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And layered like a patina on top of these ancient stories are the stories of the people that went in search of this lost history. Of one adventurer's perilous trek across a desert. Of the ultimate German archaeological odd-couple. Of a cavalier Frenchman with a brilliant linguistic mind. Of an adventurous pair of sister-nuns on a humanitarian mission and of an enterprising local con-man who scammed one educated archaeologist after another. Foreign Devils on the Silk Road kept me turning pages with its, clean, easy style and consistent revelations. But more than that it opened up two new worlds; the world that was lost for so long to history and the world of those that did the finding.

Foreign Devils on the Silk Road tells the story of several archaeologists Aurel Stein, Paul Pelliot, Klementz, von Le Coq and Langdon Warner to name a few who travelled across the barren lands of the Taklamakan desert in the early 20th Century, on a quest to search for remains of Asian ancient civilizations.

To say "search for remains" might be a bit of a euphemism; because what these people did was plain pillaging. They took away whatever stuccos, paintings, figurines, scrolls and other stuff Foreign Devils on the Silk Road tells the story of several archaeologists Aurel Stein, Paul Pelliot, Klementz, von Le Coq and Langdon Warner to name a few who travelled across the barren lands of the Taklamakan desert in the early 20th Century, on a quest to search for remains of Asian ancient civilizations. They took away whatever stuccos, paintings, figurines, scrolls and other stuff they managed to find.

In typical Peter Hopkirk fashion, the book is written in a easy-to-follow and straightforward manner. Yet it's the way Hopkirk devises a storyline that reads like a spies novel which makes each one of his books so compelling. To me, this one is no exception. However, this is solved by a selected bibliography related to each "devil" so that the reader can delve on those books to find out more.

As a conclusion, Peter Hopkirk points out how all these men are now long forgotten. In contrast to how other men of science have been treated by the general public, these men seem to have fallen in a pit of oblivion in historical terms. Maybe it is because all of them believed that the end justifies the means and in doing so, after sacking archaeological treasures from other countries, they became outcasts of a sort in the scientific community.

Highly recommended book at any rate. View all 3 comments. May 27, Laura marked it as to-read Shelves: The Secret Exploration of Tibet. Sep 26, Converse rated it liked it Shelves: During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, until the s, several European and American explorers searched western China for artifacts associated with the silk road, which was a collection of trails connecting China with the Middle East and India. The significance of this area is that it preserved writing and artifacts of a variety of religions, principally Buddhism but also Nestorian Christians and Manicheasm, whose early history has not survived elsewhere.

The area they searched During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, until the s, several European and American explorers searched western China for artifacts associated with the silk road, which was a collection of trails connecting China with the Middle East and India. The area they searched is near the border of China meets the borders of India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakstan.

This locality is surrounded by the Kunlun Mountains to the south which separate it from the Tibetan plateau, the KarakKarakoram Range to the southwest, the Tien Shan mountains to the west and north, and the Gobi Desert to the east. In between these mountains is the Takla Makan Desert, an extremely dry area much more so than the Gobi, apparently. Running down from the mountains are rivers, fed by glaciers. During roughly to AD, there were a number of cities, benefiting from the trade along the Silk Road in oases along these rivers, in areas now covered by sand. There are still oases in the area, but they have shifted generally closer to the mountains as the glacial melt as slowly subsided.

Furthermore, they prosperity of the area varied in direct proportion to the ability or interest of the Chinese in policing and protecting the Silk Road. Finally, the arrival of the Muslim religion in the area proved to be a damper to trade. As a consequence of these factors, cities were gradually abandoned and covered with sand. The dry environment preserved scrolls and other artifacts that would not otherwise survived. The Russians, who were closest to the area, made a smaller impression in archaeology.

Sven Hedin was primarily interested in geographical exploration, and so made fewer archaeological collections. However, Hedin was the first western explorer to cross the Takla Makan desert, showing others that it could be done. Stein was probably the best archaeologist of the lot, with an understanding of stratigraphy. One of the interesting things the explorers found was evidence of the combining of western, Indian and Chinese influences in the Buddhist art preserved in abandoned monesteries in the area.

The western influence is apparently due indirectly to Alexander the Great, whose successors established kingdoms in what is now Afghanistan. Buddhism, although originally an Indian religion, reached China via the Silk Road, and picked up these western artisitic influences from what is now Afghanistan.

The collections of these explorers became controversial. The Germans especially had a tendency to hack out frescos from abandoned monasteries and bring them back to Berlin a number were destroyed by American bombing during the Second World War. Stein's collection of Buddhist manuscripts, resulting from giving a self-appointed caretaker a contribution for restoring an ancient site, is also contraversial.

By the middle of the s Chinese opinion was sufficiently hostile that further western exploration and taking the stuff back was abandoned. The book was first published in Jan 01, Gerald Sinstadt rated it it was amazing. Peter Hopkirk's books on central Asia have two virtues that are not often found together: Foreign Devils takes the author in the steps of a handful of sturdy explorers and antiquarians who, between about and , ventured into the Taklamakan, Lop Nor and Gobi deserts in search of evidence of the civilisations which once flourished there and are now buried beneath the sand.

Literally thousand Peter Hopkirk's books on central Asia have two virtues that are not often found together: Literally thousands of artefacts were discovered by these intrepid individuals and mostly removed to museums in the west, notably but not exclusively to London, St Petersburg and Berlin. The stories of the extreme hardships that accompanied these expeditions are gripping, often awe-inducing.

But Hopkirk doesn't neglect the moral issues: In short, were the Foreign Devils saviours or criminals? Even if the reader comes down, as Hopkirk seems to himself, on the side of the former, there remain other serious issues; the British Museum, which displays a mere fragment of its huge collection, comes in for particular opprobrium. This is more than just a vicarious adventure story; with the romance of the Silk Road that drew Marco Polo and so many questing travellers at an end, the reader will be left with much food for thought.

Dec 02, K. Hopkirk's book focuses primarily on the men who travelled the Silk Road in search of ancient treasures. Clearly I was born the wrong sex, in the wrong time; while a lot of these men may be considered treasure-hunting rogues, many of them were highly intelligent, gifted, and brave to have completed these expeditions and excavations, and they have my awe and respect.

Their stories and rivalries were very interesting to read. The other theme of the book touches on the status of these lost treasures. Many pieces were lost before the "foreign devils" even found them, and others were destroyed during the Word Wars. Others were moved only to remain in storage to this day! Despite some of the sad demises of men like Hedin, Stein, and von Le Coq, I find the avoidable losses of these "lost treasures" most depressing.

The positive I've taken from this book is my desire to learn more and the addition the other books and journals I've added to my reading list on this topic. Jan 15, Gumble's Yard rated it liked it Shelves: Aug 11, Mariana Budjeryn rated it really liked it. A delightful Indiana Jones like account of the exploration of the Taklamakan desert in what is now the Xinjiang province of Eastern China.

This was - and probably still is - truly the last frontier! May 25, Christopher Donaghue rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is one hell of a book. The adventures described herein are mind-bogglingly awe-inspiring, while the savagery is heart-breaking. The beginning of the book gives a very odd perspective which is not duplicated in the body of the text; that is, I was expecting a mildly moralistic tale against the deprivations and thievery of the "foreign devils" - the Europeans and, in the case of Langdon Warner, American - who saved the archaeological heritage of the Silk Road.

The Chinese consider these peopl This is one hell of a book. However, as the rest of the book makes perfectly clear, these archaeologists actually saved this heritage. As a single example, on one of his expeditions, I believe it was Aurel Stein so many different people described back and forth between chapters who found something like 92 large Buddha statues under the sands of one of the lost towns, far too large to bring back. When he returned seven years later, they were each of them smashed to pieces! This was a typical scenario. From locals who thought that the frescoes came to life at night and so the faces had to be scratched out, to military personnel lodged in the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas and causing all sorts of carnage, were it not for these brave and indomitable archaeologists, nothing would be known about the artistic heritage of the Silk Road, dating back in some cases to the s AD!

They are heroes of archaeology, yet China considers them the most villainous of Occidentals. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring of the stories - for myself at least, being as I am so fanatically enamored of words, scripts, and languages - is the discovery of the library of Tun-Huang.

I first learnt about this maybe a decade ago, in my early teens; indeed, I was so amazed by the online digitized library that I made up my mind to learn Khotanese or Sanskrit or any of the other languages in which they were written so that I might contribute two months of Sanskrit taught me that that was too much work than a 15 year old was willing to devote, but I did manage to irk the kids in my class by writing my notes in English though in the Devanagari script, so whenever they asked to copy I'd hand it over and say, "if you can".

This book is a favorite, and I am so saddened to see it end. I shall desperately search out any more by Peter Hopkirk or on this topic in the future. Jun 19, Jim rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is a fascinating history of the efforts of numerous Western archaeologists to uncover the secrets of Buddhist art and culture in the far west of China.

Starting in the very late 's and continuing through the mid 's, western explorers discovered, excavated and, in many cases, removed to their home countries countless priceless manuscripts, sculptures and paintings. The Brit, Sir Aurel Stein, is probably best known of these explorers - and also the most hated by the Chinese for his rem This is a fascinating history of the efforts of numerous Western archaeologists to uncover the secrets of Buddhist art and culture in the far west of China.

The Brit, Sir Aurel Stein, is probably best known of these explorers - and also the most hated by the Chinese for his removal of so many manuscripts from the caves of Dunhuang. Before the Chinese government finally clamped down on their activities, these explorers had free rein in finding and removing from China many, many artifacts.

Foreign Devils on the Silk Road

There is great controversy about these explorers' activities. Some say that they preserved for posterity the articles they sent home. The Chinese, on the other hand, count them all as thieves who robbed the country of its cultural history. Would the artifacts have survived had they remained in situ in Central Turkestan? How much would have been destroyed by Islamists or Red Guards? It is hard to know. Some of the frescoes at Dunhuang remain intact. I have seen them. But many have been removed or damaged. This is an excellent history of a little known era of discovery along the Silk Road in Western China.

Jun 26, Mleczny rated it liked it. Interesting account of how mostly European travellers and explorers plundered the relics of the Chinese Turkestan. The story is engaging and contains parts of adventure and bits of cultural explanation behind every discovery. Personally I miss a deeper account on the Russian side if Langdon Warner deserved a chapter, Im pretty sure Prejevalsky -or others-deserved one too , also on the Interesting account of how mostly European travellers and explorers plundered the relics of the Chinese Turkestan.

All in all, the account is, imho, too westerncentric. An interesting, altough a bit biased, account on one of the most gripping races in the history of archelogy.

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The story of the rediscovery of the most famous overland route in history can be tied to the many European Explorers who traversed the desolate Takalmarkan desert to find the lost cities along the route. However, these discoveries are also clouded in controversy due to the removal of these relics and manuscripts from the region. Apr 25, Margaret rated it it was amazing. Love this explorer chase to the edge of the Gobi Desert—why has no one made a movie of this yet? I admit, I came to the book with some negative views of Aurel Stein, just because he took some thousands of books from China and sent them to England.

But now I see him more in the context of his time, and damn what a badass guy committed to adventure. I learned a lot! Aug 26, Brian Martin rated it it was amazing. A great read and historical account of the archaeological expeditions into Western China by foreign agents in up until WW2.

Foreign Devils on the Silk Road | University of Massachusetts Press

Gives very detailed accounts of the journeys taken by surveyors and treasure hunters. It's a bit of an antique though. May 07, Dipra Lahiri rated it it was amazing Shelves: Intrepid travelers from Sweden, Germany, France, Japan and America scour the vast desert lands of Central Asia for century old treasures and antiquities of the famous Silk Road. Gripping stories, intriguing cast of characters.

But i still liked it. Aug 05, Yigal Zur rated it it was amazing. Sep 12, Daniel Simmons rated it liked it. Every now and then I stray across a book which fills me with wonder. The background story is quite simple. It happens that the principal routes of the Silk Road, the arterial connection between ancient China and ultimately the Mediterranean: The Silk Road faded — and the sands simply closed over those cities, burying everything, under a desert pretty much the size of Germany.

But there were a few intrepid explorers, true forbears of Indiana Jones, who picked up whiffs and hints of these mystical buried places, and who went out and found them. The story of these explorers is eye-popping. In fact his deadpan delivery is perfectly suited to his subject, because the events need no pepping up, they are spectacular on their own.

A disparate group of five or six men of varying nationalities, who decided to trudge across one of the most inhospitable deserts on earth, in pursuit of treasure — and overwhelmingly successful pursuit at that. Certainly, the Chinese think so — though one has to add that they were party to it, one way or another.


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It simply describes, calmly and unsensationally, an astonishing decade when these men located and saved these marvellous documents for humanity. For that was when the first party of British tourists stepped down from their coaches at the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, blinking in the fierce sunlight. Well, I suppose so. But this fascinating account brings back just a tiny echo of its own. Mar 06, Alex rated it really liked it. Hopkirk is writing in an older idiom and with an imperial perspective, but this is still an entertaining adventure yarn.

The struggles and events feel like a more realistic Indiana Jones and the archeological discoveries in the Taklamakan really were awe-inspiring. Nov 02, Joe Banks rated it really liked it. The German archaeologist and explorer Albert von le Coq must have felt satisfaction when he saw the frescoes he had brought back along dangerous roads from Central Asia finally safely displayed in the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. He had carved these Buddhist masterpieces from the walls of the caves around Turfan in the west of China, where they had, in his view, been at risk from the iconoclasm of the local Uighur population and the vicissitudes of war and banditry.

It was an arrogant, thought The German archaeologist and explorer Albert von le Coq must have felt satisfaction when he saw the frescoes he had brought back along dangerous roads from Central Asia finally safely displayed in the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. It was an arrogant, thoughtless impulse which led the museum to set the finest and largest of the works into the walls of the museum with concrete, for it meant that they could never be returned to China and that, completely immobilised, they could not be moved to safety when in they were again threatened by war.

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The allied air raids on Berlin destroyed twenty-eight of the paintings, an ineffable loss to the cultural patrimony of China, and the world at large. In this book Peter Hopkirk makes their story, rather an obscure one to most people, gripping and immediate. Aurel Stein quickly realised that Abbot Wang could not simply be bribed, but had to be courted first before he would allow access to the scrolls. Civil War Era; Pictures of this item not already displayed here available upon request.


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The Silk Road, which linked imperial Rome and distant China, was once the greatest thoroughfare on earth. Along it travelled precious cargoes of silk, gold and ivory, as well as revolutionary new ideas. Its oasis towns blossomed into thriving centres of Buddhist art and learning. In time it began to decline. The traffic slowed, the merchants left and finally its towns vanished beneath the desert sands to be forgotten for a thousand years. But legends grew up of lost cities filled with treasures and guarded by demons.

Foreign Devils on the Silk Road : The Search for the Lost Treasures of Central Asia

In the early years of the last century foreign explorers began to investigate these legends, and very soon an international race began for the art treasures of the Silk Road. Huge wall paintings, sculptures and priceless manuscripts were carried away, literally by the ton, and are today scattered through the museums of a dozen countries. Peter Hopkirk tells the story of the intrepid men who, at great personal risk, led these long-range archaeological raids, incurring the undying wrath of the Chinese. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside.

Better World Books Condition: University of Massachusetts Press, Interior is clean with a tight spine and sharp corners, dust jacket is not chipped or torn. Arundel Books of Seattle Published: Published by The University of Massachusetts Press , Still in pubisher's shrink-wrap. This a nice clean copy, the spine is solid, The text is clean and pages are not torn or dirty. We provide fast and reliable shipping service.

We started to sell on the internet in We ship from California. Packaged carefully and shipped promptly. All our books are guaranteed. First Thus Later Printing. Near Fine, no DJ. No markings to text block. No marks of previous ownership or inscriptions. Henniker Book Farm Published: The University of Massachusetts Press, NF interior but for small check marks beside two headings on Contents page; light fading to spine.

Actually appears to be unread.. Bright green, illustrated wraps with white lettering. The riveting history and cast of characters of the Silk Road. The main focus is what the "dauntless men" from modern countries endurec in order to procure fragments of Central Asia's lost culture for their own museums or an adopted land. Actually appears to be unread ISBN: First Choice Books Published: A - Z Books Published: