The Silk Road A New Documentary History to 1400

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 6/14/2016
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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The Silk Road is iconic in world history; 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. In The Silk Road: A New History with Documents, Valerie Hansen describes the remarkable archeological finds that revolutionized our understanding of these trade routes. Hansen explores eight sites 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.

Designed for use in the classroom and based on the award-winning trade edition (OUP, 2012), The Silk Road: A New History with Documents offers a selection of excerpted primary sources in each chapter. The wide-ranging sources include memoirs of medieval Chinese monks and modern explorers, letters written by women, descriptions of towns, legal contracts, religious hymns, and many others. A new final chapter provides coverage of the Silk Road during the period of Mongol rule.

Author Biography

Valerie Hansen is Professor of History at Yale University. She is the author of several books, including The Open Empire, Second Edition (2015), and, with Kenneth R. Curtis, Voyages in World History, Third Edition (2016).

Table of Contents


1. A Walk through the Taklamakan, Charles Blackmore, 1995
2. A Caravan in 1895, Sven Hedin, 1925
3. The Han Emperor Speaks with the Explorer Zhang Qian, Ban Gu, 111 BCE
4a-b. Documents About Sogdian Envoys from the Xuanquan Fort, 52, 39 BCE
5. The Kingdom of Da Qin, Fan Ye, 445 CE
6. Greek Description of the Lands East of India, Periplus, First Century CE
7. Pliny the Elder on the Country of Seres and the Silkworm, circa 77 CE

Chapter 1. At the Crossroads of Central Asia: The Kingdom of Kroraina

8. The Niya Site in 1901, Aurel Stein,1907
9. The Niya Site in 1993, Charles Blackmore,1995
10. The Kroraina and Jingjue Kingdoms, Ban Gu, 111
11a-h. Local Life in a Silk Road Community as seen in the Kharoshti, Documents, circa 250-350

Chapter 2. Gateway to the Languages of the Silk Road: Kucha and the Kizil Caves

12. Sven Hedin's Account of his 1899 Boat Trip, 1925
13. How the Germans Removed Paintings, Albert von le Coq, 1928
14. The Jataka Tale of How the Monkey King Saved His Band, Fifth Century CE
15. The Punyavan Jataka Tale, Fifth-Sixth Centuries CE
16. The Invasion of Kucha by General Lü Guang, Li Fang, 984
17. The Biography of Kumarajiva, Fang Xueling, 644

Chapter 3. Midway Between China and Iran: Turfan

18. Xuanzang's Journey out of China, Huili, 649
19. The Astana Graveyard in 1915, Aurel Stein,1928
20a-c. The Real World Legal System in the Turfan Documents
21a-c.The Underworld Court System in the Turfan Documents
22a-d.The Tang Code, Zhangsun Wuji, 653

Chapter 4. Homeland of the Sogdians, the Silk Road Traders: Samarkand and Sogdiana

23a-c. The Sogdian Ancient Letters, Nicholas Sims-Williams (trans.), ca. 310
24.The Mount Mugh Marriage Contract and the Bride's Script, 710
25. The Fall of Devashtich's Fortress at Mount Mugh, Al-Tabari, 923
26. Xuanzang's Description of Sogdian Ways, 646
27. The Kingdom of Sogdiana, Liu Xu, 945

Chapter 5. The Cosmopolitan Terminus of the Silk Road: Historic Chang'an, Modern-day Xi'an

28a-c. Epitaphs for the Two Sogdian Headmen An Jia and Shi Wirkak, 579
29. Christianity in China: The Nestorian Stele of Xi'an, 781
30. A Record Book of Accounts from a Tang-Dynasty Pawn Shop, 662-689
31. The Lament of the Lady of Qin, A Poem about Chang'an in 881

Chapter 6. The Time Capsule of Silk Road History: The Dunhuang Caves

32. Aurel Stein's Negotiations at Dunhuang, 1912
33. A Hebrew Prayer preserved in the Library Cave, 800-1000
34. A Manichean Hymn from the Library Cave, 800-1000
35. A Christian Hymn from the Library Cave, 800-1000
36. The Zhang Yichao Transformation Text, after 857
37a-b. Women's Lives in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries

Chapter 7. Entryway into Xinjiang for Buddhism and Islam: Khotan

38. Xuanzang's Description of Khotan, Huili, 649
39. The Pilgrim-monk Faxian's Description of Khotan, 401
40. The Book of Zambasta, circa 500
41. A Khotanese Contract Governing the Use of Irrigation Water, circa 700
45. The Second Jewish-Persian Letter, circa 790
46. A Khotanese-Sanskrit Phrasebook, Tenth Century CE
47. A Khotanese Account of Expenditures, Tenth Century CE

Chapter 8. A New Route through the Grasslands: Beijing

48. Pope Innocent's Letters to the Mongols, 1245
49. The Mongol Khan's Reply to the Pope's Letters of 1245
50. John of Piano Carpini's Description of the Mongols, 1246
51. The Religious Debate at Möngke's Court, 1254
52. The Armenian King's Report about William of Rubruck, after 1259
53. Rabban Sauma's Account of France, circa 1300
54. Marco Polo's Account of Beijing, 1299
55. Marco Polo's Route South of Beijing, 1299

Conclusion: The History of the Overland Routes through Central Asia

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