14 June 2006

Life Along the Silk Road

There are lots of books about the Silk Road, and I've read lots of them. But Life Along the Silk Road by Susan Whitfield has to be one of the best I've ever read. Susan Whitfield runs the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library and has access to huge numbers of manuscripts and documents from the Silk Road. She uses these sources to write short biographical sketches of a variety of people who lived along the eastern part of the Silk Road from around 600 AD- 900 AD.

But this isn't a dry history of the silk road. The stories are fascinating and Whitfield does a good job telling about the lives of a few of the people who lived along the Silk Road. She covers a wide variety of people from traders and princesses to artists and officials.

I would have appreciated more direct citations, especially since you can access many manuscripts at the International Dunhuang Project. I imagine she didn't want footnotes cluttering up the but I wanted to know where history ended and embellished storytelling began. Of course, the original manuscript probably had plenty of their own embellishments.

I highly recommend this book even if you only have a passing interest in the Silk Road. Few books give such a complete picture of this time and place.

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