Silk Road

Silk Road



Kashgar, Xinjiang, China – Silk Road 1995 [click to visit UNESCO Silk Road]


I first traveled along the Chinese Silk Road in 1995, on a trip organized by the University of Hawaii. We journeyed by bus, train and short flights. Reaching Kashgar on China's westernmost border for the Sunday Bazaar, I vowed to return one day with more time to explore.


In June, 2001, I returned to explore the Silk Road. On this trip, I traveled overland from Xian to Kashgar, China, and across the Karakoram Mountains to Pakistan (see Silk Road Part II, Pakistan)

Although a long journey across deserts and mountains, it was certainly not as difficult as in the past. By 2001, modernization in Xinjiang had brought hotels, tourist amenities, and transportation networks, including a new rail link between Urumqi and Kashgar.

I hope you enjoy the highlights of the 1995 and 2001 photo journals below, and find the links to Silk Road maps, presentations and resources helpful.

For more information, please contact me or visit my university course at Eastern Civilization.

Jiayuguan Fort, Great Wall – Beacon of Eastern Civilization

Teaching – Eastern Civilization

Sir Aurel Stein – 1909

I have been sharing my Silk Road experiences with students of all ages for over twenty years. I am interested in the early works of European explorers, particularly Sir Aurel Stein (1862-1943).

Stein's archaeological and geographical work is well represented in his 1933 publication: On Ancient Central Asian Tracks: Brief Narrative of Three Expeditions in Innermost Asia and Northwestern China.

Many of Stein's original works are currently royalty-free and available on

1933 Chinese Silk Road Map by Aurel Stein – Innermost Asia [click to enlarge]

1995 Experience – The University of Hawaii Silk Road Study Tour

The travel began at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian, and ended at the Kashgar Bazaar, also known locally as the Sunday Market, and now officially known as the International Trade Market of Central and Western Asia.

The photos shown here are highlights from my first trip along the Silk Road.

Click on photos to enlarge.

1995 Highlights

Monks at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian

Big Wild Goose Pagoda – Xian

Rainy start on our Journey to the West – Xian

Riding the Iron Rooster to Western China

33 years old in the Gobi Desert

Jiayuguan Fort – Western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall

UH Hilo Prof John Cheng – Dunhuang, Gansu Province

Turpan and Urumqi – Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Flaming Mountain, from the epic tale, "Journey to the West"

Farmer in Turpan, Xinjiang

Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang

Kazakh yurts in the Tianshan – Heavenly Mountains

Toordi Ashan – our driver in Urumqi, Xinjiang

Tianshan – flight from Urumqi to Kashgar

Kashgar – Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Islamic culture – Kashgar

Musical instruments for sale – Kashgar

Knife seller – Kashgar Sunday Market

Islamic culture – Kashgar Sunday Market

Original Sunday Livestock Market – 1995

Tobacco seller – Kashgar

Afaq Khoja Mausoleum (c. 1640) Kashgar

My 2001 Silk Road Independent Study Project

In the summer of 2001, I made an agreement with the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH) to conduct independent research on the Silk Road. I proposed to travel overland from Xian, China, to Delhi, India.

My Liberal Studies Adviser, Prof. John Cheng, agreed, providing I visited Harappa, an Indus River Valley civilization site, and Taxila.

Taxila was one of the most ancient universities in the world, where people from all over Asia and the Middle East came to study and teach. At least eighteen subjects were covered, including medicine, religion, and science. Instruction was available in at least five different languages, and this multicultural environment contributed to the pre-eminence of Taxila as a center of learning from the 5th century BC until the 2nd century AD.

Taxila was a key site where the ancient Greeks met the Buddhists, a cultural coincidence that occurred at the dawn of Mahāyāna Buddhism and the birth of the Gandhāran civilization.

I was fortunate to visit the Sirkap archaeological site at Taxila, evidence of an ancient Greek city in South Asia.

Sirkap archaeological site – Taxila, Punjab, Pakistan

Visitors today can explore the ruins of a two-thousand-year-old university, and stroll around the Taxila Museum filled with unique art history.

I kept a comprehensive photo journal of my travels, and after returning and presenting my photo journal at the university auditorium I earned enough credits to complete my undergraduate studies at the University of Hawaii.

Journey to the West

My plan was to follow in the footsteps of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang (玄奘) (c. 602–664), who traveled to India in the 7th century, during the Tang Dynasty, and kept a detailed account of his travels.

His journal, Great Tang Records on the Western Regions (大唐西域記), is an outstanding treasure of Chinese history.

Nine hundred years later, Xuanzang's true story was brought to life in the16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West (西遊記), one of China's "Four Great Classical Novels."

Xuanzang in the 16th century Chinese classic "Journey to the West"

2001 Journal Highlights

Starting in Xian, at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda built in Xuanzang's honor, I began my own journey. I tried to visit the same cultural sites and physical landscapes, and to keep a journal, like he did. While his trip to India and return took 15 years or more, I had just two months.

The photos shown here are highlights from the Chinese leg of the journey, placed in chronological order.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Statue of Xuanzang – Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian

Bell Tower in Xian – starting point of the Silk Road as a trade route

View from the train – Xian, Shaanxi Province, to Jiayuguan, Gansu Province

Sunrise at Jiayuguan Fort, Great Wall, Gansu Province

Jiayuguan Fort, the western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall

Singing sand dunes at Dunhuang

Dunhuang Mahayana Buddhist art

Uyghur man with his taxi at the Gaochang ruins

Uyghur youth at the Gaochang ancient ruins

Uyghur dancer – Turpan, Xinjiang

Raisins for sale in Turpan

Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves

Hui culture in Urumqi

Frank Li – Hui culture in Urumqi

Kashgar, Xinjiang – China's western frontier town

Click on photos to enlarge.

Livestock market – Kashgar Sunday bazaar

Peppers for sale at the Kashgar bazaar

Kashgar knives at the bazaar

Uyghur youth at the Kashgar Sunday Bazaar, Xinjiang Province

Watermelon seller – Kashgar Sunday bazaar

Working at the Kashgar bazaar

Wooden pitchforks for sale – Kashgar Sunday bazaar

Id Kah Mosque (1442)

Islamic Culture at the Id Kah Mosque

Reading the Koran across from the Id Kah Mosque

Yusuf Balasaguni – 11th century Islamic Philosopher

Yusuf Balasaguni Mausoleum


Thank you for visiting my Chinese Silk Road Photo Journal page.

I encourage students of all ages and backgrounds to seek out new and dynamic international experiential learning opportunities.

–Dr. Steven A. Martin