Author Box
Articles Categories
All Categories
Articles Resources

Ancient History Brought To Life - Life Along The Silk Road by Susan Whitfield

February 05, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 152

Life Along The Silk Road by Susan Whitfield presents a highly original version of history. In some ways it is historical fiction, but she doesn't make anything up. But then neither does she merely describe events. It's not really fiction, but then it's not a completely factual account of a turbulent period in the history of Central Asia.

In 1999 when the book was published Susan Whitfield ran the International Dunhuang project in the British Library. This gave her access to tens of thousands of documents, scrolls and books that were discovered in sealed caves at the turn of the twentieth century. The texts present an admixture of material, some of it religious, some administrative. Some of it is trivial, thus material of invaluable contextual importance for the historian, while some is poetic, and that helps the creation of fiction.

Using the contents of this written material, Susan Whitfield has assembled a set of stories. She creates individuals who illustrate contemporary life as they live through, if they are lucky enough to survive, the great events of their times. We meet merchants, soldiers, courtesans, artists, monks, nuns and officials. Their lives intertwine as they span the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries, a period when overland trade via the Silk Road flourished and then began to decline. It was also a period when in China the Tang gave way to the Song and when numerous religions competed for adherents.

Skilfully Susan Whitfield uses each of her characters, almost all of them at least partly real, the rest created by amalgam, to illustrate how lives are transformed by the great events of their times. They witness the attempted Arab conquest. They trade along the Silk Road. They visit Chinese emperors in their capital Chang'an, the modern-day Xian. They deal with Sogdian rulers, speak Chinese, Turkic, Mongolian and Tibetan, and deal daily with Manicheans, Nestorian Christians, Buddhists, Confucians, Hindus and Muslims. Their history thus comes alive.

Dunhuang, with its stunning complex of Mogao caves, is central to these stories. At the end of the Tang dynasty in the tenth century, some of its artwork and statuary was already old enough to be in need of restoration. I have had the privilege of visiting the site and I rate the experience among the most impressive of all I have seen on all my travels. Susan Whitfield's book took me back there and brought the experience to life. It's an easy read, but then it needs to be because the subject matter is quite challenging for someone who is unfamiliar with the era and its events. The book is undoubtedly entertaining and at the same time informative. Through it, the reader can join these characters in their own time and experience a culture and way of life that will be immediately foreign, but ultimately understood.

Philip Spires Author of Mission and A Fool's Knot, African novels set in Kenya Migwani is a small town in Kitui District, eastern Kenya. My books examine how social and economic change impact on the lives of ordinary people. They portray characters whose identity is bound up with their home area, but whose futures are determined by the globalized world in which they live.

Source: EzineArticles
Was this Helpful ?

Rate this Article

Article Tags:



Central Asia




Silk Road













Finding and collecting vintage comic books for fun and profit is something that is interesting, but can be difficult. With so many places to look, narrowing down the options can be painstaking, until

By: Jorge Orduna l Book Reviews > Comics Humor l July 07, 2012 lViews: 286

Action packed story that reads like you are there in person. Lieutenant Commander Andrew Carlson was a U.S. Navy Seal. He was as rough and tough as they come. He was part of a mission to be inserted

By: Cy Hilterman l Book Reviews > Mysteries Thrillers l July 06, 2012 lViews: 278

"Look Me In The Eye, If You Dare!" Okay, all of You "Internet Millionaire Moguls," I want some answers, and I want them now.

By: Travis L Perkins l Book Reviews > Internet Marketing l June 29, 2012 lViews: 311

Crush it is a great "How to" book on using social media and being real with yourself on what you do. Gary is very passionate about what he does. The key to his success is blending who he is with what

By: Joe Mosed l Book Reviews > Internet Marketing l June 29, 2012 lViews: 547

My resolution this year was to knuckle down and do something to bring in some new clients for my practice, so I was pleased to see that Internet Marketing Bible for Accountants looked like it might

By: Karen K Jefferson l Book Reviews > Internet Marketing l June 29, 2012 lViews: 296

When promoting your business online, are you using internet marketing? If you have yet to spread your branches into the online world, you ought to consider doing so.

By: Joyce McNeill Christopher l Book Reviews > Internet Marketing l June 29, 2012 lViews: 282

A good Civil War naval story as the ships from the north try to track confederate ships, both trying to destroy the other and all ships they find while searching. The locales stretch from the United

By: Cy Hiltermanl Book Reviews > Historyl April 09, 2012 lViews: 213

The title Araba, a word meaning "Let's Separate" or "Let's Dissolve," refers to the Nigerian Civil War which began in 1966 and continued for nearly four years. The word was first used by rioters at a

By: Gary R. Sorkinl Book Reviews > Historyl March 29, 2012 lViews: 187

USA is replete with a number of notable events and relics that have earned a special place in the annals of the nation's history. There are many books in the market that talk about items that will

By: Ivan Rojovskil Book Reviews > Historyl March 14, 2012 lViews: 148

Markland writes a sweeping Norman epic with "Conquering Passion." Rambaud (Ram) de Montbryce is a Norman noble and a trusted assistant to William the Conqueror. His own heart refuses to be tamed

By: Steph Burkhartl Book Reviews > Historyl March 06, 2012 lViews: 146

The North Korean War, Police Action, or Korean Conflict, whichever one would call it, occurred many years ago in the 1950's and has been mostly forgotten except for those that survived, their

By: Cy Hiltermanl Book Reviews > Historyl March 04, 2012 lViews: 181

Vermeer's Hat by Timothy Brook is not really about Vermeer, or hats, or art for that matter. It's a book about globalization sixteenth century-style. Using elements from a few of the Dutchman's

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Historyl February 10, 2012 lViews: 183

In her novel The Seven Sisters Margaret Drabble presents seven women out of the billions that populate their heavens, seven women who come together to act on a project, to share experience and build

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Fictionl June 08, 2012 lViews: 224

Winter In Madrid is a novel set just after Spain's Civil War. Its secret agent plot and thriller style engage the reader, but author C J Sansom also maintains a clear and sensitive political

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Fictionl May 29, 2012 lViews: 194

In terms of setting, Po-on is the start of the Rosales novels, the books that chart Philippine history from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. A peasant Ilocano family finds

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Fictionl May 28, 2012 lViews: 253

Anyone who has not yet visited Barcelona, the Catalan capital, will find Rainer Zerbst's book, Antoni Gaudi could provide the stimulus to make the visit at the first available opportunity. This

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Arts Photographyl April 24, 2012 lViews: 201

The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale is an extremely well written love story. His characters ooze an under-stated middle class confidence, They elegantly populate a story, but their passions are so

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Romancel April 21, 2012 lViews: 156

BBC correspondent John Simpson presents a set of observations and anecdotes drawn from a near lifetime of reporting for television news in A Mad World, My Masters. He covers much of recent history,

By: Philip Spiresl Book Reviews > Current Affairsl April 18, 2012 lViews: 195