03 June 2009

Aurel Stein: Pioneer of The Silk Road

By: Annabel Walker
Publisher: John Murray, 50 Albemarle St. London,
WIX 4BD, UK, 393 Pages.

When Aurel Stein died in Kabul in 1943, the London Sunday Express declared that this name “will live in history with that of Marco Polo as one of the great explorers of Central Asia.” Fifty years later, Stein’s memory has disappeared with the shifting sands. 

Perhaps if he had, like Egyptologist Howard Carter, discovered gold, jewelry and other fabulous funerary objects during his exploration of the ancient overland road to China rather than musty books of Buddhist sutras (even if they did include the world’s oldest known printed volume), his lasting fame might have been secured. 

But in this exquisitely researched and beautifully told biography, Walker suggests that Western deference to Chinese feelings may have affected Stein’s posthumous reputation. While he was once viewed as a model of the romantic explorer-scientist, the Chinese see Stein as just another European looter of its ancient heritage. 

The final irony is that Stein risked his life to unearth treasures from the sands of the Taklamakan Desert only to have them buried in the basement of the British Museum.
***Sumber foto: Amazon.com

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