With a nod to the storytelling traditions of the ancient central Asian bazaars that it describes, Life Along the Silk Road
is a wily half-breed of a history book. Mixing narrative and historic minutiae, each chapter introduces an inhabitant of the Silk Road at the end of the 10th century. Following the lives and stories of the Merchant, the Soldier, the Monk, the Courtesan, and others, Susan Whitfield
brings the dramatic history of pre-Islamic central Asia down to a human scale, fleshing out the battles of conquest and trade with the details of everyday life.
Whitfield is the director of the British Library-sponsored Dunhuang Project, which makes a remarkable collection of ancient Silk Road manuscripts, including those acquired by legendary explorer Sir Aurel Stein, available on the Internet. Her knowledge of this treasure trove of primary material shows throughout the book. What is the choicest cut of meat from a camel? The hump. The Chinese recipe for curing possession by demons? It involves a number of ingredients, including a broiled centipede, with all the legs removed. What ancient Silk Road town was famous for its dancing girls? Read and see. --Ken Peavler
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Enlightening new book. . . . recounts the history of the eastern Silk Road, from Samarkand to Chang'an, 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. Whitfield's skillfully crafted tales take readers on a journey back to the heyday of the Silk Road and enable them to relive its people's unusual existence."--Liya Li, "The Bloomsbury Review