Life along the Silk Road / Edition 4


In the first 1,000 years after Christ, merchants, missionaries, monks, mendicants, and military men traveled on the vast network of Central Asian tracks that became known as the Silk Road. Linking Europe, India, and the Far East, the route passed through many countries and many settlements, from the splendid city of Samarkand to tiny desert hamlets. Susan Whitfield creates a rich and varied portrait of life along the greatest trade route in history in a vivid, lively, and learned account that spans the eighth through the tenth centuries. Recounting the lives of ten individuals who lived at different times during this period, Whitfield draws on contemporary sources and uses first-hand accounts whenever possible to reconstruct the history of the route through the personal experiences of these characters.

Life Along the Silk Road brings alive the now ruined and sand-covered desert towns and their inhabitants. Readers encounter a Uighur nomad from the Gobi Desert accompanying a herd of steppe ponies for sale to the Chinese state; Ah-long, widow of a prosperous merchant, now reduced to poverty and forced to resort to law and charity to survive; and the Chinese princess sent as part of a diplomatic deal to marry a Turkic kaghan. In the process we learn about women's lives, modes of communication, weapons, types of cosmetics, methods of treating altitude sickness in the Tibetan army, and way s that merchants cheated their customers. Throughout the narrative, Whitfield conveys a strong sense of what life was like for ordinary men and women on the Silk Road-everyone from itinerant Buddhist monks, to Zoroastrians and Nestorian Christians seeking converts among the desert settlers, to storytellers, musicians, courtesans, diviners, peddlers, and miracle-workers who offered their wares in the marketplaces and at temple fairs.

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Editorial Reviews

Liya Li
Enlightening new book. . . . recounts the history of the eastern Silk Road, from Samarkand to Chang¹an, through ten individual composites based on the historical record who lived in different city-states along the eastern Silk Road from the 8th to the 10th centuries. Whitfield¹s skillfully crafted tales take readers on a journey back to the heyday of the Silk Road and enable them to relive its people¹s unusual existence.
—(The Bloomsbury review)
Richard Foltz
Wonderfully written and highly evocative. . . . Armchair travelers and historians will certainly enjoy reading it.
Liya Li
Enlightening new book. . . . recounts the history of the eastern Silk Road, from Samarkand to Chang¹an, through 10 individuals ‹composites based on the historical record‹who lived in different city-states along the eastern Silk Road from the 8th to the 10th centuries. Whitfield¹s skillfully crafted tales take readers on a journey back to the heyday of the Silk Road and enable them to relive its people¹s unusual existence.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2580520232146
  • Manufacturer: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 253
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.05 (h) x 0.75 (d)
  • These items ship to U.S. address only. No APO/FPO.

Meet the Author

Susan Whitfield runs the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library, which provides online access to hundreds of thousands of manuscripts, paintings, and archaeological artifacts from the eastern Silk Road. The author of numerous books and articles on the Silk Road and China, Whitfield travels widely in the region and curates relevant exhibitions. She lectures and teaches worldwide.
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Table of Contents

Note on Names and Romanization
Introduction 1
The Merchant's Tale 27
The Soldier's Tale 55
The Horseman's Tale 76
The Princess's Tale 95
The Monk's Tale 113
The Courtesan's Tale 138
The Nun's Tale 155
The Window's Tale 174
The Official's Tale 189
The Artist's Tale 206
Epilogue 223
Further Reading 226
Table of Rulers, 739-960 230
Index 232
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2012

    AP World History Review: Informational and Entertaining

    Life Along the Silk Road by Susan Whitfield tells the story of ten different people who actually lived and traveled along the Silk Road between the eighth and tenth century. Whitfield opens with an lengthy introduction that provides the reader with a good amount of background knowledge. She then gives ten accounts from both men and women of different statuses and occupations. She includes the tales of a merchant, a soldier, a horseman, a princess, a monk, a courtesan, a nun, a widow, an official, and an artist. The tales of each are told in chronological order and provide the reader with insight on the lives of each individual. The book is written from different perspectives of people from different regions with their own beliefs and language.

    I would recommend this book to others because I found this book both informational and entertaining. Readers can learn a great deal about the Silk Road through the introduction and ten accounts in this book. Whitfield's access to thousands of manuscripts and her knowledge of Chinese history makes her well qualified to write this book. The information is accurate and I learned many new things from her writing. I gave this book 4 out of 5 star because it seemed repetitive in some places and although I enjoyed it, it is not the first book I would choose. It is more of a historical read for readers wanting to learn more about the Silk Road and the lives of the people along it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2011

    AP World History Review: Do not recommend

    This book provides some interesting facts about the Silk Road. Not only does it talk about the trading on the Silk Road, but it goes very in depth with the different types of people who would have been trading on this route during this time. Susan Whitfield also does a good job of telling the ideas and culture that was spread because of this trade route.
    Although this book has many interesting facts in it, I still would not recommend it. Susan Whitfield repeats a lot of the same stuff over and over again. The stories of the 10 people are not interesting which makes it a harder read. I feel like you could sum of the important parts of this book in less than 20 pages. I feel this book is filled with a lot of stuff just to make it longer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2010

    AP World History Review

    The novel, Life Along The Silk Road by Susan White Field is a compelling combination of different perspectives of several different peoples living during the Middle and Late Tang era. After a long introduction explaining the general background information on Asian life between 700-900, Whitefield opens with the perspective of a merchant during the time period. She then transitions into the roles and perspectives of 9 other people, combining first hand accounts with generalizations to create a very life like plot. I would reccomend the novel to any person looking for information about life during the Middle and Late Tang. The information within the book provides ample detail on the lives of many different types of people from 700-900. However, the book is not written strictly from a Chinese point of view but combines that of Tibetans and Turks as well. Anyone looking for detailed descriptions of different perspectives on life from 700-900 would be sufficed by this book, although it was not very exciting. Overall I would reccomend this novel to anyone look for a historical read.

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  • Posted December 6, 2010

    AP world history review: a book that was ok in discussing the views of the silk road

    This book was meant for people to give their point of view of the silk road. The people that were represented were ordinary living people such as nuns, artists, musicians, etc. They viewed the historical events along the Silk Road different from the people actually involved in it. They watched first hand and passed on their tales. The book was composed of many of these tales. The author put across the necessary and correct messages but did not have background knowledge of this information. I learned a lot from her writing and believed her book was a good read. I recommened reading this book more of a pleasure stand point because i wouldnt neccesarily trust the information given. The book was written off research not exactly all knowledge.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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