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Journeys on the Silk Road: A Desert Explorer, Buddha's Secret Library, and the Unearthing of the World's Oldest Printed Book [Kindle Edition]

Joyce Morgan , Conrad Walters
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

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Book Description

When a Chinese monk broke into a hidden cave in 1900, he uncovered one of the world’s great literary secrets: a time capsule from the ancient Silk Road. Inside, scrolls were piled from floor to ceiling, undisturbed for a thousand years. The gem within was the Diamond Sutra of AD 868. This key Buddhist teaching, made 500 years before Gutenberg inked his press, is the world’s oldest printed book.


The Silk Road once linked China with the Mediterranean. It conveyed merchants, pilgrims and ideas. But its cultures and oases were swallowed by shifting sands. Central to the Silk Road’s rediscovery was a man named Aurel Stein, a Hungarian-born scholar and archaeologist employed by the British service.


Undaunted by the vast Gobi Desert, Stein crossed thousands of desolate miles with his fox terrier Dash. Stein met the Chinese monk and secured the Diamond Sutra and much more. The scroll’s journey—by camel through arid desert, by boat to London’s curious scholars, by train to evade the bombs of World War II—merges an explorer’s adventures, political intrigue, and continued controversy.


The Diamond Sutra has inspired Jack Kerouac and the Dalai Lama. Its journey has coincided with the growing appeal of Buddhism in the West. As the Gutenberg Age cedes to the Google Age, the survival of the Silk Road’s greatest treasure is testament to the endurance of the written word.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

What traveler doesn’t yearn to set the first foot on untraversed territory and to discover the rarest gem of all, that which no human has laid eyes upon for a thousand years? Morgan and Conrad allow the reader to accomplish the next best thing. In this expressive account, they and, by proxy, we follow the footsteps of archeologist Aurel Stein as he explores the remains of cultures along the ancient trade route known as the Silk Road. Traveling this legendary trail in the early years of the twentieth century, the intrepid Stein made discoveries that rival the great tombs of Egypt in sheer beauty and human achievement, to say nothing of in terms of the evidence of remarkable commingling of East and West in commerce, art, and philosophy. The excitement mounts as Stein faces strife and competition to unearth and claim such rare antiquities as the Diamond Sutra, a printed paper book predating the Gutenberg Bible by 600 years. The good if somewhat worrisome news is that these invaluable sites, long reserved for the most elite traveler, have become easily accessible and hugely popular. --Donna Chavez


"A high-velocity tale of epic adventure." --Sydney Morning Herald

Product Details

  • File Size: 1473 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press (August 22, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008Y19IH8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,168 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read September 10, 2012
Before picking up this book, I didn't even know that I WANTED to know anything about the Silk Road, the Buddha's secret library or the Diamond Sutra (the world's oldest printed book). But thanks to this rollicking good read, I now do.

This book is a rarity: an educational read without one didactic note. Morgan and Walters anchor their story around the journey of Aurel Stein, a Hungarian explorer desperate to reach the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, near Dunhuang, in China.

Journeys on the Silk Road is a must-read for anyone who's even remotely interested in the topic. Or, alternatively, for anyone who wants to impress at their next cocktail party/yoga retreat/moment of human contact.
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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, captivating history October 8, 2012
Prior to the advent of steam-engine ships, the silk road provided the only viable trade route between Europe and China (also India). Thus, for centuries, it was a vital overland crossing. It's important to note that China had several industrial secrets, among them the production of silk. This gave China a monopoly on silk, and this particular monopoly gave rise to the practice of calling this route the Silk Road. China also had a monopoly on paper for quite some time, and it was an important source of various spices and other goods.

Because Buddhism spread from India throughout much of Asia before retracting/retreating mainly to Tibet, the Silk Road also became a repository for Buddhist writings. This book's focus is on the retrieval of many of those writings by Hungarian-British archaeologist Aurel Stein in the early 20th Century. Stein was later knighted, so he is properly referred to as Sir Stein. His dog Dash (he had several dogs, each named Dash except for one who was named Dash the Great). The last Dash died after being run over by a bus in England, but Sir Stein, born in 1862 died peacefully in 1943. Stein doesn't strike the popular imagination for several reasons, and the authors explain that in this book.

Having never heard of it before, I had no idea what this sutra meant. Morgan and Walters solved that problem. They provide opinions from various experts, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It added to my reading experience to go beyond the "here's what happened a century ago" to "here's what it means today.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Traveling the Silk Road to Find Buddhist Treasures! September 4, 2012
Here is the account about Aurel Stein, the archaeologist, and his dog, Dash, and their astounding journey across what is known as the Silk Road, a journey traversing China, Tibet, India and more lands. Funded by the British government, Stein's job was to look for valuable pieces that would add to Great Britain's museum collection; but Stein's interests lay in a different direction. So he found no difficulty finding enough "gems," figuratively speaking to make his funders happy. But the rest of the story is magical and adventurous, and Morgan & Walters leave no stone unturned (literally and figuratively) in describing the preparation, journey, and eventual findings that riveted Stein. Indeed those discoveries are still touching the lives of millions of readers, explorers, adventurers, and tourists, professional and lay included.

The authors describe how Stein's first journeys to Central Asia led him to wonder where the first Buddhist writings could be found and how that religion was transformed as it began in India and evolved into its state in China. As the journey across deserts and mountains was so vigorous and life-threatening, the authors describe how selective Stein was in choosing his aides. Sometimes the decisions proved pivotal and once almost disastrous. The descriptions are so vivid the reader can feel the storms, heat, brutal cold and other forces of nature such as avalanches that defy the imagination but which were survived by Stein and his team.

Stein first is entranced by the artifacts inside Lahore Museum, ancient Buddhist statues, amazingly with decidedly Western features. Then the murder of the Scottish adventurer, Andrew Dalgleish, makes Stein realize what treasures existed so that others would murder anyone seeking to find those treasures.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Journeys September 17, 2012
Extensive research is evident throughout and is melded into a compelling narrative that keeps the reader interest growing and eager to continue this remarkable journey. The authors description of Aurel Stein brings him to life in one's mind and it is a simple task to imagine the dedication, courage and resolve that he brings to his task.

The main theme of the book is the journey to the discovery of ancient scrolls, one if which is found to be a printed version of the Buddhist Diamond Sutra. This version is shown to be hundreds of years older than the Gutenberg Bible, previously thought to be the world's oldest printed book. While the adventure story is intriguing, the ancillary discourse informs of the history of Buddhism, its tenets and beliefs, and the geographical perils of crossing the Gobi.

For the average Westerner, versed mostly in European heritage, this is indeed a thought provoking treatise. The history buff will find this book entertaining and enlightening.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Excellent story for anyone interested in the Middle to the Far Eastern cultures.
Published 1 hour ago by Marion Randall
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very interesting and eye opening
Published 8 days ago by Ray Barbee
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book.
Published 14 days ago by Patricia A. Conzo
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating History
This adventure was as good as any Spielberg movie: readable, engaging, and thought-provoking. I would have given it 5 stars if a translation of the Diamond Sutra had been... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for any Silk Road home chair bound travelers
Very interesting and well written. Great for any Silk Road home chair bound travelers.
Published 20 days ago by Linda Jess
5.0 out of 5 stars UNBELIEVABLE
Unbelievable story, actually a page turner, a race between other explorers and the actual sands of time.
Mr. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Askeptik
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent documentation of a different kind of history along the Silk...
Great book! Through the eyes of someone who actually traveled the road looking for antiquities you get a feel for how challenging it was. Read more
Published 1 month ago by R. Michael Oguin
5.0 out of 5 stars a road traveled
Have an Atlas handy. I was unfamiliar with this area of the world. Thanks to Steins almost daily logs I was almost able to not only see but also utilize all my senses. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Marjory K. T
5.0 out of 5 stars You could taste the sand and smell the camels !
I knew little about the Silk Road except that it was an ancient trading route.

This book brought the road to life. Read more
Published 1 month ago by tleeminnieme
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
This book would be of interest to those interested in history and travel. I learned a great deal about the Middle East.
Published 2 months ago by waltzing Mary
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