Silk Road in Rare Books

Narratives on cultural heritage along Silk Road with figures and photographs from rare books.

Explorers: The Race for Information and Honor

The history of Central Asian Exploration: From Barren Desert into a Treasury of Antiquities


Captain H. Bower, who arrived in the Tarīm Basin in 1890 by order of the British Indian army, was at first not particularly interested in old manuscripts One day, however, he decided—perhaps on a whim—to buy an old manuscript for sale at a shop in the market . Bower had come to the Tarīm Basin to investigate the murder of the English merchant A. Dalgleish. The crime had occurred in 1888 in the Karakorum Mountains(1), along the path which had served as the main route to enter the Tarīm Basin from Northern India. Probably Bower decided to buy the manuscript from a local man in Kucha in the same way one buys a souvenir. But the manuscript he happened to buy was an incredible find—whose impact would ripple around Europe and throughout the world. And, it was this purchase, which would ignite the great era of exploration in Central Asia.

The manuscript purchased by Bower was written in the Brāhmi script of ancient India. Deciphered by the British scholar of Indian studies, A. F. Rudolf Hoernle, it was revealed that the manuscript could be as old as the 5th century. It was older than any other manuscript found in India up till that time, and it came as a tremendous surprise that such old manuscripts were found in the outlying Tarīm Basin, rather than India.


Until that time, most people thought of the Tarīm Basin (Chinese Central Asia, Chinese Turkistan, or Sinkiang)(2) as a barren desert -utterly inhospitable to humans-, surrounded by some of the world’s most famous mountains. Despite its reputation as a place barren of life, the area also attracted the attention for a different reason, as part of the strategic rivalry between the colonial powers of the time. In what is now known as the “Great Game,” Russia from the north and Britain from the south (from their base in India) clashed in their attempts to seize West Turkistan and reach further south as the China of the Qing dynasty did what it could as well not to lose control of this region that had been historically off and on under its control. The discovery of Bower’s manuscripts, however, added fuel to the fire, focusing even greater attention to the region. Indeed, the area was home to a rare treasury of antiquities, where ancient cultures flourished and where the dryness and sand had help ensure the preservation of this rich heritage.


After the finding of the Bower Manuscript (named after the man who discovered the manuscript), the diplomats of Russia and Britain from their consulates in Kashgar began to collect old manuscripts—many which were brought to them by the local treasure finders (Turdi, One of the Treasure Finders Who Participated in Stein’s Expedition(3)). And, from this practice of buying manuscripts from local treasure hunters, the Westerners began to organize entire expeditions of their own from their home countries to search for antiquities in the desert.

During the twenty some years from the discovery of the Bower Manuscript to the First World War, expeditions from many countries, such as Sweden, Britain, Germany, France, Japan and Russia participated one after another in the race to obtain buried cultural properties. What became a race for antiquities staked the explorer and his country’s reputation to gain as much knowledge and as many high-quality artifacts as possible in order to achieve better results than the other expeditions.

The Protagonists of the Central Asian Expedition Race

The Pioneer of the Desert: Sven Hedin


It was the Taklamakan Desert expedition (Hedin’s First Expedition, 1893-97) by the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin (Portrait of Hedin(4)) that paved the way for the great expedition rush to follow Having studied geography, Hedin’s main concern was to explore unknown areas in order to fill in the blank spots on the world map. He was attracted at the same time by the antiquities that were found one after another, and was also fascinated by a legend told in the Tarīm Basin about an “ancient city asleep beneath the desert”.

It was Hedin’s mentor Ferdinand von Richthofen who gave him an important insight which would affect the course of the expedition. Richthofen, who was studying the aridificationof Western America and Western Central Asia, thought that Central Asia once covered by the ocean and that civilization came into being in areas around where certain portions of the sea had dried up. His interest in desertification drew his attention to the Tarīm Basin, and it was he who suggested Hedin to research the area.

The antiquities excavated from Khōtan that the Russian consul Nikolai Petrovsky in Kashgar showed Hedin further encouraged Hedin to make the to Khōtan. Entering the Taklamakan Desert north-northeastward from Khōtan in mid January 1896, Hedin found a site of ruins buried under quicksand. The news of the discovery of an “Ancient City of the Taklamakan” (later known as the “Ancient City of Sven Hedin”) created a huge impact with scholars in Europe. It was this discovery which first proved that the legend was not just a fairy tale.

For his second expedition (1899-1902), Hedin went out to search for more information on Lake Lop Nor, whih had been shrouded in so much mystery. During his search, however, he located the legendary city Loulan. At Loulan, Hedin excavated several ancient graves, recorded the mummies in photographs and sketches, and carried out simple research, such as taking samples textiles found on the mummies. It was clear that a full-scale excavation project of the site would result in a significant archaeological accomplishment. Hedin, however, was satisfied by the sole fact that he was the one who first rediscovered the city. Since he was not an archaeological specialist, he thought that the site should be left to the hands of those archaeologists who would follow him. And indeed, the explorers who followed in Hedin footsteps made full use of the information that he left concerning the archaeological site.

Hedin would also influence later explorers in regard to exploring techniques. For example, during the dangerous journey across the Taklamakan Desert, Hedin barely managed to survive with no water for 5 days, losing his fellow expedition members and camels one by one. Hedin’s experiences in the desert would be a gold mine of information and advice for later explorers who could learn from his mistakes and experiences. Furthermore, the maps that he drew over his journeys across the vast Tarīm Basin became a guide for finding the ancient cities tucked deep in the desert. Hedin staked his life to become a great pioneer of the Central Asian desert.

The expert of research: Marc Aurel Stein


The first archaeologist who followed Hedin’s route to the Taklamakan sites was Marc Aurel Stein (Portrait of Stein(5)). Stein is the person who best utilized the information gleaned from Hedin’s explorations for his own explorations and research. Stein called himself an “archaeologist explorer” and was the first person to carry out full-scale archaeological research in Central Asia. Slowly but surely Stein would proceed in a way unprecedented to excavate and researchthe sites of long-buried cities in the desert.


One of the first times we find Stein referring to Hedin’s work can be found in his writings about his discovery of Dandān-Uiliq(6). This important discovery of Dandan-Uiliq occurred during his first expedition in the Taklamakan (1898-1900). He had started off excavating the ancient city ruins of Yōtkan (Photo of Yōtkan(7), Pieces of Terracottas Excavated from Yōtkan(8)) near Khōtan, along the Southern Route of the Silk Road, and there he had had his team buy antiquities and collect information from local people concerning other possible sites. Through this information gathering, Stein became convinced that the ruins known by the locals as “Dandān-Uiliq” were all in probability the same site that Hedin had called the “Ancient City of Taklamakan.” And, with this conviction, he made up his mind to follow Hedin’s map and to uncover the site for himself.

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There are other instances as well of Stein utilizing Hedin’s data in his research. The map that Hedin had drawn during his excavation of Loulan proved to be very useful when Stein began his own excavations there during his second expedition (1906-08). Stein praised the accuracy of Hedin’s maps, and not only did he rely on Hedin’s maps, but when putting together his expedition teams went to some lengths to locate and hire locals who had served on Hedin’s expeditions.

Stein also gained much about exploration of the area from his reading of Hedin’s works. It was Hedin’s bitter experiences that taught Stein the basics about how to succeed in his work in the severe conditions of the deserts. One essential tip he gleaned was that expeditions into the heart of the desert were only possible in winter when water can be transported in the form of ice. Another tip gleaned from reading Hedin was that it was useful to offer a monetary prize to the person who uncovered a valuable artifact or excavation clue during expeditions. Stein gained such practical advice, learning from his predecessor’s experience as he prepared for his own explorations.

“There is yet another request which I must trouble with you. Sven Hedin’s account leads me to believe that my work in the desert would be made far easier by the use of a portable well-sinking apparatus…. Now I remember from my military course of instruction that portable well-sinking apparatus of the Norton pattern has been used with great advantage in desert tracts during the Abyssinian war and by French expeditions in the Sahara region. I should very much like to find out what would be the approximate weight of a Norton well apparatus capable of penetrating to a depth of 30 feet, and what it would cost. I should require an apparatus as light as possible yet fit for the purpose.… I may add that the soil to be bored into consists of sand with layers of clay.” (From “Sir Aurel Stein: Archaeological Explorer”, Volume I, p.87.)

In addition to the information from past expeditions, Stein was also very attentive to the latest information and technologies which he could make use of during his own explorations. One of his most important sources was the British diplomatic representative George Macartney, who lived in Kashgar. The situation behind Macartney holding such ample information was as follows.

At that time, for any foreign mission or expedition to be granted permission to enter Central Asia, it was necessary to visit either the Russian or the British consulate in Kashgar to obtain the various permits and to make other necessary arrangements. The Russian consul Nikolay Fyodorovich Petrovsky, while he was a learned and erudite man with thorough knowledge of the area, was known to be arrogant and difficult to go along with. As a consequence, most foreign expedition leaders tended to look to the other consul, George Macartney of Britain for assistance. And, with so many people passing through his doors, Macartney came to be one of the most informed men in Central Asia. In addition to information brought to him by visitors and scholars to the area, like the Russian consul, he also had extensive intelligence networks across the Central Asian region for political reasons.

A British citizen, Stein had a good advantage in gaining information from Macartney, and at the same time, he became aware of the progress of other expeditions working in the area from Macartney. This information aided Stein in planning for his own expeditions.

“It is a relief to know that ‘the party’ will stick to Kuchar [a northern oasis] and may the genius loci and Grünwedel’s personal disposition keep it there until I have got to Lop-nor. It illustrates what I always held to be the drawback of parties…. Pelliot & the Frenchmen are to set out from France ‘in the spring.’ I am wicked enough to wish that the Russian route might continue to be barred even then.” (From “Sir Aurel Stein: archaeological explorer”, Volume I, p.231.)
“… Macartney helps me most vigorously to push on with my preparations & thus to keep my start.... Up to the present my French rivals have not turned up…. The Germans are about Korla [an oasis in the north] and apparently undecided whether to go on to China – or India. M., of course, watches their plans and movements.” (From “Sir Aurel Stein: Archaeological Explorer”, Volume I, p.238.)

We can see from this the way Stein’s expeditions was based on his careful and elaborate preparations which were themselves based on what he had learned from the experiences of his predecessors and his information-gathering from Macartney on other teams working in the area. Stein’s careful planning and thoroughness can be assumed by his expedition preparation times which were extraordinarily longer than that of the other explorers.

Stein, however, not only used information from other sources but he also left many records of his own for the times to come. His own expeditions were primarily excavations done in the severe environment of the desert, and therefore his work was performed under many intense difficulties with a number of limitations. But it was conducted with incredible preciseness - maps of sites and plans of ruins were drawn without exception and every single spot where antiquities were excavated was recorded. Furthermore, Stein published each and every accomplishment in a detailed research report. This is an outstanding accomplishment among his fellow explorers of the Central Asian region.

Collector of Murals: Albert von Le Coq


It was the German team which followed Stein in Central Asia. Carrying out their research mainly along the Northern Route of the Silk Road in the vicinity of at Kucha and Turfan, Albert von Le Coq (Portrait of Le Coq(9)) who was the main character in the play of events.

Le Coq had started his archaeological career as an unpaid researcher at the Berlin Ethnological Museum, and was not even allowed to participate in the first German expedition (1902-03). But then something unexpected happened which would change the course of events. The leader of the German team, Albert Grünwedelhead of the Indian department of the Berlin Ethnological Museum) became ill and this was followed by the death of another member of the team,George Huth, which resulted in Le Coq’s exceptional promotion for the second expedition (1904-05).


Leading the team, Le Coq headed with Theodore Bartus to the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves and found murals in extraordinary well-preserved condition. The team removed most of the murals they found there. They also collected a large number of murals(10) from the Kizil Grottoes as well. The decision to remove the murals was made by Le Coq, however it was Bartus, who was formally a sailor, who skillfully carried out the task of cutting the murals right off the walls of the grottoes to be packed up and sent back to Berlin. The paintings were then housed in Berlin’s Ethnological Museum where they received much acclaim.

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Grünwedel, however, who was his superior and was supposed to lead this second expedition, was against Le Coq’s decision from an academic point of view. Grünwedel believed that murals should be studied in situ, as part of the archaeological site in its entirity, and so to remove the murals—even in the aim of preserving them at a different site-- was equivalent ato looting. His opinion was to leave the originals where they were and produce replicas for exhibitions at museums. He said that research that included accurate drawings(11), measurements(12), and scientific observations were absolutely needed to meet this purpose as well.

Stein and Pelliot, who later visited the site, also had second thoughts about Le Coq's research. On the other hand, it is also true that the murals that Le Coq brought back have become important materials for research. The deluxe catalogue that he published in midst of the economic hard times and post-War inflation after the First World War has had an outstanding academic significance . Le Coq also contributed in the cataloguing and exhibiting of the collections at Berlin.

A talented specialist: Paul Pelliot


It was 27-year-old Paul Pelliot (Portrait of Pelliot(13)), who was appointed leader of the French expedition team, which arrived rather late to the exploration scene of Central Asia. An up-and-coming scholar of Chinese Studies, by the age of 22, Pelliot was already serving as a professor of Chinese at l' Ecole Française d'Extréme Orient, in Hanoi. He not only had efficient ability in reading and writing Chinese, but his knowledge of Chinese history and culture was also profound.


Since France came on the scene late, they were unable to perform archaeological research on any untouched sites in the way that Stein and the Germans had done in previous time. However, at Tumsuk (Seated Buddha excavated at Tumsuk(14)), Pelliot was able to uncover numerous manuscripts at the Buddhist temple sites that his counterparts had missed. This was because he was an outstanding linguist who had a good command of 13 languages, with expert knowledge about what the things he was aiming to excavate.

Pelliot's astounding language abilities can be understood from an episode which happened when he was en route to Central Asia, waiting for his luggage at Tashkent. During the month he was there waiting for his luggage to arrive, he mastered the native east Turkish language. He was known for his incredible memory, and Louis Vayant, anarmy surgeon who accompanied Pelliot on the expedition making maps and collecting natural history specimens writes this about him:

Pelliot made brief notes whose accuracy and detail astonished their recipients in France. They could not understand how, in the wilds and far from a library, he could possibly recall certain facts or texts… His prodigious memory enabled him to do without all reference material (From "Foreign Devils on the Silk Road", pp.188-189).

Although he was amazingly gifted, the First World War prevented him from finishing the arrangement and organization of the materials he had collected throughout his expeditions. No expedition reports had ever published during his lifetime. Even the six-volume of photographs, "Les grottes de Touen-Houang", Paris, 1920-24 an indispensable research material in the study of the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes (Thousand Buddhas Caves, Dunhuang), the only published work compiled by Pelliot with his simple preface.

The Library Cave at Dunhuang: Information Gathering in the Desert

As we have seen above, the various expedition teams made plans on concerning research sites after the collection of information from locals and the antiquities that had already been found. Some of this The information, however, contained mistakes and untruths, and it was difficult for the leaders of the expeditions to decide what was worth believing and what was not. Furthermore, there were more than a few instances in which decisions and action based on inaccurate information determined the fate of the explorers. The Material from the Library Cave of Dunhuang is one such instance.

Le Coq: The One Who Lost the Big Chance

The highly significant substantial number of manuscripts discovered in 1900 in the Library Cave at Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes(15) is today very well known. The first batch of these manuscripts was successfully acquired by Stein in 1907. This was followed the following year by Pelliot’s purchase. Both scholars were to bring their haul of manuscripts back to their countries resulting in an international sensation. It was, the German Le Coq, however, who had first heard about the rumor of the discovery of the Library Cave. In 1905, as early as two years before Stein visited Dunhuang, Le Coq had already heard about the news from a merchant in Hami where he was staying.


Unluckily, at that very time, he had received a telegram announcing the imminent arrival of his boss Grünwedel in Kashgar. If he was to follow the orders contained in telegram to wait for the arrival of his boss then he would have no time to visit Dunhuang, which was a 17 day journey from Hami. To add to the complications, Grünwedel had repeatedly changed his schedule at the last minute, so there was no guarantee that he would even arrive as the telegram stated. Le Coq would have time to go to Dunhuang if he calculated Grünwedel's late arrival. But at the same time, there was no guarantee that Grünwedel would be late.

Uncertainty over the news about the discovery of the Library also troubled Le Coq. Until then, he had repeatedly been misled by untruths told to him by the locals. So, he hesitated. Even if he risked being late to meet Grünwedel at Kashgar by going to Dunhuang, there was always the real possibility that the attempt would end in failure. And if he was late for meeting Grünwedel, that was two mistakes instead of one.

After debating the decision, he would later recount how he had decided in the following way, "somewhat in despair, I left the decision to Fate by tossing a Chinese dollar: heads win, tails lose! Tails, i.e. the inscription side, came uppermost, and I had my horse saddled and began our journey to Kashgar" (from "Buried treasures of Chinese Turkestan", pp.106-107). Thus Le Coq lost his opportunity to obtain the manuscripts of the Library. Ironically, Grünwedel was in fact late again-- by nearly 2 months.

Stein, Who Took Quick Actions

In the meanwhile, Stein had also heard a rumor about the Library Cave from a merchant. In contrast to Le Coq, however, it was in Dunhuang that he heard the news. He was within a stone’s throw from the Mogao Grottoes, where the Library Cave was located, so Stein was able to immediately go and find out whether the rumor was true or not.

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To Stein, the Mogao Grottoes was a place where he decided it was worth making a short visit. His main target being the ancient Great Wall located to the north of the Dunhuang oasis (Map(16), Photo(17), Present Photo). But Stein decided to check out the validity of the rumor anyway. Changing his original plan, Stein headed for the Mogao Grottoes, where he tried to meet the Taoist priest, Wang Yuanlu 王圓籙, who was in charge of taking care of the caves. On his first visit, however, the abbot was away begging for alms and so Stein was only shown only one single scroll by a young Buddhist monk. At that point, Stein proceeded on with his original plan and went to excavate the Great Wall site (Yumen Guan or Jade Gate Pass(18)) where he uncovered numerous manuscripts and antiquities which proved the site was constructed in the Han Dynasty.


Although he had achieved enough during his expedition, Stein was still interested in following up on the rumor and went again later to the Mogao Grottoes. This time he was able to see Wang and began to negotiate for a deal to purchase the manuscripts. Stein had immediately understood the significance and value of the manuscripts and so hoped to buy and bring them back to Britain. Wang was reluctant at first to sell the manuscripts, but Stein began to persuade the monk even telling him of his respect for the Tang dynasty monk Xuanzang, a person whom Stein called his “Guardian Saint.” This helped to persuade the monk and after long negotiation, Stein was able to acquire some several thousand Buddhist scriptures and paintings.

Stein also received much dubious information and had to sift through to figure out what to believe and what not believe. In this instance, his quick action brought him huge success. Stein however also had his own obstacles which he was unable to overcome. Despite the numerous manuscripts and paintings he was able to obtain from the Library Cave, he missed many manuscripts of historical value. Being denied access to the library itself, everything he saw was brought out and shown to him by Wang or his disciple. More problematic, since Stein could not read Chinese, he was incapable of selecting and considering the quality of the manuscripts by reading them. In reality, it was Pelliot who arrived later who was able to attain high quality manuscripts that Stein had missed.

Pelliot Made Full Use of His Talent

Pelliot was in Urumqi when Stein finished buying the mass of materials at the Library Cave. At that time, Pelliot had befriended Duke Lan, a cousin of Emperor Guangxu who had been expelled from the court as a result of the Boxer Rebellion. Upon Stein’s departure from Urumqi Duke Lan presented Stein with a scroll of the Lotus Sutra written in the Tang Dynasty. This farewell present was one of the manuscripts which had been discovered at the Library Cave. Pelliot had already heard about the rumor in Urumqi, but it was at this moment that he saw the first piece of evidence. Since Pelliot was fluent in Chinese and could read ancient Chinese texts as well, he understood the significance and value of the manuscript and at one glance and immediately set out for Dunhuang.

As soon as he arrived at the Mogao Grottoes, he made friends with the Taoist monk Wang, and thereafter confined himself in the Library Cave for three weeks, where he went through the 15,000 manuscripts-- working alone by candlelight. Pelliot was extremely thorough with his work examining even the fragments. Sorting them out, he purchased some 5,000 pieces; items that he considered important judging from their inscribed dates and scriptures containing words written in several types of ancient languages. Pelliot displayed his outstanding language ability and his deep knowledge of Chinese culture and history to its full to put together a collection of such excellent quality.

Many factors contributed to determining the outcome of the race for antiquities at Dunhuang. Stein had luck on his side at being in such close proximity, but was unable to make the most of it due to his lack of language abilities. Pelliot, on the other hand, arrived second but was able to fully utilize his specialist expertise in attaining numerous manuscripts of high quality. And Le Coq, who was actually close enough to be first, lost all due to the bad luck of the toss of a coin. he would later regret about the big catch that he had missed.

China’s Belated Response: The End of Foreign Expeditions

At the time Stein and Pelliot were buying themanuscripts one after another, China was not yet aware of the importance of these historic materials. And, by the time they realized, it was already too late. When they realized the tragic loss of part of their own heritage, China firmly shut the doors to further foreign excavations and research, and these doors have remained tightly shut since.

The news of the discovery of the library of manuscripts in the Dunhuang cave had been reported to the authorities at the time of their discovery. First the report had been reported to local authorities in Dunhuang, who then reported to the government office (Yamen) at Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province. Because the estimated cost of transport of all the manuscripts from the caves to Lanzhou was as much as 5000 to 6000 in sycee silver. The Yamen at Langzhou was unable to part with such a large amount of money at that time and so notified the Yamen at Dunhuang to keep the items where they were found. Thus, for seven long years, the Dunhuang manuscripts were left stacked in the grotto without being shown much if any particular interest.

It was during this period when the manuscripts seemed to have been for all intents and purposes abandoned that Stein came to Dunhuang. Therefore, Wang Yuanlu, ignorant of the value of the manuscripts, sold them for a very low price compared to their actual value, and used the money for the repair of the grottoes, which was his own main concern. This was followed by Pelliot who came and purchased numerous manuscripts, shipping them back to France.


Pelliot, after sending off the bulk of his treasures from the Library Cave, perhaps relieved that his yield was already safely out of China, took some of the manuscripts and traveled to Nanjing, Tianjin, and Beijing(19), and showed them to the renowned historian Luo Zhenyu and other Chinese scholars. Greatly shocked by what they saw, the Chinese realized at last how serious the situation was. The Qing dynasty government gave orders to protect the remaining Dunhuang manuscripts, and by 1910, had takenmeasures to move them to the Jingshi Library (京師), now the National Library of China, in Beijing.

The scattering of the remaining manuscripts continued despite government decrees. Government employees at Lanzhou and other places en route of the transport of the manuscripts to Beijing stole the manuscripts one after another. These thefts included that by Beijing officials, such as Ministry of Education official Li Shengduo 李盛鐸 after the manuscripts had finally arrived in Beijing. Furthermore, since a significant amount of the manuscripts were left at Dunhuang, several hundred scrolls of sutras were bought by the Japanese Otani Expedition (Zuicho Tachibana and Koichiro Yoshikawa) in 1912, and a total of more than 10,000 items were bought by the Russian explorer Oldenburg.

These removals of manuscripts and antiquities from Dunhuang caused great anger among Chinese scholars. As a consequence, the excavating and taking away of the antiquities by the foreign expeditions at Tarīm Basin in the name of “archaeological research” came to be regarded as the looting of antiquities. Indeed, Stein’s “research” was so thorough that nothing important was left behind. The German expedition was also blamed for its exhaustive cutting away and removal of the murals from grottoes at Bezeklik and Kizil. The latter act was especially criticized with eyes toward foreign expeditions growing increasingly angry.


External factors also contributed to the ending of exploration activities in Central Asia. First, the First World War broke out in Europe where many of the foreign expeditions originated and who would be therefore less in a situation to be able to go out to explore. Second, domestically in China, the new trends emerged creating a mood not hospitable to the outflow of antiquities. This happened as a byproduct of movements against foreigners in general, which were intensified by the 1925 incident in Shanghai(20) in when a British policeman shot and killed a Chinese student.

The race for antiquities finally ended after 1916, the year Stein ended his third mission (1913 - 16). The American explorer Langdon Warner visited Khara-Khoto, however, in 1923 - 24 and Dunhuang in 1925. He is known for having attempted to chemically peel away murals from cave walls. He also purchased a statue of Bodhisattva.


Two years later, Hedin, the pioneer of Central Asian exploration, revisited the Tarīm Basin after 20 years. His main purpose was to prove his “Wandering Lake” theory through scientific research with his team of archaeologists and other experts (Hedin (right) and Bergman (left), archaeologist(21)). However, the Hedin team was not permitted research on their own, and was made to carry out a joint research project with Chinese researchers (Sino-Swedish Expedition). The large volume of wooden strip manuscripts dating mainly from the latter half of the Early Han Dynasty period which they discovered (Juyan 居延 Han Manuscripts) around the Edsin-Gol River at the Northwestern border of the region, were not allowed to be removed from China. The days of free movement within Chinese borders by foreign expeditions were already a thing of the past. Hedin, who showed up first to kick off this great race for antiquities in the Tarīm Basin, coincidently played a role as one of the final players to pull the curtain down as well.

To Learn More

English Edition : 2008-11-27
English Revised Edition : 2010-04-14
Japanese Edition : 2005-11-20
Author : Makiko Onishi, Asanobu Kitamoto
Translator : Motoko Endo ; English adaptation by Leanne Ogasawara
Illustrator : Eka Meyer (fig.4, 5, 9, and 13)

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