Journeys on the Silk Road: A Desert Explorer, Buddha%E2%80%99s Secret Library, and the Unearthing of the World%E2%80%99s Oldest Printed Book

Joyce Morgan and Conrad Walters. Globe Pequot/Lyons, $24.95 (366p) ISBN 978-0-7627-8297-0
In 1907, Hungarian explorer and archeologist Aurel Stein and his terrier, Dash, reached a remote Chinese cave housing a cache of ancient Buddhist scrolls. The grotto had been sealed off in the 11th century, and was being guarded by a Tibetan monk who allowed Stein to remove several specimens, including a woodblock-printed copy of the Diamond Sutra—dating back to 868 A.D.; it is the world’s oldest printed text. Morgan and Walters’s narrative is a captivating biography of the intrepid Stein, an intriguing history of the Sutra and the political and social upheavals that surrounded it, and an enthralling travelogue in its own right. Stein's expeditions—across scorching deserts and through frigid mountain passes—are described in detail, as is the journey of the Diamond Sutra from Stein's possession, to the British Museum in Bloomsbury (where, ironically, it was consigned again to a cave of sorts—the museum’s basement), to a stint in Wales during WWII when Britain funneled its most precious treasures out of the country for safekeeping. Both experienced journalists, the authors do an impeccable job of bringing readers into the action and situating the story in a broader—though no less riveting—historical context. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/06/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-7627-8732-6
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