Teaching Demo | Silk Road | Eastern Civilization
ON ANCIENT TRACKS
THE SILK ROAD (絲綢之路 Sīchóu Zhī Lù)
AND MY JOURNEY TO THE WEST
Following in the footsteps of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang (玄奘)
1995 Xian to Kashgar
I first traveled along the Chinese Silk Road in 1995, on a trip organized by Professor John Cheng through the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH). We journeyed by bus, train and short flights. Reaching Kashgar on China's westernmost border just in time for the Sunday Bazaar, I vowed to return one day with more time to explore.
2001 Xian, China, to Delhi, India
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.
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 Archive.org.
Silk Road Lecture Handouts | View or Download
2001 Silk Road Slideshows | View or Download
1995 Experience | The University of Hawaii Silk Road Study Tour
The photos shown here are highlights from my first trip along the Silk Road.
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.
Click on photos to enlarge.
Turpan and Urumqi | Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
Kashgar | Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
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.
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 be able to visit the Sirkap archaeological site at Taxila, evidence of an ancient Greek city in South Asia.
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 西遊記
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."
Journey to the West is a tall tale retracing Xuanzang's travels with an unlikely group of companions, namely the tricky and powerful Monkey King, the greedy and ravenous Pigsy, and the hideous and obedient Friar Sand. Mixing fact with fiction, the story incorporates Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and folklore into the groups' improbable pilgrimage of spiritual enlightenment.
National Geographic | Treasure Seekers: China's Frozen Desert
Based on the lives of Sir Aurel Stein and Xuanzang: "As commerce flourished along the Silk Road, Central Asia became a melting pot of cultures. Here on the edges of the Taklmakan Desert, an exotic blend of Indian, Mongol, Chinese, and European influences fueled an astonishing cultural Renaissance. In the 7th century, a Chinese monk, Xuanzang, plunged into the desert while on a Buddhist pilgrimage to India..."
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.
Urumqi, Xinjiang | Gateway to the Tianshan
Kashgar, Xinjiang | China's western frontier town
- Ancient History – Gandhara Civilization
- Archive.org – Sir Aurel Stein
- Depts.Washington.Edu – Great Tang Records on the Western Regions
- Gutenberg.org – Journey to the West
- Harrapa.com – Ancient Indus Valley Civilization
- Kenyon College – Silk Road Links
- Silk Road Foundation – SilkRoadFoundation.org
- The Silk Road Online – The International Dunhuang Project
- UNESCO – About the Silk Road
- UNESCO – Magao Caves
- UNESCO – Taxila
- University of Washington – Sirkap Photos (Patricia Young)
Thank you for visiting my Silk Road Learning Adventure page.
I hope you enjoy the photos and information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to know more about the Silk Road or other Learning Adventures, or would like to arrange for me to give a public talk, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.