The Silk Road is a route from the edges of the European world to the central plains of China. For thousands of years, its history has been a traveller’s history, of brief encounters in desert towns, snowbound passes and nameless forts. It was the conduit that first brought Buddhism, Christianity and Islam into China, and the site of much of the ‘Great Game’ between the empires of Britain and Russia.
The ‘Silk Road’ is a modern term, dating from 1877. Only a handful of men and women ever travelled the entire length. For many, the ‘road’ led only to the next town or oasis. Artefacts and articles meandered along the route from China to the Mediterranean, but only in stops and starts, traded back and forth, buffeted by changing conditions and markets.
Jonathan Clements takes the reader through the trackless wastes of the Taklamakan Desert, its black whirlwinds and dead lakes, its shimmering mirages, lost cities and mysterious mummies. He explains the truth behind odd tales of horses that sweat blood, defeaced statues, missing frescoes, and Marco Polo’s tales of black gold that seeps from the earth.
JONATHAN CLEMENTS is an author and TV presenter specialising in the history and cultures of the Far East. He speaks both Chinese and Japanese, and has been a consultant and talking head on numerous TV programmes, including New Secrets of the Terracotta Warriors (Channel 4), Koxinga: Sailing into History (National Geographic), China’s Jade Empire (Channel 4), and TheChinese Chariot Revealed (PBS). Since 2016, he has fronted the award-winning series Route Awakening (National Geographic Asia). His most recent documentary as presenter is Shandong: Land of Confucius, also for National Geographic. Visit Jonathan’s blog, here.
Also by this author, A Short History of Tokyo, An Armchair Traveller’s History of Beijing, Mannerheim, An Armchair Traveller’s History of Finland, An Armchair Traveller’s History of the Silk Road, An Armchair Traveller’s History of Tokyo, Admiral Togo, and Mao Zedong.