Books, Learning, Reviews, Travel, Words, Writing

On the Silk Road Plus a Wonderful Feast of Words and More

Another revival post. Once again, as with others I am bringing back from the dusty archives, I am updating the original post a little (formatting/typos/and such) and adding some newer content /sections here today. Some take me reading on the and of the silk road, while others are just because..

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Reading of the Silk Road

The book review for Journeys on the Silk Road is from the original November 29th, 2012 post.

Journeys on the Silk Road

Journeys on the Silk Road: A Desert Explorer, Buddha’s Secret Library, and the Unearthing of the World’s Oldest Printed Book by Joyce Morgan and Conrad Walters (Nonfiction/Historical | Lyons Press | 336 pages)


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.

My Thoughts

This book traces Aurel Stein’s greatest expedition—an adventurous journey across the famed, ancient Silk Road—in his quest for the past. Each chapter takes on a cool route. One relates an adventure while another tells a story further into history. Yet another takes a peek into the Stein’s future after the momentous discovery of the Diamond Sutra. Others talk of the future of the antiquities he had gathered. Readers witness the wonders, hardships, and preparations of Stein and his trusted assistants during this epic journey.


The authors’ vast and detailed research is evident in every page of the book. By introducing Stein in the initial chapters, they explain his actions and decisions to the reader in the later chapters. Stein’s dedication, determination, strength, his natural ability to work with people despite being a private individual, as well as his amazing, almost super-human capability to work under strenuous circumstances served him well in his travels. 

The description of his journey to and from the caves, the journey of the treasures he obtained to Britain, the geography of the areas, and the history of the Silk Road and the caves are all fascinating, educational and exciting at the same time! The authors intersperse the book with interesting anecdotes from Stein’s writings and this adds to the book.


The caves themselves are now under the Chinese government after having been literally asleep for centuries. The authors write, “But having awoken, the danger now is that the caves will be loved to death.”

Now, after long negotiations between the Indian government and Britain, museums in both India and Britain display these treasures. The Diamond Sutra and other manuscripts all remain in Britain.

Stein himself, though, is barely recognized today even though his efforts made the Diamond Sutra – meant for global access – available to all today.

In Conclusion

The book delivers generous doses of adventure and history, facts told like fantastic fiction, education and excitement with ease. Even if you have never heard of Stein, the Silk Road, or the Diamond Sutra, or feel no need to know about them, you should go ahead and read this book – you will be drawn in immediately. This is a must-read for everyone.

Books like this should replace history text books – this makes history oh so interesting. At the least, history books should include excerpts from books like this.

This is was one of the first non-fiction books I have fallen fell in love with.

A big thank you to Leyane Jerejian of FBS Associates for reaching out to me to review this book and providing me a copy of the book. This review of the book is completely my honest opinion after reading it and was in no way influenced by others.

And Aurel Stein turned 150 years old on Nov 26th, 2012 (the year this book was published and the 3 days before I originally published this review post)! 

Rating: A+

A Wonderful Feast of Words (On a Silk Road? Or Not?)

(A 2024 addition! except for the poem towards the end)

On Wharton

January 24th is Edith Wharton’s birthdate. What I learned as I read about her is that while most know her for her novels, especially her Pulitzer Prize winning one – The Age of Innocence, Wharton wrote books across many subjects, including travel, decor and design, history, and poetry.

Have you read any Wharton biography or her autobiography? Do let me know your recommendations for I would love to read more about her. I did find one titled ‘A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton‘ by Cynthia Griffin Wolff. Any thoughts on this one?

Feasts of Words

The Wharton biography led me to/reminded me of a few other similarly titled cool books, which are literally a feast of words!

  • A Feast of Words: For Lovers of Food and Fiction by Anna Shapiro (Literary cookbook). As the book description says, this one is An unusual cookbook for literature lovers with delicious recipes inspired by great scenes in literature. Literature is nourishment. 
  • The Lost Words: A Feast of Forgotten Words, Their Origins and Their Meanings by Pete May and Philip Howard (Linguistics). If you have seen Howard’s weekly columns and puzzles in The Times, then you know this book is sure to tickle your fancy. But even if you have not, I am sure you will love it and learn a lot from it. What is more, it is going to be a fun learning experience too!
  • And then there is A Feast of Words once again, this one is again one for the verbivores. by Richard Lederer with illustrations by Brett Radlicki. Book description says: After a half century of sparking readers to appreciate the glories of the English language and laugh at its oddities, beloved language maven Richard Lederer serves up a veritable banquet of words. This book is a career-capping anthology of essays that inspire, enlighten, and tickle the funny bone.
AI generated, just for fun!

Of Words on the Silk Road

While I need to (and want to) research more on the impact of the silk road trade on language, it certainly provided a way to exchange more than goods.

The Silk Road travelers, in addition to trading, were drawn to the exchange of ideas and cultures happening in the cities along their route. Over time, many of these cities became centers of culture and learning. As a result, science, arts, literature, crafts, and technologies were shared and spread to societies along the routes. This led to the development and influence of languages and cultures among different communities along the Silk Road. And of course, this is one reason why stories a child heard from their grandmom in Persia was so very similar to a folk tale in India.

If you know of any such developments and impacts, do let me know. I would love to hear of them, be it cultural, linguistic, or anything else!

Words of Long Ago…

I wrote the poem here for a weekly meme in the 2012 original post – 3 Words Wednesday. Each week, we got three words and had to use them in a poem, any format, poet’s choice. That week’s words were – clench, faint, and prod.

The little mouse scurried away, really, really fast
Today was a miracle, but it would not last
‘Oh no! What was that?’ Muscles clenched, it came to a halt,
Totally unprepared for assault
Almost fainted as it heard, yet again, the rattle
‘So soon?’, it thought, this mouse in Seattle!
It held still while Rattle prodded, but only for a moment
And then off it flew, as if in a tournament.
Today was a miracle, but it would not last.
Rattle would have to find something else to break its fast.

~ Vidya @ LadyInReadWrites

From Wikipedia:

Rattlesnakes lie in wait for their prey, or hunt for it in holes. The prey are killed quickly with a venomous bite as opposed to constricting. If the bitten prey moves away before dying, the rattlesnake can follow it by its scent. When it locates the fallen prey, it checks for signs of life by prodding with its snout, flicking its tongue, and using its sense of smell. 

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you read of the Silk Road and its fascinating stories? Do share your recommendations of books and more about the Silk Road. As always, do let me know your thoughts on this post, the book, and any other comments and suggestions you have.

11 thoughts on “On the Silk Road Plus a Wonderful Feast of Words and More

  1. As someone really into history, Silk Road was a real eye-opener for me. I’ve also read Foreign devils on the Silk Road, so fascinating to me!

  2. I haven’t personally read any books specifically about the Silk Road, but “Journeys on the Silk Road: A Desert Explorer, Buddha’s Secret Library, and the Unearthing of the World’s Oldest Printed Book” by Joyce Morgan and Conrad Walters sounds like a fascinating read. It delves into the history and adventures of Aurel Stein as he explores the Silk Road and uncovers the world’s oldest printed book. The book seems to be well-researched and provides a mix of adventure, history, and education.

  3. Thank you for bringing this gem of a book back into the spotlight! ‘Journeys on the Silk Road’ sounds like a must-read for anyone interested in history, adventure, or the evolution of cultural exchanges!

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