Silk Road

Silk Road

Kashgar, Xinjiang, China on the Silk Road in 1995 [click to visit the UNESCO Silk Road page]

ON ANCIENT TRACKS – THE SILK ROAD AND MY JOURNEY TO THE WEST

1995

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.

2001

In June, 2001, I returned to explore the Silk Road. On this trip, I traveled overland from Xian to Kashgar.

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.

Teaching

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 works are in the public domain and available at Archive.org.

Sir Aurel Stein's Research in Chinese Turkistan and the Silk Road [click to view full HD]

The University of Hawaii 1995 Silk Road 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 12 photos shown here are from my first trip along the Silk Road, and have been placed in chronological order.

1995 Highlights

The Ancient Silk Road - Monks in Xian, China - Steven A Martin PhD

Monks at the Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian

Steve Andrew Martin - University of Hawaii - The Silk Road - Gobi Desert

33 years old in the Gobi Desert

Professor John Cheng - University of Hawaii - The Silk Road

UH Hilo Prof John Cheng near Turpan

Urumichi Silk Road - Toordi Ashan - Steven Andrew Martin PhD

Toordi Ashan, our driver in Xinjiang

Steve Andrew Martin - Flaming Mountain - The Silk Road China - Journey to the West

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

Taklamakan Desert - Silk Road China - Steven Andrew Martin

Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang

Kazakh yurts Tianshan - Heavenly Mountains - Urumqi China - Silk Road Culture

Kazakh yurts in the Tianshan Mts

Tianshan - flight from Urumqi China - Silk Road Culture

Tianshan – flight from Urumqi to Kashgar

Aba Khoja Mausoleum 1640 - Silk Road China - Steven Andrew Martin

Aba Khoja Mausoleum (1640) Kashgar

Kashgar knives - Silk Road China - Steven Andrew Martin - International Trade Market of Central and Western Asia

Kashgar knives for sale at the Sunday bazaar

Musical instruments for sale in Kashgar - Silk Road China - Steven Andrew Martin

Musical instruments for sale in Kashgar

Tobacco seller in Kashgar - Silk Road China - Steven Andrew Martin

Tobacco seller in 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.

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.

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

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." 

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

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 back took approximately 15 years or more, I had just two months.

The 18 photos shown here are highlights from the Chinese leg of the journey, placed in chronological order.

2001 Highlights

Xuanzang - Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian - Silk Road Photo Journal - Dr Steven Andrew Martin

Statue of Xuanzang at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian

Bell Tower in Xian - Silk Road Photo Journal - Dr Steven Andrew Martin

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

Train form Xian to Jiayuguan - Silk Road Photo Journal - Dr Steven Andrew Martin

View from the train – Xian to Jiayuguan

Jiayuguan Fort - Silk Road Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Jiayuguan Fort, the western end of the Great Wall

University of Hawaii students at Dunhuang - Silk Road Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Singing sand dunes at Dunhuang

Dunhuang Mahayana Buddhist Art - Silk Road Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Dunhuang Mahayana Buddhist art

Gaochang ruins - China Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Uyghur man with his taxi at the Gaochang ruins

Uyghur youth Kashgar Bazaar - China Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Uyghur youth at the Gaochang ancient ruins

Turpan Raisins - China Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Raisins for sale in Turpan

Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves - China Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves and the Flaming Mountains

Hui Culture Urumqi - Chinese Muslims - Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Hui culture in Urumqi

Kashgar Knives - China Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Kashgar knives at the bazaar

Peppers at the Kashgar Bazaar - China Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Peppers for sale at the Kashgar bazaar

Uyghur youth Kashgar bazaar - China Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Uyghur youth at the Kashgar bazaar

Kashgar Bazaar photo journal - China Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Working at the Kashgar bazaar

Islamic Culture at the Id Kah Mosque - China Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Id Kah Mosque (1442)

Islamic Culture at the Id Kah Mosque - China Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Islamic Culture at the Id Kah Mosque

Islamic Culture at the Id Kah Mosque - China Silk Road - Steven Andrew Martin

Reading the Koran at the Id Kah Mosque

Thank you for visiting my Chinese Silk Road journal page.

Steven A. Martin