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The Silk Road

A New History

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The Silk Road by Valerie 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--as revealed 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 revealed fascinating 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 much about 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 of ideas, 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.
Oxford University Press; August 2012
320 pages; ISBN 9780199939213
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Title: The Silk Road
Author: Valerie Hansen
  • News
Facts about the Silk Road - OUPblog (blog)
Thu, 09 Aug 2012 05:43:18 -0700
Facts about the Silk RoadOUPblog (blog)What we know about the Silk Road isn't mainly from ancient books or stone ...
China paves a silk road for commodities - Sydney Morning Herald
Tue, 28 Jul 2015 15:24:31 -0700
Sydney Morning HeraldChina paves a silk road for commoditiesSydney Morning Herald"The Silk Road initiative announced by ...
Even more facts about the Silk Road - OUPblog (blog)
Thu, 16 Aug 2012 03:37:04 -0700
OUPblog (blog)Even more facts about the Silk RoadOUPblog (blog)Valerie Hansen is Professor of History at Yale University. Her ...