just... add books I read for school... (definitely not to get closer to my 2019 reading goal)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aditi

    Valerie Hansen makes history exciting. When I read David Quammen's book, I wished I were a field biologist. Now I wish I were a historian! In this book, she mainly concentrates on one of the routes - that between the ancient Tang capital of Chang'an (Xi'an) and Samarkand in Sogdiana (present day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), which goes either above or below the Taklamakan desert. The extremely dry climate of the desert preserved a lot of documents (as well as dessicated food and dead bodies) and s Valerie Hansen makes history exciting. When I read David Quammen's book, I wished I were a field biologist. Now I wish I were a historian! In this book, she mainly concentrates on one of the routes - that between the ancient Tang capital of Chang'an (Xi'an) and Samarkand in Sogdiana (present day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), which goes either above or below the Taklamakan desert. The extremely dry climate of the desert preserved a lot of documents (as well as dessicated food and dead bodies) and studying those, she provides evidence for her claims that: a) the Silk Road trade was a trickle trade - a few individuals participated in it, with few animals. There were no large caravans. b) there was no such thing as a "silk road", but a collection of variable paths that people took depending on the weather or water availability. c) silk was not the main traded item, but was used as currency d) the trade was mainly between China and Sogdiana, and not between China and Rome as is widely believed. She outlines the process of history. She tells us where and how documents were found (some in really unexpected places), how they were read, how some historians put two and two together etc. In addition to written documents (both on paper and leather), decorative items such as paintings and figurines, and items of daily use such as clothes and utensils also contain useful information. (I found the library cave of Dunhuang, the "Tang Barbie" and the 'Hejiacund village find' rather fascinating.) We learn much about the towns bordering the Taklamakan desert and about the lives of the people. We see how restricted and dangerous travel was (because of bandits as well as treacherous mountainous terrain). Despite such dangers, people still travelled. This silk route saw several Sogdian merchants, a few Jewish merchants from further west, Chinese monks travelling to Nalanda, Indian monks, Tibetans and several others I don't know from where. Of the traded items, the most important of course was paper, which crawled westwards and took a decade(?) or more to make it to Europe. But the ones I found particularly amusing were ceruse and "fragrances"! Of course, much like the present day, the silk road trade directly affected only the affluent. The dynamic culture around the silk road, felt quite similar to what we have in the present day (minus the obvious). People trading, migrating to better or safer places, people wearing makeup and fragrances, converting from one religion to the other, needing permission (visas) to travel. Chang'an was a very cosmopolitan town with a large foreign population, much like the present day US cities.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    New archaeological discoveries (along with satellite imagery, DNA analysis, models of climate change and more open relationships with the Chinese and the Russians) have made possible a reassessment of the links in the chain of civilizations across Central Asia that made up the Silk Road for nearly two thousand years. Fortuitous discoveries of paper documents recycled into funeral accessories (meticulously folded paper dolls, furniture, paper wrappings for the deceased)reveal tax receipt, pawn ti New archaeological discoveries (along with satellite imagery, DNA analysis, models of climate change and more open relationships with the Chinese and the Russians) have made possible a reassessment of the links in the chain of civilizations across Central Asia that made up the Silk Road for nearly two thousand years. Fortuitous discoveries of paper documents recycled into funeral accessories (meticulously folded paper dolls, furniture, paper wrappings for the deceased)reveal tax receipt, pawn tickets, bills of lading, practice copying religious texts and discarded border crossing authorizations, most of which points to cycles in which good government guaranteed safe passage and orderly transit, while times of political insecurity reduced desert towns to poverty and subsistence. Along the way, the material culture suggests extreme syncretism of religions (Coptic and Syriac Christians, Muslims, Buddhists of several flavors, Zoroastrians and their Manichean cousins, Confucian scholars and Hindus) and aesthetic preferences. This is beautifully presented recovery of a lost world through painstaking language translations and reconstruction of evidence ranging from account books to teeth.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    First book done after the move. The Silk Road. I have often heard of the term but did not fully understand what the actual reality of the term meant. The Silk Road is the myriad of routes between Western China and roughly Iran. I am fortunate that I recently read a book on the Sassanian Empire which greatly assisted with my comprehension of the subject under discussion. The routes were a network that funneled trade goods from such exotic places as Samarkand, Tashkent, Kucha, Tibet, and China. Si First book done after the move. The Silk Road. I have often heard of the term but did not fully understand what the actual reality of the term meant. The Silk Road is the myriad of routes between Western China and roughly Iran. I am fortunate that I recently read a book on the Sassanian Empire which greatly assisted with my comprehension of the subject under discussion. The routes were a network that funneled trade goods from such exotic places as Samarkand, Tashkent, Kucha, Tibet, and China. Silk was actually used as currency in many ways. Silk paid for Chinese garrisons. Silk was used to pay taxes. A whole system of currency came to light as I read more. Most important was the transfer of people and ideas from on Silk Road location to another. Writing, religion, and methods moved as populations of Persians, Chinese, and other central Asian societies intermeshed. The work discussed archeological evidence throughout so this was different for me compared to my other readings. Overall a very good book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Layla Johnston

    Did you know the first printed book was not the Guttenberg Bible, but a Buddhist text, the Diamond Sutra? And without the Chinese invention of paper, the printing press would not have allowed for mass scale reproduction of texts. Paper allows ink to adhere and absorb, unlike vellum or other documents used for recording written words and transactions. The Diamond Sutra was found in a library cave along the Silk Road, along with many other important historical documents (that were then stolen and Did you know the first printed book was not the Guttenberg Bible, but a Buddhist text, the Diamond Sutra? And without the Chinese invention of paper, the printing press would not have allowed for mass scale reproduction of texts. Paper allows ink to adhere and absorb, unlike vellum or other documents used for recording written words and transactions. The Diamond Sutra was found in a library cave along the Silk Road, along with many other important historical documents (that were then stolen and smuggled out of the country by Aurel Stein, a researcher working on behalf of the Indian and British authorities in the early 1900s). An excellent read on the history of the Silk Road that clarifies and corrects previously Western-based (and biased) histories. The author is able to write in a manner that non-academics can follow. I look forward to reading other histories by Valerie Hansen.

  12. 4 out of 5

    MH

    Given this book focuses on archeological study results, I didn't know expect it to hold my interest. I was pleasantly surprised. The findings in this book hold weight today in debates over the Uighurs' autonomy and with China's One Belt One Road initiative. Three stars because I don't think audiences outside of people with interest in History, China, and/or Central Asia would find this interesting. However, it was more compelling than I expected. Given this book focuses on archeological study results, I didn't know expect it to hold my interest. I was pleasantly surprised. The findings in this book hold weight today in debates over the Uighurs' autonomy and with China's One Belt One Road initiative. Three stars because I don't think audiences outside of people with interest in History, China, and/or Central Asia would find this interesting. However, it was more compelling than I expected.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brooks

    Interesting history with a focus on archelogy. Each chapter of the book covers a city along the silk road telling of the development of the city, its rulers, and the archelogy in the area. There are some myths that are dispelled in this book – China and Rome never were trading partners – no evidence, the closest, tenuous relationship is between Byzantine and China. The silk road was not a major trading route – few merchants, caravans were typically 4 people and 10 cattle, infrequent, and not a m Interesting history with a focus on archelogy. Each chapter of the book covers a city along the silk road telling of the development of the city, its rulers, and the archelogy in the area. There are some myths that are dispelled in this book – China and Rome never were trading partners – no evidence, the closest, tenuous relationship is between Byzantine and China. The silk road was not a major trading route – few merchants, caravans were typically 4 people and 10 cattle, infrequent, and not a major part of life. With that said, royal delegations/tributes were more common. The many kingdoms of regions sending delegations to China and among themselves. The peak of the Silk Road was during the Tang dynasty (618-907) in which the Chinese placed garrison troops in several of the cities. The money sent to soldiers was typically standardized bolts of silk cloth which then stimulated the economies in these subsistence oasis towns. One of the main travelers on the silk road were monks and the silk road was critical for the spread of Buddhism – with many monks from China going to India to study the original texts.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jackson Cyril

    Hansen, one of our great historians, argues that the Silk Road during this period (200 CE to 1000 CE-- when Islam arrived in force in the region) was hardly the superhighway we think it to be, that it consisted largely of agrarian societies trading with their immediate neighbors, refugees fleeing their homeland, and scholars in search for manuscripts or on pilgrimage. She further notes that a great deal of the trade during this time was not carried out by independent merchants, but was directly Hansen, one of our great historians, argues that the Silk Road during this period (200 CE to 1000 CE-- when Islam arrived in force in the region) was hardly the superhighway we think it to be, that it consisted largely of agrarian societies trading with their immediate neighbors, refugees fleeing their homeland, and scholars in search for manuscripts or on pilgrimage. She further notes that a great deal of the trade during this time was not carried out by independent merchants, but was directly funded and supported by the Chinese state.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    What is known about the Silk Road with particular emphasis on what archaeology has turned up -- like collections of Manichean hymns and flowers made from silk. How it was not a road but a general direction, generally with several choices of paths. The various peoples and their writings. Rather academic in places.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Valarie Hansen sets out to correct a common misunderstanding embodied in the popular stereotype that asserts the Silk Road was a bustling, ancient trade route, something akin to a superhighway that connected both sides of the Eurasian continent with a large, steady flow of goods and culture. Hansen does not deny the pivotal role trade played on the Eurasian continent, but rather concludes that the much vaunted “silk road” was, in actuality, a variety of trade routes that traversed from China to Valarie Hansen sets out to correct a common misunderstanding embodied in the popular stereotype that asserts the Silk Road was a bustling, ancient trade route, something akin to a superhighway that connected both sides of the Eurasian continent with a large, steady flow of goods and culture. Hansen does not deny the pivotal role trade played on the Eurasian continent, but rather concludes that the much vaunted “silk road” was, in actuality, a variety of trade routes that traversed from China to the west and back, and did not engage in large-scale material trade, but instead was smaller and more modest in its quantity of traded goods. Trade across the Eurasian continent proved to be time-consuming, difficult, and often quite dangerous with trade routes that passed through various city-states acutely aware of market prices, and their importance in geopolitical conflicts. Hansen, however, does not discredit the role that this Silk Road has played in world history. The influence that the routes provided was a key aspect of disseminating goods and culture, even if the common stereotypes are shown to be inaccurate as Hansen looks to elucidate a more realistic understanding the silk roads and how they came to command such a central position in world history. Hansen structures her book with seven chapters that examine a different city-state or surrounding area that provides material evidence to explain the role, scope, and degree of engagement in trade and culture with the surrounding world ; on the other hand, most of the sites are limited to being on the outer limits of China’s reach, which may exclude some areas, but wisely stays within Hansen’s area of expertise. Chapter one looks at the sites of Niya and Loulan due to the fact that the archaeological evidence shows the sites sustained the first continued contact between the Chinese, locals, and the parts of the modern Middle East that comprise parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan (p. 21 ). Migrants introduced a script, and way to write on wood. Residents also adopted a unique form of Buddhism that had married monks. Chapter two focuses on Kucha, which excites scholars for the uniquely Indo-European language, spoken as well it being the home of Kumarajiva, the famous translator of the first Buddhist works in Chinese (p. 21, 69). The next chapter looks at Turfan for its influential Sogdian community, the central role that the Chinese played in the region under the Tang Dynasty, as well as being a great source of documents (p. 21). The area around Samarkand is the subject of chapter four, which surveys the Sogdian homeland, which is significant because it is commonly thought China was hostile to foreigners, but the site helps to tell the story of immigration (p. 22). In chapter five the author presents the tombs of Sogdian immigrants from the Iranian world in Chang’an, and how they reflect their Zoroastrian beliefs (p. 23). Chapter six looks at Dunhaung, and the 40,000 documents as well as cave paintings that serve as a wealth of information (p. 24). Chapter seven finishes off with the influence of Khotan and the role of Islam along the silk roads (p. 74) . The first and most apparent aspect of the work by Hansen is that her book is based almost completely on archeological evidence and primary written sources. These written sources are centered on thousands of documents, many of which, are written on pieces of wood, but also paper and leather. Additionally, evidence is drawn from paintings, sites of ancient oasis cities, coins, cloth, and much more. Thus, Hansen’s approach is both comprehensive and interdisciplinary. She strictly adheres to interpreting the evidence in order to construct an understanding of trade and interactions on many levels. One illustrative example are the extensive graveyard sites of Astana and Karakoja in Turfan which contained artifacts and documents revealing much about life in the region. Documents exposed the leaders of Turfan’s diplomatic relations in 477 CE prior to the establishment of the Goachang Kingdom (p. 94). Evidence, primarily that of coins silver coins found in the region, also reveals an important and consistent aspect of the Silk Road - Iran, and not Rome was the primary Western economic influence in the region until the 640s (pp. 94-96). In that time period the Sasanian Empire fell to the invading Arab Muslim armies and a distinctly Arab-Sasanian silver coin emerged (p.95). Most Sassanian coins did not travel far into China, and the majority of coins have been found in Xinjiang, but what this reveals is that silver along the silk roads was not as widely utilized, and it is likely not seen as valuable as it was in more western lands (pp. 94-95). A Turfan moneylender, who died in 673 CE, was buried with contracts from his life that show that coins were preferred for smaller transactions and silk for larger purchases, indicating that coins were not heavy in circulation (p. 96). This is one small example Hansen provides using archeological insight into the silk road on multiple levels; it demonstrated diplomatic relations, indications on the standards of contracts, which is heavily suggestive of the health of the overall economy, and the silver coins unearthed from Persian (Sasanian or Islamic) trade played a role in the region. In short, Hansen artfully and thoroughly relies on the material evidence at hand in order to construct a strict understanding of the silk roads. The key feature in the book that is of prime importance is the author’s central claim that there was not a standard path that goods and culture traveled, but also that the amount of goods were not terribly large. This claim is emphasized in the structure of the book in that each chapter of the book deals with a specific site. This is helpful because the geographic barrier on the eastern edge of the Iranian-dominated world and the western edge of China was the Taklamakan Desert, and each site examined is an oasis kingdom centered on trading. Using this set-up Hansen is able to trace a generic route in terms of the flow of goods and ideas, but is careful to highlight that there is no specific or exact path and the Silk Road is better understood as a series of routes that cohered around these economic centers; their wealth and information are clues and trackers of the movement of goods, people and ideas. To further show how the common understanding of the routes is often misinformed Hansen reminds the reader that documents from Kucha and surrounding sites provide a picture of well-regulated trade by Chinese officials under the Tang Dynasty. Here, private merchants with caravans of goods were not the standard method of trade as most traders stayed within the city or outside the oasis city under imperial guidance (pp. 81-82). She elaborates how the withdrawal of the Tang as the dynasty collapsed by 763, which severely depressed the local economy as the city’s economy had relied on the presence of the Chinese army garrisoned there, and throughout the book makes the point that the presence of the Chinese army was the main driver of the economy throughout the Silk Road, which was otherwise primarily local (pp. 80, 237). This situation is in contrast to the stereotype of large scale private trade. To assist in illustrating this complex picture the author provides maps to help the reader not only know where these sites are in relation to the rest of Eurasia, but to also illustrate how the silk roads examined are generic routes over massive distances. This visualization of the distance cements the vast distances that forced travel to remain light but steady. Hansen argues successfully that the Silk Road of stereotype and cliché was a much more complex phenomenon that involved more than a simple “superhighway” where enormous amounts of products traveled. Instead, Hansen paints a picture of small kingdoms that relied on the wealth of local and regional trade, and acted as the only practical corridor for any movement. This is not to say there was none, but that the empirical evidence, archeological, written, and painted, does not support the contention of a larger movement of goods because it simply does not exist. The book does not present any serious and glaring errors, but the book does focus on one narrow part of the vast trade networks across Eurasia, and does not elaborate on any other “roads” that championed contact across the Eurasian landmass, which might offer a more complete picture of trade and cultural interaction and put the “Silk Road” into a greater context. Unfortunately, the author seems to see the religious and cultural diversity of the era discussed implicitly romantic terms, lamenting a “…now lost, tolerant world.” (p. 242). On the other hand, the positive aspect of this emphasis of note; the author suggests that culture was the major player. One instance would be in the city of Niya located in the Kingdom of Kroraina; here, immigrants reached the kingdom and introduced a written script called Karoshthi, because the “natives” did not have a written language (p. 26). This demonstrates that Niya was a cross-cultural intersection, where the cultural influence was strongly felt, especially in the transmission of Buddhism into the region (pp. 51-55). Another sample that Hansen uses is Kucha where Buddhist writings were translated into Chinese for the first time, which had a lasting impact on China and the whole of Central Asia (pp. 66-70). The first printed book, The Diamond Sutra, is preserved in the sealed caves of Dunhaung, dating to 868 CE, and is a testament to the spread of Buddhism that was made possible by the work of Kumarajiva in the early 400s, on the other side of the Taklimakan Desert in Kucha. In all sites the diversity of language and script is discussed in factual, but clearly positive tones, and in this Hansen helps to give her analysis more subtly and nuance. In fact, based on the information that is provided it is quite possible to conclude that culture had a much greater influence on the Silk Road than material goods, and the sustained diversities of intercultural contact was the most historically influential aspect of the Silk Road trading network.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is a history of the “Silk Road” by a Yale historian. It reads a bit like it was developed out of a series of papers that were integrated into a more comprehensive presentation. The geographic focus is broad, touching on the entire length of the road from Syria to China, as well as some sea routes that served as alternatives to some, such as from southeast China to India. Most of the book focuses on a narrower scope of the road from western China to eastern Iran and the areas north and west This is a history of the “Silk Road” by a Yale historian. It reads a bit like it was developed out of a series of papers that were integrated into a more comprehensive presentation. The geographic focus is broad, touching on the entire length of the road from Syria to China, as well as some sea routes that served as alternatives to some, such as from southeast China to India. Most of the book focuses on a narrower scope of the road from western China to eastern Iran and the areas north and west of Iran such as Samarkand. The time frame is generally focused between the fourth and eighth centuries CE although a broader time span is covered in some chapters. Hansen’s book makes for a good comparison with Starr’s book on a “lost enlightenment” in Central Asia from the Arab conquests until the eleventh century. Hansen is focusing on a thing (the Silk Road) that was not seen as a distinct item by the people using it over centuries. The term “Silk Road” was only coined in the 19th century. So the study is looking as a really complex set of activities that were only clear after the fact. That has not kept the term from catching on and the Chinese government has its own “belt and road” initiative today. One of the punchlines of the book is that Hansen sees the road more as a series of short range roads and paths between different places along the way and that was used primarily for local connections. The vast majority of parties using the Silk Road only travelled over limited paths along the way. Individuals like Marco Polo were few and far between. Another takeaway from Hansen’s book concerns whether the Silk Road’s importance stemmed from commerce, politics, or culture. Since the term was first coined, it appears that the Silk Road was seen as valuable for commerce - a way for parties in geographically separate areas to trade with each other, even in the absence of political and cultural interactions. Hansen argues convincingly that activity along the road was important much more for political and cultural reasons that for commerce. The volume of trade was low, even at the height of the road’s popularity. Governments and their rulers had the size and scale to fund exchanges, provide security along the way, and obtain valuable intelligence about potential adversaries. They could also document and tax this activity. Hansen makes use of bureaucratic reports found in diggings to show what the commercial activity may have looked like. While there was an emphasis on high value trade (precious stones for example), the overall volume was never very large. The cultural value of exchanges was also important, but that did not enter into interactions until much later, after political storms had passed. How do we even find out about activities on the Silk Road? I have occasionally run across photos of my great grandparents (and earlier) and marvel at how detached I feel from their world of where I live now but not too long ago. Events along the Silk Road involved people in far away lands of which we know next to nothing (paraphrasing Chamberlain). Hansen goes at this problem with a focus on the tangible records were have - not only artifacts but also written records of people at the time. This is where history meets archaeology, with the “stones and bones” of digs in remote places supplemented by miraculous finds of written documents, some of which appear to have been saved because people at the time reused paper to outfit the dead for burials (its a long story ...). So the history here is very much “bottom up” supplemented by what we know from other sources. Imagine how hard it must be to tell as story when one is limited to the physical debris actors left behind over a millenium ago! This method helps us learn about individuals and groups that would otherwise be long forgotten, but it also leave a reader thinking of broader societal stories that are relevant. Hansen and Starr make for an interesting comparison on their methods. Starr focuses on broader stories and on prominent individuals on which there is already an extensive record and who have also left behind a volume of work that can be reported upon. Questions of societal governance, politics, science, mathematics, and culture seem to go well with Starr’s approach although issues of how individuals lived their lives at this time are harder to link with broad cultural stories. Starr is doing more of a “top down” approach in his book. Starr is fully aware of the research lines that Hansen is involved in and his focus is a defensible choice. Starr and Hansen are pursuing different questions and their time frames overlap somewhat (Hansen is interested in a somewhat earlier time frame.). The two books taken together permit a more focused consideration of the Silk Road while also considering broader questions of politics, culture, and religion.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Interesting book outlining a few of the Oasis kingdoms and important archeological sites for our understanding of the Silk Road. I would have preferred a greater discussion of the historical framework of the Silk Road, as the Chapters are rather disjointed, but this focuses more on the archeological evidence that was found. The book draws a few conclusions, but it's a useful introductory resource for important sites and documented primary source material, which can be employed in papers or for r Interesting book outlining a few of the Oasis kingdoms and important archeological sites for our understanding of the Silk Road. I would have preferred a greater discussion of the historical framework of the Silk Road, as the Chapters are rather disjointed, but this focuses more on the archeological evidence that was found. The book draws a few conclusions, but it's a useful introductory resource for important sites and documented primary source material, which can be employed in papers or for reference. Quick recap of some of the main points/pieces of evidence below for perusal (and a pedagogical tool for future reference): -Topic: Kroraina Kingdom (200-400 B.C.), CHPTR 1 Along the South of the Takla Makan Desert, and stretching over a wide span of cities. This state was first independent, balanced between the Han and the Xiongnu, however the Han eventually carried out a regime change to place a more favorable ruler. The Takla Makan desert was known as "the right arm of the Xiongnu" and as such was a part of the Han's broader grand strategy to aggressively contain the Xiongu steppe empire. After this, the region came under the direct influence of the Han with military garrisons, though there appears to be little political or cultural control over the region-- a Krorainan seal with Chinese characters stands out however. Multiple currency system due to centrality of states. -Topic: Kucha, CHPTR 2 Ancient Buddhist kingdom that controlled the city-state of Kucha and is most known for being the home of Kumarajiva who translated the most popular version of the Lotus sutra in the 4th century. Located in the N. of the Takla Makan desert. This kingdom became a tributary state to the Western Turks in 580 AD, but the kingdom remained in control of local administration. In 648 AD, the Tang take over Kucha as one of the "Four Garrisons." Influenced heavily by Gandhara and connections with India, allowing for advanced translations to take place here (often performed by teams of translators). Surviving paper texts from Tang soldiers stationed at their garrison near the city (690s) do not mention merchants-- these soldiers seem wholly unattached to any trade (if there was much) occurring in Kucha. With that being said, the pay Tang soldiers received provided a major source of capital to the city, possibly aiding the oasis town's economic development. -Topic: Turfan, CHPTR3 Extremely important due to the surviving tombs of locals. This site is surprising as the clothes the dead are buried with are made of paper. Paper, being an expensive commodity in the day, was not used brand new, but often as recycled scrap-- which is what the paper clothes are fabricated with. Thus, we have been able to reconstruct minor documents that survived due to the extremely arid climate of the Takla Makan Desert. This kingdom city-state was located to the N. of the Gansu Corridor and was ruled by a Chinese-style rulers. This was also one of the "Four Garrisons" of the Tang, and the army payments seem to play a large role in facilitating economic exchange and development in the kingdom. At this site, there are many more documents describing merchant activity, including Tang-issued travel passes that detail inventory and the number of people/animals traveling. Passes presumably served as a means of regulating travel through the silk road and discouraging bandits. The inventory included on the pass also means that possibly stolen goods can be confiscated by authorities. This city was occupied mostly by Sogdians and ethnic Chinese. -Topic: Dunhuang (Mogao Caves), CHPTR 6 Library cave located here, more of a lush oasis town. Located along with the important literary finds at Library Cave are 500 other Buddhist grottos commissioned by various states, including the Khotan state in the South. From this site 40,000+ scrolls have been recovered, mostly religious and linguistic texts that are crucial for our understanding of this period. Chapters Not included: Khotan Kingdom, Chang'an (Tang capital)-- religion and foreign objects in the capital, Samarkand (Sogdian capital).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sten Maulsby

    “The evidence at hand makes it clear that Silk Road commerce was largely a local trade, conducted over small distances by peddlers. Technologies, like those to make silk and paper, and religions, like Zoroastrianism and later Islam, moved with migrants, who brought the technologies and religious beliefs of their motherlands with them to their new homes, wherever they settled.” p. 139. This seems to be the most succinct expression of the central idea, which all the portraits of local situations, “The evidence at hand makes it clear that Silk Road commerce was largely a local trade, conducted over small distances by peddlers. Technologies, like those to make silk and paper, and religions, like Zoroastrianism and later Islam, moved with migrants, who brought the technologies and religious beliefs of their motherlands with them to their new homes, wherever they settled.” p. 139. This seems to be the most succinct expression of the central idea, which all the portraits of local situations, given in the different chapters, in different times and places, demonstrate. This is not "a history" of "The Silk Road". The central argument is that there was not "a Silk Road" but a network of many short roads, for relatively local traffic, connecting a string of communities around the Taklamakan dessert in north west China (Xinjiang). In addition to the minor merchant activity there were major diplomatic delegations between these communities, or between one of these communities and China or Samarkand, exchanging large quantities of riches. The economy was also driven by the Chinese military at the east end of the region, and sometimes within it, dispersing large quantities of currency (mostly in the form of standard measures of silk) through the garrisons and then into the surrounding communities. Eventually the silk, from the east end, and the precious stones, spices and medicines, from the west end made their way through the dense filter of this network of connected local markets. This is a brief and crude rendering, but I think I've basically got it right without repeating the whole book. (Mind you, when you're rendering fat, you're not going to get the meat of it). What I find fascinating, as a student of multilingual, multicultural communities, is how different groups of languages encounter each other in different communities and and over the centuries). I'm not the one to do it (my training is definitely limited to European languages) but I can see the starting point for the kind of work Andrew Wallace-Hadrill has done in Rome's Cultural Revolution (a late Roman Gaul or an early empire Italian would have three cultural identities, all context driven, to be proud of) or the kind of work I'm involved in concerning 13th and 14th century England (where at least one point of pride is in being able to shift language without skipping a beat). I was going to say more, but I think you'll be glad I didn't. Just read the book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    First, let me say that you should check the price of the hardback book before you purchase. My hard copy was roughly the same price as the paperback version. There are a number of useful maps and beautiful color plates. This book has a limited scope in that it looks primarily at activity in what is now the Xianjiang area of China and specifically the northern and southern routes around the Taklamakan desert, and principally from pre-history to 755AD. There is a chapter devoted to discoveries in S First, let me say that you should check the price of the hardback book before you purchase. My hard copy was roughly the same price as the paperback version. There are a number of useful maps and beautiful color plates. This book has a limited scope in that it looks primarily at activity in what is now the Xianjiang area of China and specifically the northern and southern routes around the Taklamakan desert, and principally from pre-history to 755AD. There is a chapter devoted to discoveries in Samarkand and Sogdiana and another about Xi'an, the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, but the focus throughout is on the areas west of Han China which was under intermittent and changing Han control. This book is fairly academic with 48 pages of endnotes for a book with 240 pages of print. However, it lacks a formal bibliography mitigated by abundant references in the endnotes. The author's conclusion after an exhaustive review of the documents and scholarship covering the places and times of her interest is: "The Silk Road was one of the least traveled routes in human history and possibly not worth studying--if tonnage carried, traffic, or the number of travelers at any time were the sole measure of a given route's significance." Hansen's thesis is that the Silk Road was mostly used for local trade by small traders who carried silk from China, but mostly goods of local manufacture. Most of the silk was brought to the region to pay Chinese troops garrisoned there because China lacked enough coin currency. The soldiers then traded the silk locally to meet their needs and the silk was then traded wetsward. Hansen finds that the Silk Road was far more important for the spread of ideas. Perhaps the most important influences were Sanskrit and Buddhism which were brought to Xianjiang by refugees from the Indian cultural zone. Sanskrit is thought to have brought 35,000 new words to Chinese!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Derek Lidow

    As a professor of entrepreneurship, I always amused (and a little bit worried) when my students talk about their ambitions to become big stars in the business world as a function of their own personal drive and talent. I always try to do my best to teach them how much their success will depend on the cultural factors at play at whatever time they launch their careers, and how much present cultural factors depend on history. And when it comes to how culture and history are affecting the world of b As a professor of entrepreneurship, I always amused (and a little bit worried) when my students talk about their ambitions to become big stars in the business world as a function of their own personal drive and talent. I always try to do my best to teach them how much their success will depend on the cultural factors at play at whatever time they launch their careers, and how much present cultural factors depend on history. And when it comes to how culture and history are affecting the world of business, there is no hotter topic than China. This is the book that anyone who wants to understand the true role China will play on global entrepreneurship should read. Spurred on by recent economic growth, China’s President Xi Jinping announced an initiative in 2013 to open a “New Silk Road.” It is through this lens that Valerie Hansen’s book discusses the original path that connected the Roman Empire and the Far East. Despite the mythic spot the Silk Road holds in our collective unconscious, few of us know exactly what it was. The Silk Road: A New History reveals its true nature, exploding many misconceptions in the process. With China proving itself to be the most important emerging economic player of the 21st century, anyone who wants to position themselves to take full advantage of where those forces are leading us must read this book. If you'd like to get my list of recommendations of the best books on entrepreneurship, email me here with RECOMMENDATIONS in the subject line.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Fred Dameron

    An original idea that is backed by the linguistic archeology that has been found along the Silk Road. V. Hansen's idea is that the Silk Road was a movement of local goods from town to town with the silks, jade, copper, metal weapons etc being in small doses until these items got to Europe. This idea is backed by the pieces of administrative writing that has been found in archeological digs over the past 150 years. This evidence, while convincing that Dr. Hansen is correct, does not take into acc An original idea that is backed by the linguistic archeology that has been found along the Silk Road. V. Hansen's idea is that the Silk Road was a movement of local goods from town to town with the silks, jade, copper, metal weapons etc being in small doses until these items got to Europe. This idea is backed by the pieces of administrative writing that has been found in archeological digs over the past 150 years. This evidence, while convincing that Dr. Hansen is correct, does not take into account the huge caravanessies (SP?), large enclosed plots that contained camel, horse, and donkey stalls and enclosed grazing, also accommodation for the merchants, guards, teamsters and slaves. These caravanessies covered over 100 acres in Samarkand and other locations. I see her point. But I believe that each individual merchant joined with others to form large caravans and it was these large caravans that travelled along the trails from oasis to oasis and mountain passes to the next town. An interesting read for those of us who like the history of remote regions.

  23. 4 out of 5

    David Campbell

    Yale University history professor Valerie Hansen’s scholarly revision of prevailing knowledge about humanities most famous trading route using its most precious commodity (i.e. paper). Dr. Hansen constructs a receipt-by-receipt argument of the Silk Road as an essentially self-regulating, #ShopLocal trade network stretching 1,500 miles from Xi’an, China to Samarkand in modern Uzbekistan between 400-1000 A.D, with Silk being the least perishable currency (not commodity) available, and the “Road” l Yale University history professor Valerie Hansen’s scholarly revision of prevailing knowledge about humanities most famous trading route using its most precious commodity (i.e. paper). Dr. Hansen constructs a receipt-by-receipt argument of the Silk Road as an essentially self-regulating, #ShopLocal trade network stretching 1,500 miles from Xi’an, China to Samarkand in modern Uzbekistan between 400-1000 A.D, with Silk being the least perishable currency (not commodity) available, and the “Road” little more than lonely camel paths between ever shifting oases. Its economic durability (and dynamism) lay not in goods traded but the steady supply of peoples ejected from surrounding empires (a.k.a. immigrants).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Archer

    A good book, but structured as an anecdotal history telling. The format Ms Hansen chose for her history of the Silk Road is one of focusing on various parts and eras, rather than an overall, overarching history. This is interesting, because it allows you to go deeper into some aspects, but at the expense of the global view. Each chapter of the book will give you significant information, but you end the book without a really global feel of what, exactly, the Silk Road meant for the history of Eura A good book, but structured as an anecdotal history telling. The format Ms Hansen chose for her history of the Silk Road is one of focusing on various parts and eras, rather than an overall, overarching history. This is interesting, because it allows you to go deeper into some aspects, but at the expense of the global view. Each chapter of the book will give you significant information, but you end the book without a really global feel of what, exactly, the Silk Road meant for the history of Eurasia. If you are not familiar with the Silk Road, this is not a volume for you. It will add to your knowledge on its history, but it's definitively not the volume I would personally recommend to start with.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Isabel

    4/5 stars. Valerie Hansen does a wonderful job of explaining the Silk Road and the history behind it in this book. I found it incredibly interesting and engaging, and I learned a ton about different cities, ancient and modern, that impacted trade routes some millennium ago. It is very fact-heavy, however, I found that useful for the top that was being discussed. This is definitely more of an academic text, so chapters can be a bit dense at times and useful for research purposes, however, the enti 4/5 stars. Valerie Hansen does a wonderful job of explaining the Silk Road and the history behind it in this book. I found it incredibly interesting and engaging, and I learned a ton about different cities, ancient and modern, that impacted trade routes some millennium ago. It is very fact-heavy, however, I found that useful for the top that was being discussed. This is definitely more of an academic text, so chapters can be a bit dense at times and useful for research purposes, however, the entire work was very interesting. I enjoyed this much more now than when I had to read a chapter for summer homework before 7th grade.

  26. 5 out of 5

    P Dreadful

    To write about a bunch of rabbit trails and footpaths around the Taklamakan desert and to make it interesting at the same time is not an easy task. By piecing together history from bits of parchment, leather and other materials unearthed from oasis towns, the author has given us a tantalising glimpse of the past. I now know what commodities were transported (and it wasn't just silk), how they were transported (donkey carts and caravans), who these travellers were (monks, envoys, artists, scribes To write about a bunch of rabbit trails and footpaths around the Taklamakan desert and to make it interesting at the same time is not an easy task. By piecing together history from bits of parchment, leather and other materials unearthed from oasis towns, the author has given us a tantalising glimpse of the past. I now know what commodities were transported (and it wasn't just silk), how they were transported (donkey carts and caravans), who these travellers were (monks, envoys, artists, scribes and merchants) and why they travelled along these trails. Fascinating book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    jm

    More a history of Silk Road archaeology than of the real thing, this history presents finds from various sites to support its thesis that the Silk Road really is a misnomer. That thesis is interesting enough, and I liked the segments detailling life in old times, but there also was a lot of detail (in particular on the discussion of dynastic changes and conquests, which to me always seemed a bit too much out of context to be useful) I could have done without.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Finch

    A detailed look at how specific archaeological finds along the Silk Road, particularly in northwestern China, have informed current scholarship about the Silk Road. Hansen focuses on individual items such as seventh-century pawn tickets and recycled paper used as funeral shrouds to piece together a powerful mosaic of imagery of this time and place without ever sacrificing her shrewd scholarly analysis.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pei-jean Lu

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. More like two and a half stars. While a different insight into the world’s most famous historical trade route, it in the end was disappointing. Personally, I felt that if you were going to tell the story of the Silk Road through the archeological evidence of the different oases along the various kingdoms, it is best suited to a documentary rather than a book. In truth, I have National Geographic documentaries on both Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin that told me more than what this book did

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

    On The Road Again While attending KU I had a few wonderful classes with Professor Yang Lu, who taught many subjects concerning central Asia. One of his classes focused on the development and migration of nomadic groups in central Asia. Even though this class covered the Silk Road he stilled offered one just on the trade route. I took both these classes and become hooked on the subject. Now, out of school and not likely to go back, and without a professor’s reading list, I am always on the look ou On The Road Again While attending KU I had a few wonderful classes with Professor Yang Lu, who taught many subjects concerning central Asia. One of his classes focused on the development and migration of nomadic groups in central Asia. Even though this class covered the Silk Road he stilled offered one just on the trade route. I took both these classes and become hooked on the subject. Now, out of school and not likely to go back, and without a professor’s reading list, I am always on the look out for well written books on historical topics, but especially the Silk Road. At the library, a wonderful place to visit by the way, I found The Silk Road: A New History by Valerie Hansen. It was published in 2012 by Oxford University Press. Similar to a child in a used video game store who realizes that they have the money to buy a game they found, I took the book off the shelf and checked it out, which was free, in case you were wondering. I am very glad I did. First off let me say that this is hardcore academia. I don’t say this to scare anyone off, quite the opposite in fact. Don’t pick this book up thinking it will be some Stephen Ambrose walk down Cherry Lane American Beauty readathon. This is a true work of history that makes great use of archeology. As a matter of fact, archeology is the back bone of this entire work. Dr. Hansen focuses on the archeological finds of key locations along the many twisting and turning routes that make up what we call today the Silk Road. Places like Dunhuang, Khotan and Turfan, where people lived and thrived in trade and kingdoms rose and fell in the desert sands. Well, some where near desert sands. The archeological evidence Dr. Hansen uses ranges from clothes found in burials, many made with recycled documents, to actual preserved documents, coins, burial decorations, but more commonly refuse heaps centuries old. She skillfully recreates what life was like then and explains the finds and what they prove about life along the famous trading path. The vision Dr. Hansen paints for us is one of a trade route that really isn’t. Local trade was carried out between short distances and sometimes items were able to make it further than the people who originally carried them. Yet, much of what moved along the route was not material wealth but things like religions and cultures. Dr. Hansen explains how these aspects of humanity changed what they came in contact with, but also how they were used in the city states that dotted the harsh landscape. She also points out that much of what drove trade in these areas was Tang money. Tang, being one the largest Chinese Dynasties. It pumped a lot of money, for political interests, into the Taklamakan Desert, thus driving a great amount of the trade there. During the time period she focuses on there is movements of Buddhism from one place to another. She recounts the tales told of Xuanzang, the famous traveling monk from Chang’an. She talks about the many monastic buildings placed along the route, like the massive cave complex in Dunhuang. Dunhuang itself held a major find of literature on Buddhism as well as many other topics, all sealed away behind a wall for hundreds and hundreds of years. Such finds are also a part of Dr. Hansen’s story. She writes about the different explorers that traveled these lands in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. How they found what they did and how it impacted the world’s view of the Silk Road, as well as shaped modern archeological practices. The picture she presents, however, is not just a large impersonal landscape. There are many intimate details to be found in these desert documents. People trading, marrying, divorcing, princes trying to get home, the lives of soldiers in service to their emperor, a woman complaining about her worthless husband, and monks, lots of monks. There is a story of a mountain fort under siege from warring Muslims, spreading Islam, told through nothing but the trash left behind by the doomed occupants. In many cases you can get into the life of these ancient people from thousands of years ago, due to the nature of the archeological finds and Dr. Hansen’s word craft. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has some prior knowledge of the Silk Road, it will build upon what you already know. For individuals who know nothing about the Silk Road, this may or may not be the best place to start. Dr. Hansen makes her argument very clear, and takes the time to recap basic knowledge of the times and area for readers. However, there is still a certain amount of detail that can only come with previous exposure. Having said that, I must add that Dr. Hansen’s book makes the most of current data and therefore creates a very accurate picture of what historians and archeologists know. Therefore, starting here would help reduce being exposed to previous misconceptions of past works. So, while you might be a new comer to Silk Road history, you will be rewarded for your struggles with a very solid picture of a certain time during the history of the Silk Road. This time period is vastly important as it sets the path for how the Silk Road becomes famous in later centuries. For example, why the Mongols felt the need to conquer all of Central Asia. In any case, I loved the book and will be adding it to my collection.

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