by Joyce and Don Whittle
Last spring we had the pleasure of reading Joyce Whittle’s excellent account of the six-week tour that she and Don made to South-east Asia in late 2001. Now, we were privileged to view some of the sights they saw as they travelled the path of theSilk Road – 3000 miles of it – by airplane rather than camel train over short weeks versus years that it took the ancients to complete it. Joyce framed her story within the dimensions of both time and physical distance, beginning with the Han dynasty of second century BC and after its decline, through the Tang dynasty in the 7th AD and thence to the rise of the Mongols, popularized in the travels of Marco Polo, until the rise of the sea trade in the 1400’s brought an end to the land route’s importance. And between the illustrations of country and artefact, Joyce presented maps of each segment of the journey. Her allusion to the route as the Superhighway of its Age was apt, as it transported ideas from an older civilization.
Of course our intrepid travellers visited Beijing, the Forbidden City, the Ming tombs; they climbed the Great Wall, and wondered at the highlight of the tour – the famous terracotta warriors of Xi’an. 7000 of these were said to exist, though many were smashed by the enraged kin of the huge number of artisans who created them and were then murdered to preserve their secret. They visited the Caves of a Thousand Buddhas in Dunhuang, the oasis of Turpan; they rode in a donkey cart; they were given tea in a Kazahk yurt by a beautiful young lady; they marvelled at the mummies of Urumqi. And in Kashgar, their terminus, they saw the tomb of the Fragrant Concubine. Fittingly, Joyce’s final photo was of a silkworm.The presentation was concluded by a number of slides depicting Don’s subsequent tour of Southwest China.
Because of the volume of data involved this presentation has been divided into at least 4 parts.