Print: ¥1600
digital ¥500

June 25, 2010
114 pages



Cover Image by Oleg Novikov

The catalyst for this special themed issue was Leanne Ogasawara’s blog, www.tangdynastytimes.com/. In posts reading as dispatches from outposts on a journey of exploration deep into the history of East-West relations, Leanne reflects on aspects of what a truly global culture might encompass, presenting Tang multiculturalism and Silk Road cosmopolitanism (and much, much more) as reference points for our present times…

“Metaphorically, silk speaks of brilliant threads weaving complex interfaces, intricate interplay of elaborate craft processes, subtle aesthetics and the erotic charge of luxury and wealth. In the West, it has since Roman times conjured an exotic, mysterious Orient. Ever pragmatic, China traded silk for the ‘heavenly horses’ of Central Asia, up to forty bolts of silk for each fleet mount, buying its military equal footing with the nomadic foes that harassed its borders. In the East, the Road itself is the more powerful metaphor. Every path of personal development, in martial or aesthetic arts, is a Way. In the even bigger picture, the Dao — written with the same character as ‘road’ — signifies the true nature of the universe.”
(From introduction, by Ken Rodgers)



By the year 710, when Japan’s imperial capital was moved to Nara (a city modeled on Chang’an, as was the later capital Kyoto), Tang China was booming. The Tang period was the most open era in that nation’s history, giving rise to a rich multiethnic and multicultural empire, encompassing Turkestan, nine kingdoms around Samarkand and Tashkent, 16 kingdoms in present-day Kashmir, Afghanistan and Iran, Manchuria, and present-day Korea, by which time China was already connected by caravan routes to Rome and Persia, and by sea to Japan.

Of Bonds, ‘the Word’ and TradeJeff Fuchs

Geographies are given lifeblood by the peoples that inhabit them and it was the peoples that more often than not, defined the ‘success’ (or not) of both the caravans and more importantly, trade itself. Relationships, bonds and that almost forgotten virtue, honor, were crucial along the almost mythical trade routes. Crucial enough for traders to refer to an oft-quoted ‘mountain maxim’ and philosophy, when describing voyages: “Cooperate or perish.”

The Road to Oxiana – Leanne Ogasawara

The Great Kashgar Bus Convoy – Bill Porter

As we checked into the bus station hotel, the girl at the desk told us the road ahead was still blocked by landslides… Nothing bigger than a bicycle had made it through for the past forty days and we would have to walk sixty kilometers to get through. She laughed at the idea of our convoy making it.

Along the Silk Road Today Pico Iyer

To get to the Desert Rain coffee-house in central Leh, you have to walk off the crowded main street that leads to the mosque and slither through a passageway to a parallel back lane, barely paved, too narrow for more than three people to pass at a time, in the process forever of being completed, so it seems, with the ruins of Leh Palace above it on a hill.

The Kashgar Case – Mark Mordue

Some time ago at the Byron Bay Writers Festival I was invited to speak on a travel panel called “Evocative Images from Around the World.” We were asked to describe how we translated exotic images into stories, and what this meant for both the writer and the reader. Did something substantial occur, or was it just armchair travelling?

Observations from the Field: Space and Its Discontents in Kashgar –Isaac Blacksin

Toward the outskirts of Kashgar stands a new city, not yet completed, in which great white sentinels proudly display their right-angled concrete bulk, waiting. Closer to the melon orchards than the city center, these are the new homes — some ten stories high, many twenty — to which a sizable chunk of Kashgar’s population, upwards of 13,000 families, will be moved in the months and years ahead.

Over Samarkand – Nicolas Chorier

Of the many common cultural practices found along the Silk Road, from Samarkand to Nara, kite-flying must be one of the most beloved. An avid kite-flyer since his boyhood, Chorier combines his childhood passion with his professional skills as a photographer.

Digital Bezeklik – Leanne Ogasawara

On the Trail of Texts – Isaac Blacksin

There is a cultural of appreciation here in Japan for looking at words, experiencing words as a physical form. One reason for this is the nature of kanji itself; as an ideography, it carries a meaning and a story in its very form, as opposed to a [phonic] alphabet.

Alexander Csoma de Kõrösi, The Grandfather of Modern Day Tibetan Translation – Matteo Pistano

It was on 20 February 1819 that Csoma de Körösi set out afoot to China via Moscow, intending to enter East Turkistan from the north. Count Teleky met Csoma de Körösi on the road that morning and asked him where he was going. Pausing briefly, a truly beatific Csoma de Körösi replied unambiguously, “I am going to Asia in search of our relatives.”

Civilizations Never Clash, Ignorance Does – Hattori Eiji

What we are required to do now is to become truly civilized. A civilized person is the one who “knows oneself, and tries to learn from others”; the one who knows and respects the difference of cultures; the one who seeks the transversal values of humanity found in all these cultures. Peace for mankind in the future should be constructed, not on the logic of power, but on the rediscovery of the spirit of mutual respect, on the very “wisdom” of knowing that “mutual respect” does mean “mutual benefit.” 

Tibet and Xinjiang: the New Bamboo Curtain – Parag Khana

Tibet and Xinjiang today set the stage for the rebirth of a multi-ethnic empire in ways that resemble nothing so much as America’s frontier expansion nearly two centuries ago. Chinese think about their mission civilatrice today very much the way American settlers did: They are bringing development and modernity. Asiatic, Buddhist Tibetans and Turkic, Muslim Uyghurs are being lifted out of the third world, whether they like it or not. They are getting roads, telephone lines, hospitals, and jobs.

Beauty and Power on the Silk Road Sam Crane

[file & image in Dropbox folder for upload, please link to this title]

The apsara of Mogao and the soldiers of Xian remind us of the disparate purposes of the Silk Road. Dunhuang is an oasis crossroads. A place where pilgrims stopped and stayed and were drawn to beauty, the spectacular possibilities of color and line and form. Cultures mixed freely and faith blossomed. The road brought people closer to nirvana. Conversely, Qin’s soldiers are emblems of power. They stand, now frozen and mute and impotent, as symbols of the maneuver and noise and force of military assault.

The Treasures of Dunhuang (1) 2000 Buddhas – poem by Jerome Rothenburg

Gandhara – Leanne Ogasawara

The Hollow Staff: Western Music and the Silk Road Paul Rodriguez

The Silk Road would have been full of musicians, musicians living in hope and without plans, musicians from a dozen distinct traditions traveling in the same caravans, meeting around the same fires. What did they say to one another when they met, when they saw the telltale marks on lips and fingers, saw the shrouded awkward bulk, too precious to be parted with, heard a song drift in from out of sight and saw someone else sway a little too eagerly, swing arms and fingers a little too rapidly? 

Silk Road Synchronicity – Preston Houser

The ancient pipa itself, a probable precursor to the Japanese biwa, was a four-string instrument, capable of producing twenty distinct notes. Played by virtuoso Ye Xu-ran, the pipa sounds like a banjo in the hands of a sedate Appalachian bodhisattva.

Collaboration in Harmony: An Interview with Miki Minoru – C.B.Liddell and Leanne Ogasawara

For me, the Silk Road is a symbol for East-West relations from recent times till today, as well as a symbol for contemporary North-South issues. In addition to my operas, I think my current life’s work has come to be taken up with the production of work which harmoniously brings together the cultural developments of the West and the little-known but fascinating cultural riches of Southeast Asia, together with the musical traditions of East Asia, in order to create something completely new.

Reflections on the Hagoromo Legend – Umewaka Yasunori

In China too, we find variations of the Hagoromo legend in almost every part of the country. While the oldest instance found in Japanese literature is said to be that in the Omi-no-kuni Fudoki (Stories of the Province of Omi) from the eighth century, a similar story is found in Chinese literature in the fourteenth volume of the Sou-shen chi, which was written some 400 years earlier.

Pig’s Heaven Inn – poem by Arthur Sze

Journeys to the Western Realm – Jean Miyake Downey

The cultural influences that permeated early Japan weren’t just from China – a diverse culture formed out of multicultural fusion over many millennia itself – but instead came from Silk Road interactions that connected the cultures of East and South Asia, Central Asia, ancient Greece and Rome, the Middle East, and Africa. 

Kuchean Dancers and the Sogdian Whirl – Leanne Ogasawara

Behind Glass: Japan’s Silk Roads Memorabilia – Iaac Blacksin

The Silk Roads is not just a time or a place, neither an ideology nor an economic system; as a metaphor and a bridge, it is all of these things and more. Accordingly, when it comes time to display Silk Roads artifacts {and manuscripts}, the weighty history of the subject often overwhelms the dim lighting and behind-the-glass isolation of museum presentation. That said, there are quite a few places in Japan that attempt to contextualize the Silk Roads continuum.

Japan’s Birthplace Commemorates its Silk Roads Heritage – Shinno Haruka

Marco Polo’s India – Namit Arora

Returning home from China in 1292 CE, Marco Polo arrives on the Coromandel Coast of India in a typical merchant ship with over sixty cabins and up to 300 crewmen. He enters the kingdom of the Tamil Pandyas near modern day Tanjore, where, according to custom, “the king and his barons and everyone else all sit on the earth.” He asks the king why they “do not seat themselves more honorably.” The king replies, “To sit on the earth is honorable enough, because we were made from the earth and to the earth we must return.” 

Rawak Stupa – Don Croner

On March 6, 1925, the Roerich Expedition led by mystic painter, occultist, alleged spy, Shambhalist, and all-around intriguer Nicholas Roerich left Darjeeling, India on what would be a three-year journey through Central Asia and Tibet.

Bright RoadRobert Brady [file in Dropbox folder for upload – add to Brady Rambles – please link to title here]

Traces, paths, trails, highways, expressways, leading to futures of mystery our ancestors long ago heard whispers of in dreams… And we here, standing where we are in this world to which the old road has led, do we know where we are, any more than those early travelers?

All the Peonies of Chang’an – Leanne Ogasawara


Shadow of the Silk Road, by Colin Thubron— James Dalglish (plus a short interview with the author, July 2008 – the full version is available here) [link http://farflungperipatic.blogspot.com/2010/08/colin-thubron-interview-london-june.html]

Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present,
by Christopher I. Beckwith — Stephen Dodson

Did Marco Polo Go to China?, by Frances Wood; Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World, by John Larner; Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino — Ken Rodgers

Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century, by Richard C. Foltz — Preston L. Houser

The Silk Road: Art and History, by Jonathon Tucker — Winnie Shiraishi 

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, by Paul Theroux — Rasoul Sorkhabi

Extras: Online Features for KJ#74:

[files & images in Dropbox folder for upload, please link to titles here]

Into Dasht-e-Kavir: Notes from the Great Salt Desert, by Steven Tizzard

In Iran it is the year 1388, a new year, the spring, the month of Farvardin. It is the celebration of Norouz, a Zoroastrian festival that has survived, despite being usurped in this land by Islam, its heir; despite being turned outlaw for a time in the most vigorous days of the Revolution. This celebration of the vernal equinox flourishes again, the most important holiday in ancient Persia and modern Iran.

When the Envoys Returned, poem by Deborah Kroman

A Minute and 100 Meters Down the Road, by David Maney

The soldier outside the station had one hand on the barrel and the other on the butt of his shotgun. There were two military trucks by the bus stop and two soldiers in the back-right seats of every bus leaving Urumqi station. Welcome to west China.