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The Silk Road: A New Historyby Valerie Hansen
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"The Silk Road was never really a road at all, but rather a 'stretch of shifting, unmarked paths across massive expanses of deserts and mountains' that carried a slow trickle of trade between the Near East and the Chinese empire over millennia. The arid conditions along the trail have helped preserve some of the greatest treasure troves of the ancient world, increasing our understanding of dozens of cultures. Hansen, an expert in early Chinese history at Yale, presents an erudite, scholarly look at artifacts as diverse as Buddhist sutras, ancient bills of sale, and even petrified dumplings, placing each in its proper context and building a detailed historical record drawing heavily on primary sources. At times too dry for general readers, this study may put off specialists with its lack of focus — Hansen touches on civil service examinations, prevailing stereotypes of Sogdian merchants, bans on religious practice, and sea trade with Southeast Asia in succeeding paragraphs — but the work does break new ground with its close textual analysis of so many original documents. Although trade on the road largely consisted of 'impromptu exchanges of locally produced and locally obtained goods' (silk was one common currency; another was antelope skin), such exchanges played no small part in shaping the modern world. 19 color and 61 b&w illus., maps." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Basketball has a lock on the Filipino soul. From big arenas in Manila to makeshift hoops in small villages, basketball is played by Filipinos of all walks of life and is used to mark everything from summer breaks for students to religious festivals and many other occasions. Playing with the Big Boys traces the social history of basketball in the Philippines from an educational and and#8220;civilizingand#8221; tool in the early twentieth century to its status as national pastime since the country gained independence after World War II.
While the phrase and#8220;playing with the big boysand#8221; describes the challenge of playing basketball against outsized opponents, it also describes the struggle for recognition that the Philippines, as a subaltern society, has had to contend with in its larger transnational relationships as a former U.S. colony.
and#160;Lou Antolihao goes beyond the empire-colony dichotomy by covering Filipino basketball in a wider range of comparisons, such as that involving the growing influence of Asia in its region, particularly China and Japan. In this context, Antolihao shows how Philippines basketball has moved from a vehicle for Americanization to a force for globalization in which the United States, while still a key player, is challenged by other basketball-playing countries.
In 2002, after living ten years in Asia, American poet and musician Scott Ezell used his advance from a local record company to move to Dulan, on Taiwanand#8217;s remote Pacific coast. He fell in with the Open Circle Tribe, a loose confederation of aboriginal woodcarvers, painters, and musicians who lived on the beach and cultivated a living connection with their indigenous heritage. Most members of the Open Circle Tribe belong to the Amis tribe, which is descended from Austronesian peoples that migrated from China thousands of years ago. As a and#8220;nonstateand#8221; people navigating the fraught politics of contemporary Taiwan, the Amis of the Open Circle Tribe exhibit, for Ezell, the best characteristics of life at the margins, striving to create art and to live autonomous, unorthodox lives.
In Dulan, Ezell joined song circles and was invited on an extended hunting expedition; he weathered typhoons, had love affairs, and lost close friends. In A Far Corner Ezell draws on these experiences to explore issues on a more global scale, including the multiethnic nature of modern society, the geopolitical relationship between the United States, Taiwan, and China, and the impact of environmental degradation on indigenous populations. The result is a beautifully crafted and personal evocation of a sophisticated culture that is almost entirely unknown to Western readers.
About the Author
Valerie Hansen is Professor of History at Yale University. Her books include The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600, Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China: How Ordinary People Used Contracts, 600-1400, Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1276, and, with Kenneth R. Curtis, Voyages in World History. To find out more about Valerie Hansen and The Silk Road, visit her website at www.valerie-hansen.com.
Table of Contents
1. At the Crossroads of Central Asia: The Kingdom of Kroraina
2. Gateway to the Languages of the Silk Road: Kucha and the Kizil Caves
3. Midway Between China and Iran: Turfan
4. Homeland of the Sogdians, the Silk Road Traders: Samarkand and Sogdiana
5. The Cosmopolitan Terminus of the Silk Road: Historic Chang'an, Modern-day Xi'an
6. The Time Capsule of Silk Road History: The Dunhuang Caves
7. Entryway into Xinjiang for Buddhism and Islam: Khotan
Conclusion: The History of the Overland Routes through Central Asia
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History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology